Why is High Definition Plasma Cutting So Expensive?


When you’re running a business, every dime, nickel, quarter, and dollar needs to be accounted for and purposeful. The goal is to have your profits exceed your expenses so when you make a large investment with a substantial price tag, it’s a little nerve-wracking. Purchasing a High Definition plasma cutting machine is one of those investments that will cause fabricators to deliberate and give extra thought to selecting the machine most suitable for their shop.

Plasma cutting has been used in metal processing for over 50 years and provides various advantages over other cutting methods. It’s true that plasma systems are higher priced than some other cutting tools, but understanding the difference between price and cost will simplify the questions around expense.

Low Cost Plasma Systems vs. High Definition Plasma Systems

Low cost plasma cutting systems use shop compressed air as the cutting gas and that compressed air heavily oxidizes the cut surface of stainless and aluminum. When cut with air plasma, the cut face of aluminum will be covered in aluminum oxide. This causes the cut face to be rough and crusty, requiring additional labor to grind the surface before applying weld metal. A similar affect happens when air plasma is used to cut stainless steel; the cut face will be covered in nickel oxide. This will cause a dark grey and crusty cut face and, again, require additional labor. When steel is cut with compressed air, the cut face will be impregnated with nitrides because air is 79% nitrogen. The cut face may appear clean and smooth but the nitrides are under the surface. The surface will need to be ground off before applying weld metal.

The price of a High Definition Plasma cutting machine is larger than other machines, but you get what you pay for. Low cost air plasma systems deliver approximately 500 starts in comparison to an HD system that delivers 3,000 starts or more. The HD system delivers six times the amount of starts, allowing fabricators to produce high quality results faster. The cut parts produced from low cost air systems have significantly beveled edges. These beveled edges and dross on the bottom of parts results in an increase in labor costs to grind the parts. The operating costs with a compressed air system also increase due to the impact on consumables. Compressed air system consumables begin wearing out almost immediately, impacting cut quality and accuracy.

Park Industries® proudly offers HD Plasma Cutting solutions like the KANO CNC to the metal industry.

High Definition systems benefit from having been improved upon and refined to stay consistent and long-lasting. All manufacturers of high definition plasma systems have dedicated time and resources to improve reliability, consistency, and user experience to compete with other processes like laser and waterjet. When using high definition plasma cutting machines select the best gas combination to produce weld-ready cut surfaces. If the surface impurities aren’t removed before applying the weld metal, the oxide or nitrides can dissolve into the weld metal and cause a porous weld.

The Verdict

Essentially, it is critical to define and list all associated costs between machinery options. Labor, operating, and depreciation costs all affect your bottom line. With the capability of speed, accuracy, and efficiency, plasma cutters will bring a return on investment fairly quickly. The advantages add up to an application that will not only cut production and labor costs but will also improve the quality of your product. When compared with other low-cost options, it’s clear that a high definition plasma cutting machine is just a cut above the rest.