Can You Use a Plasma Cutter Without an Air Compressor?

Plasma cutting is used in many mechanical industries to cut the different metals. In this method, gas is given extra energy to convert into plasma.  For cutting metal with more accuracy and precision, a plasma cutter with an air compressor required.

Many plasma cutters have an inbuilt air compressor. Plasma cutting with or without an air compressor depends on the condition of the job. Here we will guide you on all important things about plasma cutting.

Working of Plasma cutter

A high-pressure gas flow is introduced with an electric arc to get extra energy and this will raise the temperature of gas which makes it plasma. The nozzle of plasma gas directs the gas to the cutting piece of metal.

The high pressure of gas and temperature cut the metal very easily in less time. Plasma cutter is used in many types of industries. You can use a handheld torch in plasma cutting that you can use freely to cut different objects. Also, the plasma cutter is used in CNC where all cutting activities are programmed.

How Air Compressor Works in Plasma Cutting

As we told earlier this type of cutting method uses electricity and gas to cut the different metals. When we apply heat, the matter changes states from solid to liquid and then gas.

The plasma cutting method already uses different gases which heated at high temperatures and run towards the material through the nozzle. The compressed air help in this process which cuts the metal with more precision.

Most plasma cutter machine comes with an inbuilt air compressor which helps them to cut metals with high accuracy. But if you do not have then you can also purchase it separately and combine it with the plasma cutter.

Pros of Air Compressor in Plasma Cutting

There are many pros of using an air compressor in plasma cutting. The Air compressor helps the operator to cut the material with high precision. You can get uniform quality of cutting with little adjustment in gas flow in the compressor.

When you have a plasma cutter with a built-in air compressor, you do not need to give power to both units. You need one power supply to start working on both units. There no difference in cutting quality of material in plasma cutter with or without air compressor but you get more precise cutting.

Cons of Air Compressor in Plasma Cutting

The first and important thing for the plasma cutter with an air compressor is the price. There is an important difference in the price of a plasma cutter with an inbuilt air compressor unit and without it. Many people stay away from buying a plasma cutter with an air compressor unit inbuilt.

To save few bucks, you can buy a plasma cutter without an air compressor and buy the air compressor in the local market which costs you less than an inbuilt air compressor. But on the other side, you have to spend time in this activity.

There is also some difference in units used while using a plasma cutter with and without an air compressor. This difference may not big but if you have a large project then you have to consider this difference to calculate the right budget.

During the cutting process with plasma cutting, the air compressor gives constant pressure of air so that you can get uniform quality. But, leaks in this system can happen after longtime use. Maintenance of this system is difficult and time-consuming.

Main Parts of the Plasma Cutter

Here are the two parts of the plasma cutter that will help you to understand the whole process.

Power source

The plasma cutter needs DC voltage around 200 to 400 V. The power supply unit of the plasma cutter converts single or three-phase ac power supply into DC voltage so that the plasma cutter starts working.


ASC is Arc Starting Console creates high voltage ac which produces spark in the torch and as a result plasma creates. The spark heat the gas at a high temperature which converts it into plasma.


There are three types of gases can be used in whole plasma cutting process. One is gases that ignite plasma, second are cutting gases that are used to help the whole cutting process and third gases are used to cool down plasma. Also, water is used to lower the temperature as a medium.

Torch and its assembly

Electrode and nozzle are the main parts of the torch assembly. These parts get power from the power source. These assembly ignite plasma and do the cutting process with help of the

Cooling of assembly parts

Cooling of the assembly parts is required as they get heated at very high temperature due to plasma. There are two medium one water or other is gas used to cool down the whole plasma cutting assembly.


The last part we consider in the plasma cutting system is the workpiece. This is the metal which is cut with help of plasma. The material should be conductive to electricity. It is the one component that close the whole plasma cutting circuit.

Variables of Plasma Cutting Process

There are few main variables of plasma cutting process

Purity of the gas

Good purity of the gas is important to get high quality cutting. Use of good purity gas for the long time can also increase the life of the electrode. The gases requirement for the plasma process is 99.99% of Nitrogen and for Oxygen purity is 99.5%. Less purity gases affect the whole plasma cutting process.

Gas pressure and flow rate

Any cutting or welding work, gas flow rate and pressure is most important thing. It can adversely change the quality of cutting.  Nozzle is designed for the plasma cutting as per cutting speed and pressure of the gas. High flow rate or low flow rate can change the cutting quality.

Cutting speed

Width or size of the kerf depends on cutting speed. Check the kerf size and set the cutting speed. Higher cutting speed can be cause of narrow kerf. On the other side low speed can increase the width of the kerf.

We hope this article has helped you to understand the importance of air compressors in plasma cutting and other important information on this type of cutting method.