Plasma Cutter vs Torch: Melting Electrically Conductive Materials

plasma cutter vs torch

Plasma Cutter Vs. Torch – How to Choose Between Them

Plasma cutter vs. torch – this is an ongoing debate among welders. Both tools are effective in accomplishing different welding applications. One team votes for a plasma cutter while the other team gives a slogan for the torch.

It is quite difficult for a beginner to decide while some professionals also face dilemma when picking either a plasma cutter or torch.

This guideline is for those who are in a dilemma in making the decision. We will share the definition and key differences of both tools to make a precise decision.

So, let’s dig more.

What is a Plasma Cutter?

Plasma Cutter vs Torch: Melting Electrically Conductive Materials 1

Plasma cutters use gas and electricity when cutting solid materials under high pressure. As you can guess, the cutting materials should be able to handle electricity.

As a result, plasma cutters are compatible in cutting a wide range of non-ferrous metals such as stainless steel, copper, aluminum, etc.

You cannot use the similar type of gas for cutting different types of metals. Depending on the cutting metal type, you have to choose the gas type. When the project is to cut steel, you can use compressed air provided by a general air compressor.

In terms of versatility and precision, the plasma cutter is a champion. The best thing about using a plasma cutter in different welding applications is that it doesn’t require much cleaning after finishing a project.

The only downside of the plasma cutter is that it cannot deliver the best result with more than 2” thick materials.

But to get precise cutting and cleanliness, you have no other choice except using a plasma cutter.

Key Features:

  • Easy to use
  • Versatile
  • Powerful
  • Portable

What is Oxy Propane Torch?

Plasma Cutter vs Torch: Melting Electrically Conductive Materials 2

The other name of the torch is Oxy/Acetylene torch. It was invented by 2 Frenchmen; oxy/fuel welding began to fuse metals by combining fuel gases such as pure oxygen and acetylene.

The frame generates heat, and the heat requires pure oxygen to increase. The mixture of oxy/acetylene and oxygen burns at more than 6,300°F.

Oxy/acetylene welding is the oldest welding process, and forged welding is the next. After the invention of Arc welding, very little welding processes are being performed with oxy/acetylene. However, artisans prefer the process of creating artwork.

After making a connection between the cutting torch and handle of oxy/acetylene, it turns itself into a powerful tool that can cut solid metals with ease.

Generally, it is one of the cheapest welding processes and is commonly used for handling small tasks. Where repair working is required and joining pipes or tubes, this oxy/acetylene torch delivers efficient results. It is easily available and popular in manufacturing and industrial sites.

Key Features:

  • Runs with a mixture of oxy/acetylene gas
  • The cutting process is easily switchable
  • Adjusting the gas flow, the temperature can easily be regulated
  • The process melts the metal to join 2 materials

Plasma Cutter vs. Oxy Acetylene – Comparison Table

If you are in a rush, look at the below comparison table to give you a quick idea of the comparison between plasma and oxyfuel cutting.

FeaturesPlasma CutterOxy-acetylene
PrecisionNo other welding method can beat plasma cutters in terms of delivering precise welding results.Oxy-acetylene also delivers precise results, but not as much as plasma cutters.
CleanlinessThis process doesn’t require cleaning after accomplishing a project.Cleaning is required.
PowerLess powerful than oxy-acetyleneSo much powerful
PortabilityEasy to carry in different placesHassle-free carrying
VersatilityIt can complete and cut a wide range of solid materials up to 2” thick metal.  It is also a versatile item. It is eligible in cutting up to 24” thick materials.
CostExpensiveInexpensive

What are the Key Differences Between Oxy-Acetylene Torch vs. Plasma Cutter?

We will look into the key differences in 5 different categories. Hopefully, these differences will assist you in choosing the best-suited process for your project.

Precision & Cleanliness

Unnecessary cleanup is always disturbing. Nobody wants to waste their time doing an unnecessary clean up after any process. This means a nice and clean cut will save your time surely.

In terms of cleanliness, which process is better, plasma cutter or oxy-acetylene?

Characteristically, plasma cutters don’t leave a needless mess. The plasma cutter is a high-tech welding process.

A neutral gas receives energy from the plasma cutter, and this way, it gets imbalanced. As a result, powerful and precise energy gets generated, and the process delivers precise cutting.

On the other side, working with oxy-acetylene is so simple. A reaction gets created with Oxygen and fuel and the working material; it melts the sludge, which is thrown away. This way, it also delivers an effective result but compared to the plasma cutter, the result is less process. Sometimes, after accomplishing a project with it, you may need to clean the area.

Power

In terms of power, oxy-acetylene is a complete winner. You will get precision from a plasma cutter, but oxy-acetylene will give your power to handle a wide range of solid materials.

According to many experts, it is worth remembering that every process has limitations, but oxy-acetylene can cut more than plasma.

Plasma cutter is a heavy-duty welding application, but it can cut up to 2” thick materials. While oxy-acetylene is capable of cutting up to 24” thick metals. You may not get a clean cutting with it, but when the project is to cut thicker materials, oxy-acetylene is a champion.

Portability

In the beginning, plasma cutters were bulky, and people were facing problems carrying them from one place to another.

After the invention of inverter technology, people can now carry it into different places. You can load your plasma cutter in the back of your truck and move it anywhere as per your requirement. A welding machine runs with either electricity or a generator, and it is potentially a limitation of the plasma cutter. Due to the portability feature, you can comfortably carry a plasma cutter to where electricity is necessary.

On the other side, oxy-acetylene items are also portable. Even if you are in a desert, you can work with oxy-acetylene with the help of a torch and a few gas tanks. Using electricity is entirely unnecessary.

Versatility

This is the point where you will face the challenge to find a clear winner.

Both processes can handle a wide range of welding applications. Any clean and precise welding such as shape cutting, bevel, etc. can be accomplished with a plasma cutter. On the flip side, blending metals, braze, gouge, etc. are done with a special oxy-acetylene combination.

One advantage of a plasma cutter is it can cut or weld stainless steel, aluminum but with oxy-acetylene, you can’t do it.

Cost

This is one of the most important factors that everyone considers before buying any tools. Oxy-acetylene is inexpensive than a plasma cutter. You might be thinking of going with oxy-acetylene after reading this. But note down one thing which is – separately buying gas to run oxy-acetylene is mandatory. Also, cleaning is required after working with it, so you have to buy cleaning equipment too. Plasma cutters are more expensive than oxy-acetylene. At the same time, buying a few more items are similarly required for oxy-acetylene.

So, don’t make a decision looking at the cost only.

Final Decision – Plasma Cutter vs. Oxy Propane Torch – Which one to Choose

Hopefully, with the above discussion, now you can make your decision easier. If you are a beginner, you should buy an oxy-acetylene. And later, once you hone your skill, you should go with a plasma cutter.

Also, it is essential to look at the project requirement.

If the project is to handle 2” thick metal with clean cuts, go with a plasma cutter.

While oxy propane torch can cut up to 24” thick metals, so when cutting thicker materials, take oxy-acetylene in your hand. At this point, remember that cleaning is necessary for this process.

FAQ

Is a plasma cutter better than a torch?

Both plasma cutters and oxy-acetylene have advantages and disadvantages. Plasma cutters deliver fast and clean cutting results with 2” (max) non-ferrous thicker materials as well as easy to use. While the oxy-acetylene torch is suitable for cutting and welding up to 24” thicker metals, they are incompatible with non-ferrous metal. And they are easy to carry.

You can’t tell which item is better than the other since both have unique characteristics.

What is the advantage of plasma cutting?

Plasma cutting delivers the below advantages

  • Compatible with a wide range of metals up to 2” thicker
  • Precise and clean cutting
  • Delivers fast cutting result with thinner materials
  • Hassle-free using

What gas does a plasma cutter use?

Depending on the thickness of the cutting material, plasma cutters use different gases. Argon is the prime gas that is used in the plasma cutter. To cut thicker non-ferrous metals, argon and hydrogen mixture is the best-suited gas. And a combination of nitrogen and hydrogen is suitable for handling thinner non-ferrous metals.

Final Thoughts

Whatever tool you use, make sure to choose as per your project requirement. I believe, this guideline helps you get the answers to every question related to plasma cutter vs. torch.

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