When it comes to metalwork, a plasma cutter is everything. And, in that context, there’s one tool that’s a essential: the air compressor.
But with so many choices choices flooding the market, how can you discern which one stands out?
Dive into this guide as we explore the world of air compressors, highlighting their crucial role in powering plasma cutters, their benefits, and how they stack up against each other to hopefully make a list of the best plasma cutters available.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the article.
Role of an Air Compressor in a Plasma Cutter
Air compressors might seem like just another tool in the workshop, but when it comes to plasma cutting, they’re more than essential.
Let’s break down why:
- Powering the Plasma: At its core, a plasma cutter works by sending an electric arc through a gas, turning it into plasma. This plasma then becomes hot enough to cut metal. The air compressor’s job? To provide that gas, usually compressed air, at the right pressure and flow rate. Without it, there’s no plasma, and without plasma, there’s no cutting.
- Precision and Clean Cuts: The force and consistency of the compressed air directly affect the precision of the cut. A steady stream ensures that the molten metal is blown away from the cut, resulting in cleaner edges and less post-cut cleanup.
- Cost-Efficiency: While there are plasma cutters that use gases like nitrogen or argon, using compressed air is often more cost-effective. Air is, after all, freely available. The compressor just gives it the push it needs.
- Versatility: With the right air compressor, you can adjust the pressure to suit different materials and thicknesses. This means you can cut everything from thin sheet metal to thicker steel plates with the same tool.
Best Air Compressors for Plasma Cutter
Here is a list of all the air compressors I consider to be the best when it comes to running a plasma cutter:
- Craftsman HARD Air Compressor
- Stealth 12 Gallon Ultra Quiet Air Compressor
- CRAFTSMAN 2-gallon Air Compressor
- California Air Tools CAT-4610AC Ultra Quiet Air Compressor
- Makita MAC2400 Air Compressor
- DEWALT D55140 Air Compressor
- Craftsman 10 gallon Air Compressor
- Metabo HPT 6 Gallon Air Compressor
- PORTER-CABLE 6 Gallon Air Compressor
- Metabo HPT EC99S Air Compressor
1. Craftsman HARD Air Compressor
This air compressor comes with a 18 peak horsepower induction motor that didn’t just hum; it roared to life, filling up the tank in what felt like a blink of an eye.
And guess what? It did that without making a racket.
Now, I’ve used my fair share of compressors, but the adaptability of this one? Top-notch. Whether I was inflating my nephew’s bike tire or working on a personal project, this air compressor didn’t flinch.
This is possible thanks to its 4 CFM at 90 PSI of air pressure. And the best part? No messy oil changes or maintenance checks.
The build? Sturdy.
The Q235B steel tank housing feels like it’s built to last. And with those 8-inch wheels, I could move it around without breaking a sweat.
- Rapid motor that ensures tasks are done swiftly.
- Big air tank that allows for extended work sessions.
- Clean Operation: No fuss with lubricants or upkeep.
- Q235B steel tank housing: Ensures longevity and reliability.
- It’s definitely on the heavy side
2. Stealth 12 Gallon Ultra Quiet Air Compressor
- Air Pressure Ratings: 5 CFM at 40 PSI and 4 CFM at 90 PSI
- Tank Size: 12 gallon tank
- Pump: Oil free pump
The first time I fired up the Stealth 12 Gallon Ultra Quiet Air Compressor, I was taken aback.
Why? Because it was so darn quiet.
I’ve been around a fair share of air compressors, and let me tell you, this one’s noise level is something else. We’re talking about a mere 68 decibels here.
But don’t let the quietness fool you. This machine is a beast where it counts.
For starters, its induction motor pumps out a solid 1.5 horsepower.
And when it comes to recovery? Lightning-fast. It peaks at 150 PSI, delivering 5 CFM at 40 PSI and 4 CFM at 90 PSI.
This means less waiting around and more getting things done.
The 12-gallon tank is a sweet spot. It’s not too big to be cumbersome, yet not too small to be limiting. More pros? It’s oil-free. That translates to zero maintenance headaches.
- Quiet operation
- Strikes a balance between capacity and portability.
- Maintenance-Free design
- Durable Construction: Built to last with high-quality materials.
- Power cord is a bit short
3. CRAFTSMAN 2-Gallon Air Compressor
The moment I powered it up, the 1.3 horsepower induction motor went to work, filling the 2-gallon tank swiftly, which is perfect to run a plasma cutter.
And the noise? Surprisingly subdued at just 78 decibels.
This 2-gallon tank, while compact, is a workhorse. It’s perfect for those quick tasks around the house or even some light work on the job site.
Delivering 4 CFM at 90 PSI, it’s versatile enough for a range of applications, from running a plasma cutter to inflating Rv tires.
But here’s the kicker: it’s oil-free. That means zero maintenance fuss.
Also, the tank is crafted from durable Q235B steel which promises longevity.
- Compact design
- Fills up rapidly for immediate use.
- Crafted from high-quality steel for extended life.
- Handy Quick Couplers: Makes switching tools a cinch.
- 2-gallon tank is a bit limited
4. California Air Tools CAT-4610AC Ultra Quiet Air Compressor
- Air Pressure Ratings: 3.10 CFM at 40 PSI and 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI
- Tank Size: 4.6 gallon tank
- Pump: Oil free pump
With a performance of 3.10 CFM at 40 PSI and 2.20 CFM at 90 PSI, it’s versatile enough to power a range of tools, especially plasma cutters.
The consistent airflow and pressure ensure that the plasma cutter operates smoothly, making precise cuts every time.
And, the oil-free pump is a godsend. No more messy oil changes or constant maintenance checks.
The 1.0 HP motor, while sounding ultra-quiet at just 60 decibels, packed a punch. It’s like having a silent partner that does all the heavy lifting.
The 4.6-gallon aluminum twin tank is not just about looks; it’s rust-free, ensuring longevity.
And the portability? Weighing in at a manageable range, it’s easy to move around the workshop or to different job sites.
- Quiet operation
- Rust-Free aluminum tank
- Oil-Free pump that reduces maintenance hassles and costs.
- Easy to transport and set up.
- For extended tasks, the 4.6-gallon tank might require more frequent refills.
5. Makita MAC2400 Air Compressor
Makita is a brand I’ve come to trust over the years, and this machine reaffirmed that trust.
Eager to see its compatibility with plasma cutters, I set it up and was not disappointed.
I mean, the 2.5 HP motor, while being incredibly powerful, operates at a surprisingly low noise level of just 79 decibels.
The cast iron pump, with its big bore cylinder and piston, ensures a faster recovery time, which is crucial when you’re working with tools like plasma cutters that demand consistent air pressure.
The compressor’s performance, delivering 4.2 CFM at 90 PSI, is impressive and ensures that plasma cutters run smoothly, providing clean and precise cuts.
But what truly stood out to me was its roll-cage construction. This design ensures that the compressor is protected, even in the most demanding job site environments.
The oil-lubricated pump not only ensures cooler running temperatures but also minimizes wear, extending the life of the compressor.
- Big Bore cylinder & piston that ensures faster recovery time, crucial for tools like plasma cutters.
- 2.5 HP motor delivers consistent air pressure for smooth operation.
- Roll-Cage Construction
- Oil-Lubricated Pump that ensures cooler operation and minimizes wear.
- Operates at just 79 decibels, ensuring a quieter work environment.
- It might be a bit on the heavier side for some users
6. DEWALT D55140 Air Compressor
Operating at just 69 dB, it’s one of the quietest compressors I’ve come across.
But don’t let the silence fool you. This machine is a beast.
The 1-gallon tank, combined with a 2.6 amp motor, delivers 0.75 SCFM at a max of 135 PSI. This ensures that tools like plasma cutters get a consistent supply of air, allowing for precise and efficient cuts.
But here’s the clincher for me: its performance with plasma cutters. The consistent airflow and pressure mean that the plasma cutter operates seamlessly, ensuring clean and precise cuts every time.
The oil-free operation is a blessing, eliminating the need for regular maintenance and oil changes.
Its construction is robust, with a heavy-duty cast iron build, protected by a roll cage. This ensures the compressor can withstand the rigors of a job site.
Weighing in at just 24 pounds and with a compact design, it’s portable and easy to move around.
- At just 69 dB, it ensures a peaceful work environment.
- Delivers 0.75 SCFM at 135 PSI, perfect for plasma cutters.
- Heavy-duty cast iron construction with protective roll cage.
- Oil-Free operation that reduces maintenance hassles and ensures longevity.
- Weighing just 24 pounds, it’s easy to transport.
- Air tank is just too small
7. Craftsman 10 gallon Air Compressor
The 1.8 peak horsepower induction motor is not just about raw power; it’s about efficient and quiet operation.
With a noise level of just 80 dB, it’s a relief, especially when you’re in a workshop environment where every decibel counts.
It goes from empty to full in less than 180 seconds. That’s efficiency right there.
And with a 10-gallon capacity, it’s more than sufficient for most tasks, especially when powering a plasma cutter.
The consistent airflow, combined with a maximum of 150 PSI, ensures that plasma cutters work seamlessly. The cuts? Precise, clean, and efficient.
The built-in quick couplers are a nice touch, making it adaptable for various air tools.
Also, it’s oil-free and maintenance-free. No more regular check-ups or oil changes. Just pure, uninterrupted performance
- The 1.8 peak horsepower induction motor ensures power without compromising on noise.
- Quick Fill Time: Go from empty to full in under 180 seconds, maximizing productivity.
- Built-in quick couplers make it adaptable for a range of air tools, including plasma cutters.
- Oil-free operation means fewer check-ups and a longer lifespan.
- 10-gallon tank ensures you have a continuous supply of air for longer tasks.
- It’s definitely bulky
8. Metabo HPT 6 Gallon Air Compressor
- Air Pressure Ratings: 2.8 CFM delivered at 90 PSI
- Tank Size: 6 gallon tank
- Pump: Oil free pump
This 6-gallon tank is not just about aesthetics; it’s about delivering rugged performance.
With a maximum working pressure of 150 PSI, it’s clear that this compressor is designed for tasks that demand consistent air supply, especially when paired with a plasma cutter.
The 1HP oil-free high-efficiency motor is a standout feature.
Not only does it ensure reliable startups, even in colder environments, but it also promises longevity. No more worrying about oil changes or regular maintenance.
And speaking of noise, operating at just 73 dB, it’s one of the quieter compressors I’ve come across. This is crucial, especially if you’re working in a shared space or don’t want to disturb the neighbors.
- The 6-gallon pancake style tank ensures stability and easy storage.
- 1HP oil-free motor ensures reliable startups and reduces maintenance needs.
- Noise level of just 73 dB, it ensures a peaceful work environment.
- A maximum of 150 PSI ensures longer run times and efficient operation with tools like plasma cutters.
- Given its robust build, it might be a bit heavy for some users
9. PORTER-CABLE 6 Gallon Air Compressor
The 6-gallon pancake-style tank not only provides stability but also ensures longer runtimes for your tools.
And speaking of cold environments, the low amp 120V motor ensures that startups are smooth even in colder conditions. No more frustrating hiccups when you’re eager to get started.
Also, the 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI ensures a quick recovery time, which is essential when you’re in the middle of a project.
Using it with a plasma cutter was a breeze. The steady airflow, combined with its 150 PSI, made sure the plasma cutter operated efficiently.
The cuts? As expected, clean and precise.
- 6-gallon design ensures stability and longer runtimes.
- 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI ensures the compressor recovers quickly.
- Cold Start: The low amp 120V motor ensures smooth startups even in cold conditions.
- High PSI: With a maximum of 150 PSI, it’s perfect for tools like plasma cutters.
- Oil-Free pump ensures longevity and reduces maintenance needs.
- No cons over here
10. Metabo HPT EC99S Air Compressor
- Air Pressure Ratings: 3.1CFMs at 90 PSI
- Tank Size: 4 gallon tank
- Pump: oil lubricated pump
The 4-gallon capacity might seem modest, but it packs a punch with a maximum pressure of 135 PSI.
The 15-amp direct drive induction motor? Smooth as butter. And the cast iron, oil-lubricated pump ensures it runs cool, even during those long sessions.
It’s also surprisingly lightweight, making it easy to move around the workshop. The locking regulator is a neat touch, ensuring consistent pressure for your tools.
- The 15-amp direct drive induction motor ensures your compressor runs smoothly.
- Thanks to the cast iron, oil-lubricated pump, you won’t have to worry about overheating.
- Weighing just 52.9 lbs, it’s a breeze to move around.
- The locking regulator ensures your tools get the right amount of air.
- Those steel-encased gauges aren’t just for show; they’re built to withstand the test of time.
- I’d say some users might prefer a larger capacity for extended tasks.
The Best Air Compressor for Plasma Cutters Overall
Out of all the air compressors I’ve reviewed, if I had to pick just one that stands out, it would undoubtedly be the Craftsman 2 Gallon Air Compressor. Why, you ask?
Firstly, its 6-gallon capacity strikes the perfect balance between portability and performance. It’s neither too bulky to move around nor too small to compromise on efficiency.
Secondly, the oil-free pump design means less maintenance and a longer life.
Lastly, Craftsman is a brand that has built its reputation over the years. Their commitment to quality and performance is evident in this product. It’s reliable, efficient, and built to last.
Must Have Features of The Best Air Compressor for Plasma Cutters
When it comes to selecting the best air compressor for plasma cutters, there are certain features you simply can’t compromise on.
Let’s break down these must-have attributes:
Solid Air Pressure
Having a compressor with a robust air pressure is crucial.
Why? Well… because plasma cutters require a consistent and steady flow of air to operate efficiently.
Look for a compressor that offers at least 90-150 PSI as this ensures that your plasma cutter gets the power it needs to make those clean, precise cuts.
Nobody wants to pause in the middle of a project because their compressor can’t keep up.
A longer runtime ensures that you can work continuously without frequent breaks.
So, opting for compressors with larger tank capacities or efficient motors that can maintain pressure for extended periods. I’d say going for a tank size that’s at least 2 gallons is a must.
Let’s face it; a noisy compressor can be a real headache, literally. Especially if you’re working in a confined space or a shared workshop.
That said, I believe compressors with noise levels below 80 dB are ideal as they allow you to focus on your work without the constant drone in the background.
Whether you’re a professional or a hobbyist, having a portable compressor can be a game-changer. Look for features like a compact design, lightweight build, or even wheels. This ensures that you can easily move the compressor around your workspace or transport it to different job sites.
Time is money. And spending hours on end maintaining your compressor isn’t ideal.
Oil-free air compressors with easy-access components can save you a ton of time and hassle. Plus, they tend to have a longer lifespan, giving you more bang for your buck.
Frequently Asked Questions
What size air compressor do I need to run a plasma cutter?
Generally, a plasma cutter will require an air compressor that can deliver at least 4-5 SCFM (Standard Cubic Feet per Minute) at 90-120 PSI. However, always refer to the manufacturer’s specifications for your particular plasma cutter model to ensure compatibility.
Will a 30-gallon air compressor run a plasma cutter?
Yes, a 30-gallon air compressor can run a plasma cutter, provided it meets the necessary PSI and SCFM requirements. The advantage of a larger tank like 30 gallons is that it offers longer runtimes, allowing you to work continuously without waiting for the tank to refill frequently.
What air do you need for a plasma cutter?
Plasma cutters require clean, dry air to operate efficiently. Moisture or contaminants in the air can affect the quality of the cut and even damage the cutter. It’s essential to use an air dryer or a moisture separator with your compressor to ensure the air is dry and free from impurities.