What Size Air Compressor Do You Need for Plasma Cutting?

Plasma cutting is a great option for working with metal, leaving you with a high-quality cut. However, if you are planning on making these cuts, you’ll need to get the right air compressor. This will allow you to get enough power to slice through the metal. But how can you tell what size air compressor will be needed? 

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Look at Minimum Requirements

The first thing that you need to do is consider the minimum requirements for your plasma cutter. This should be listed on the machine. If they aren’t there, you might need to turn to the instruction manual. Often, it will tell you how many cubic feet a minute (CFM) and how many psi it needs. 

However, these are only minimum requirements. If you can find an air compressor that will be more powerful, you should use it. If you are using a weaker machine, the plasma cutter might run out of air. In this case, it will often stop temporarily. This is far from ideal, particularly if you are in the middle of a tricky cut. Another common issue is that the airflow won’t be powerful enough to cut through the metal.

How much you will need to exceed these requirements will depend on the type of material you are planning on cutting through. If you want to work with thicker sheets of metal, you might need to double the minimum requirements. This is also a good idea if you are planning to use your plasma cutter frequently. Sometimes, the manufacturer will overestimate the CFM their machines can produce. If you want to double-check this for yourself, you can use this calculator

Regulating Airflow to the Plasma Cutter

The size of the air compressor isn’t the only thing that you need to consider. You might need to regulate the amount of air that is going to the cutter. This will allow you to control the amount of psi that it is getting. This will allow you to find the ideal airflow for the piece of metal you are cutting. 

How you regulate airflow will often depend on the type of plasma cutter you have. Some will come with a regulator built in. If not, you’ll need to do it yourself. The good news is that this shouldn’t be too difficult. You just need to purchase an external air regulator. Then, you’ll need to attach one end to the machine and attach the air supply line to the other. This video shows you how you can do this. 

Using an Air Filter

Finally, you might want to consider whether you need to use an air filter. This can be a good way of extending the life of your compressor. You’ll be able to stop dirt and other particulates from getting into the cutter. This will help extend the lifespan of your consumable items, like the torch, reducing the costs of running the plasma cutter. You might also want to consider using an air dryer. This will remove any moisture from the air. This article goes into more depth about the benefits of an air filter and the types of air filters you can use. 


Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what you are looking for when buying an air compressor. If you don’t already have a plasma cutter, you don’t need to spend a fortune. This guide of high-quality cutters below $500 will make it easier to find the right affordable plasma cutter for you. Now you should have all the tools you need to start cutting through metal sheets at home. 

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1 comment

This is a good article. ESA HMI ERGO122I think that I have learnt many knowledge.


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