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Discussion Starter #1
I'm looking into a plasma cutter for light use. Occasional use only and I have a Lincoln Mig and Stick ac/dc welder. I think one of the small units will work and am looking at an Amico and Lotus brand. A lot is said about the quick start...or other term and this is only with the Lotus which is about twice the price. Shopping at Home Depot but can also consider online. Any inputs...is the auto arc a considerable factor. Looks like the Amico works well per the Utube videos....
 

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I've never heard of either, are they Chinese imports?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
not sure that all them aren't made in China...these models are sold at Home Depot....there is also a Collasal Cut 50....I don't need much but want to consider a good one for light use….
 

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I have a Hypertherm plasma cutter on my wish list.
 

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I have a 100 amp plasma on a CNC machine,,
I never cut over 5/16 with the Esab 100 amp machine, TOO much angle to the cut,

Over 5/16, I always switched to oxygen/propane, that gave me perfect results up to 1.5"

So, if I were to buy a HD machine, I would buy the $249 30 amp unit, and the $35 two year warranty. (AMICO)

That machine will cut 3/8", which is the most I would EVER cut with plasma.

Actually, I may buy that, because that machine would be cheaper than a hand torch for the ESAB I already own,,
(I only ever owned the machine torch)

As I get older, I tend to look for smaller machines that can do what I need to do, rather than BIG!! :laugh:
 

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I know nothing of either brand other that having read a few reports of "users" reporting their Lotos units being DOA. (I put users in quotes as it's hard to use a DOA piece of equipment.) Maybe not enough Chineseum in the right places. Here is a review of LOTOS. Though, free advice is probably worth less than you paid.

fwiw, I have a Hypertherm.
 

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I bought a Hypertherm Powermax 45 years ago, and its been awesome.
Price wise, they arent cheap, but none of the good ones are.

These seem to be appealing due to price, as they are very cheap. Id be VERY skeptical of their claims of cut capacity at the stated power.
Hypertherm is one of the best there is, and they claim to do what Hypertherm does for a fraction of the price.
I also saw SEVERAL people talking about where to get consumables. If you cant find them anywhere, thats a throw away machine.
I think if I wanted to save money on one, Id look at Harbor Freight before one of these. At least with them, you can get what you need at Harbor Freight.
But even Harbor Freight is twice the price....that too would probably tell me something.

In my mind, much like a welder (or backhoe), you will find uses for it you hadnt thought of before hand.
The reason lots of us buy Deere is because they last a long time, and parts are going to be around. Same with this kind of thing.
If you only plan to have it a year or two, great, but what happens in 5 years? Will you still be able to get parts?
I know most of the big name plasma cutter manufacturers still have parts available for their very early models, and you can call and actually talk to people if you have issues.

All that said, things have changed a bit since I bought mine. I know the newer ones will cut better and thicker than mine at the same power, but the cost has also gone up accordingly.
These seem AWFUL cheap to be doing what a machine 4x their cost will do.

Best I could tell you is to go to a few of the welding forums and ask around, or just read.
Some of them are very biased towards one machine or another, but if you read enough, youll find what you want. A year or so ago, there were some pretty good reviews going around about the new Harbor Freight inverter welders, so somebody is doing some review work without too much bias, you just have to find it.
 

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As Jim wrote, look beyond the initial purchase since you will need consumables for the machine down the road and they are machine-specific. When an item is being sold for less than a 1/4 of what the name brand is, you have to wonder how good it can really be. If going the Chinese route, I like Jim's idea of at least getting the Horrible Fright one locally-at least you have a place to take it to if you need support.

FY, I have a older Hypertherm PM45 too, and I don't use it nearly as much as I though I would when I bought it.
 

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As Jim wrote, look beyond the initial purchase since you will need consumables for the machine down the road and they are machine-specific. When an item is being sold for less than a 1/4 of what the name brand is, you have to wonder how good it can really be. If going the Chinese route, I like Jim's idea of at least getting the Horrible Fright one locally-at least you have a place to take it to if you need support.

FY, I have a older Hypertherm PM45 too, and I don't use it nearly as much as I though I would when I bought it.
The link to a Lotos review that I posted in Post #6 covers a lot of this. Lack of support. Not being able to find consumables. Potential short life. Only looks good because of cost. etc. etc. It seemed to be an objective review.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I've been thoroughly researching the different machines....I know the lower price machines...probably under $1000 are Chineese made and not sure if some of the others aren't....now having said that...there's two difference one without the auto arc and ones with. This feature on the lower end machines is about $150 more...and I wonder with additional circuitry I wouldn't be buying more trouble...now also having said that I say a few of the low ends with a 3 year warranty and that seems attractive...If I can get a machine for $250-300 with this then I'd be good....I'm not looking to cut really heavy materials so the lower end...30amp may surfice….I have 220 plug ins so that not a factor...I do see something strange...harbor is not selling these type machines...but I'm going to the store today and see what the reason is....anyway still exploring and input appreciated....tks Chuck
 

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I am considering one of the cheap CUT-50 units off ebay. I see them down to $170 now. My 40 year old Chinese band saw died over the weekend and I don't think I will fix it this time. I replaced the drive gear in it last year and I think it has stripped again. The motor was getting weak and i was having to stand over it and keep light pressure on the blade so new method of cutting is needed. I had to finish my last project with a cordless reciprocal saw.

After watching some idiots attempt reviews of the CUT-50 using dirty steel and a poor ground I finally came across a two year review that convinced me it may be worthwhile. I like this guys method of obtaining a straight cut.

 

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I finally came across a two year review that convinced me it may be worthwhile. I like this guys method of obtaining a straight cut.
I was with him up until he started using his plasma torch as a hammer, albeit, not very hard. And he didn't know why air kept coming out after releasing the trigger which he was thinking of troubleshooting. With any luck at all, he'll discover that it is post flow to cool the torch.
 

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I was with him up until he started using his plasma torch as a hammer, albeit, not very hard. And he didn't know why air kept coming out after releasing the trigger which he was thinking of troubleshooting. With any luck at all, he'll discover that it is post flow to cool the torch.
Yeah I caught that too. At least he didn't have a rusty, corroded, piece of metal laying on a grounded bench expecting it to cut clean with well used consumables like some of the other reviews I tried to watch.
 

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Yeah I caught that too. At least he didn't have a rusty, corroded, piece of metal laying on a grounded bench expecting it to cut clean with well used consumables like some of the other reviews I tried to watch.
Yup. Lots of "how not to weld" and "how not to plasma cut" vids out there. Though, they are not titled as such.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Spent a little time today...watching some of the utubes. These small low cost units are obviously coming from China and I don't even know about the high priced units. There are tons of electronics in these cases and all it takes is to fry one of the diodes..resisters...transformers...capacitor or other hundreds of small components. I've ruled out the expensive models as I'm just a small home/shop user and can't justify the money....but....I've noticed that some of these units advertise a 3 year warranty...if this is true and they are any good...I'll buy one somewhere around the $250-300 amount. I can't understand the extra expense of the pilot units and it looks likes like that another bunch of electronics to fail...I know they fail as I was just by Harbor Freight and they're afraid of them...went to my Home Depot and they only had them on line...stores obviously don't want them returned...Tractor supply sells the higher end models...$1000 or so...I think they had a cheap one at $700. I'm looking around for a possibly good used one but here again at a pawn shop there would be "nooooooo" guarantee....I think one would be use full for the smaller metal...I have an acetylene outfit....I wondered about something else...could one use electric welder to cut...which I've done and air...might require another pair of hands and a metal tip blower...."guess it might be dangerous from slag?... never tried it...but anyway...still checking out items....
 

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Rather than either of these, I would watch Harbor Freight and see when their 62204 plasma goes on sale. I've seen it for $349 lately, add the 20-25% coupon and you're in the $200s. Customer service is going to be a lot better, and it uses an iPT-60 torch which is used on dozens of machines. Consumables are ridiculously cheap, last a decent amount of time, and they sell drag tips for pretty cheap on eBay. If it fails out of warranty there's a guy that has a lot of experience repairing them (George's Plasma Shop).

I bought a Lotos LTP5000D from Newegg marketplace about a month ago. I messaged Lotos customer service about a price discrepancy, they responded within about an hour and had the price changed ten minutes later. So I said "why not" and knew if I needed it Newegg's return policies are just like eBay - they do not mess around if a product is dead. I got it, started making some cuts and within about ten minutes and 6' of cut in slightly mill scaled 1/4" plate had to replace the consumables. There are no off brand consumables yet since Lotos redesigned the torch at the beginning of last year, so the prices are fairly high for consumables. Thankfully they included two additional sets in the package, so I put in another one and went back to cutting. Another ~20' of cut later with no issues, I set the torch down to move my guide, picked it back up, pulled the trigger and got nothing - no pilot arc and no air. I checked all my connections multiple times, reset the breaker just in case (I installed it the day prior just for the cutter but you never know), still nothing. That combined with realizing how expensive and short these consumables last got me on the phone with NewEgg to set up an RMA. Lotos customer service wanted to try to troubleshoot the unit first, I told them it doesn't instill a lot of confidence in me that this will last if it failed within 30' of cuts. They provided a shipping label, so I boxed it up and sent it back. I can't quite tell you how they'll be about the refund yet, since it's going to be delivered today.

Long story short, two days before I sent it back I found a brand new Hypertherm Powermax 30XP with 10 sets of extra consumables for sale for $1,000 cash. I made the 2 hour drive the next day and have cut a lot of material with it since then, all on the same tip that came on the torch. The cut quality is on a different level. Yes it's a lot of money, but in the long term I have no doubt this will last me a very long time, and Hypertherm will continue to support it for a very long time if I do have any issues.

All I can suggest is if you're going to buy one make sure you look and see what kind of torch it uses and how much consumables are. If you're replacing them every half hour it's going to get expensive if the only place to get them from is the manufacturer. Also make sure you get it from a place that will provide buyer support for returns and issues. Lotos has been known in the past to have bad customer service. I can't say (yet) they were bad, but it's nice to have an extra layer of protection.

As for your other questions, the pilot arc isn't necessary at all, but scratch start means you can't use those little stand off guards easily that help you maintain distance, and you can't cut really rusted material without cleaning off a start spot first. Also, if you're cutting something like expanded steel you'll want to pull your hair out and use an angle grinder instead. You can cut steel with a stick welder, use something like 6011 and crank the amps up. It isn't the prettiest cut, but it will work. And those Hobart models at Tractor Supply tend to be more expensive because they have an air compressor built in. Watch your cut capacities on them - the $700 model is a 12 amp unit which is rated for about 1/8" steel. Unless you're trying to make a bunch of intricate\curved cuts and are looking for a way to work with sheet goods, I would get a metal cutting circular saw and just use the oxy torch you already have for everything else you can't do with the saw.
 

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The amico 160 is a good stick welder! Can't go wrong, especially for the price.

Also dreaming of a hypertherm 45... those guys are true craftsmen
 
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