Air plasma systems like the Hypertherm Powermax do a great job. They’re portable, powerful, and easy to use. The recent introduction of the Powermax125 ups the ante even more. This air plasma comes with a 100 percent duty cycle and 1 ½ inch recommended cut capacity. Again that’s recommended. It’s probably worth a whole other blog post to explain Hypertherm’s cut capacity ratings but basically it’s the thickness the system can cut cleanly and quickly, which in this case is 18 inches per minute. If you aren’t as particular about cut quality, and just want to get though a slab of metal for example, this system can actually cut (or in engineering speak, sever) 2 ¼ inches, though you’ll need to slow your torch down to a travel speed of 5 inches per minute.
The real purpose of this post though is to help you figure out if it’s time to graduate to a conventional oxygen system, like our MAXPRO200. First though, let’s explain a little bit about this system and conventional plasmas in general. Price wise and performance wise conventional plasma falls between our Powermax and high definition HyPerformance XD systems. Also, though the systems often have oxygen in the name, you can use either oxygen or air as the plasma gas. And unlike air plasma, you can use a second, different shield gas. As far as cut capacity, when cutting 1 ½ inch mild steel using air for both the plasma gas and shield gas, it will cut at 20 inches per minute. When cutting the same thickness of steel using oxygen as the plasma gas and air as the shield gas, it cuts at 22 inches per minute. Severance capacity for this system is 3 inches.
Comparing the cut capacity of each system then, you’ll notice the MAXPRO200 is a bit faster, as you might expect from a system with 75 more amps and 50 percent more kilowatt output power, but cut speed is not the primary differentiator between the two systems. Deciding between the two then comes down to asking the following questions:
- Am I happy with the cut quality I’m seeing from my air plasma system? Though air plasma systems can provide good cut quality, the quality from a long life oxygen system is better.
- Do I need to regularly move my system? If you anticipate needing to move your system between different locations, then you’ll want to keep in mind that air plasma, like the Powermax125, is much more portable.
- Do your jobs go beyond standard hand or machine cutting? The Powermax125 comes with a wider range of what we call specialty torches. This includes our 4 foot long torch, robotic torches, mini-machine torches and more. The MAXPRO200 comes with two torches: a hand torch and a machine torch.
- Do you plan to do any gouging? If yes, the availability of a straighter 15 degree hand torch found on the Powermax125 will give you more control and visibility. On the other hand, the metal removal rate with a MAXPRO200 is greater.
- Do you wish you were able to cut faster or thicker? If you feel like you’re hitting the upper limits of your air plasma, then you might want to consider a system like the MAXPRO200 as it provides extra power and speed.
- How much are you cutting? Consumables on air plasma systems last a long time, but consumables on a conventional system like the MAXPRO200 will last a great deal longer. This is particularly important when cutting a lot of parts. If you anticipate hooking up your torch to a machine and cutting for a good part of the day, then your total cost of operation will definitely be lower when using a conventional rather than air plasma.