Plasma attributes

Material type

  • Any electrically conductive metal, including stainless steel and aluminum
  • Can handle rusted, painted, and expanded metal

Ideal thickness

  • Mild steel, stainless and aluminum from 26 gauge up to 50 mm (2")
  • Capable of cutting stainless and aluminum up to 182 mm (6-1/4"); some secondary work will be required

Cut quality

  • Tolerances in the +/- 0.38 mm to 0.5 mm (+/- 0.015” to 0.020”) range with average edge angularity of 2° to 3° on steel less than 10 mm (3/8”); 1° on 12 mm to 38 mm (1/2” to 1-1/2”) steel; less than 1° on 50 mm (2”) steel*
  • Narrow heat affected zone, typically less than 0.25 mm (0.010”)
  • Correct choice of process and gases will produce minimal edge hardening, allowing excellent weldability
  • Relatively smooth edges with smooth torch motion
  • Minimal dross (resolidified metal) on steel up to rated production capacities

* Tolerances will vary depending on material type and thickness, part geometries, and overall design and quality of the cutting system. The tolerances listed here are generally accepted tolerances assuming the use of a good quality cutting table with good motion capabilities. Different cutting tables will provide different outcomes even if equipped with the exact same cutting components.


  • Faster than laser on 6 mm (1/4”) and thicker materials
  • Faster than oxyfuel up through 50 mm (2”)

Operating cost

  • Low cost per part on all materials and thickness through 50 mm (2”)
  • Low service and maintenance requirements

Capital equipment cost

  • Medium – higher than oxyfuel, lower than laser and waterjet


  • Highly portable, lightweight inverter designs on the air plasma systems
  • Today’s systems are designed for good performance on a generator
  • Some systems include built-in air compressors

Bottom line

Plasma is a faster, more productive process than laser, waterjet or oxyfuel cutting when doing mechanized cutting of metal greater than 6 mm (1/4”) but less than 50 mm (2”). In addition, its ability to cut a wide variety of electrically conductive materials provides outstanding versatility. Plasma can be used for both mechanized cutting and for portable hand cutting applications, often where other processes cannot be used.