Plasma cutting is a way of efficiently cutting through metal, but you need an air compressor to do it properly, because it’s a two-stage process, and the compressed air will give you a clean cut during the second stage.
So, getting the best air compressor for your plasma cutting is not just theoretically important, or a cool addition to have – it’s crucial to the whole process.
How do you know which air compressors will work best for plasma cutting?
Relax – we have some of the best air compressors for plasma cutting right here.
In a hurry? Here’s our top pick.
Table of Contents
10 Best Air Compressors For Plasma Cutter
|Craftsman Air Compressor
|Buy Craftsman Air Compressor Now
|Bostitch Air Compressor Combo Kit
|Buy Bostitch Air Compressor Combo Kit Now
|Dewalt DXCMLA1983054 30-Gallon Portable Air Compressor
|Buy Dewalt DXCMLA1983054 30-Gallon Portable Air Compressor Now
|California Air Tools 8010 Steel Tank Air Compressor
|Buy California Air Tools 8010 Steel Tank Air Compressor Now
|Makita MAC5200 3.0 HP Big Bore Air Compressor
|Buy Makita MAC5200 3.0 HP Big Bore Air Compressor Now
|Metabo HPT "The Tank" Pancake Air Compressor
|Buy Metabo HPT "The Tank" Pancake Air Compressor Now
|Campbell Hausfeld 6 Gallon Portable Quiet Air Compressor
|Buy Campbell Hausfeld 6 Gallon Portable Quiet Air Compressor Now
|Quincy QT-54 Splash Lubricated Reciprocating Air Compressor
|Buy Quincy QT-54 Splash Lubricated Reciprocating Air Compressor Now
|NorthStar Single-Stage Portable Electric Air Compressor
|Buy NorthStar Single-Stage Portable Electric Air Compressor Now
|Industrial Air 60-Gallon Cast Iron Air Compressor
|Buy Industrial Air 60-Gallon Cast Iron Air Compressor Now
The Craftsman 6 gallon oil-free pancake compressor can give you all the support you need with your plasma cutting.
Bringing 150 PSI to your cutting, it’s powerful enough to do the job without any qualms for as long as its 6 gallon tank lasts, and with a compressor recovery time of 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI, there’s no issue with its repeatability either.
The Craftsman comes with a 13-piece accessory kit and two pressure gauges, so it lets you see where you’re at with just a glance, and it’s constructed to be extremely durable.
As an oil-free air compressor, it also needs minimum maintenance over time.
Don’t believe us? It comes with a 1-year warranty, so if anything goes wrong with it, you’re covered.
- A 6 gallon capacity ensures you have the volume of air you need to do the cutting you want at any time
- Oil-free pumps translate to you having to do very little maintenance to the compressor
- A fast recovery time makes sure you don’t have unnecessary delays to your cutting work
- It comes with a 1-year warranty
- At 82 dB, it’s a loud compressor, which can be difficult to work with for long periods
Another 6 gallon pancake compressor, the Bostitch can do most of the things the Craftsman can do, so it’s a way to go if for some reason the Craftsman doesn’t feel like your ideal aid in your plasma cutting.
Oil-free for low maintenance, it delivers that same 150 PSI to your plasma cutting, for precise, easy cuts and no drama.
The Bostitch compressor recovery rate of 2.6 scfm delivered at 90 psi also keeps time with our list-leader – unsurprisingly, since this is an ideal pressure for supporting the likes of plasma cutters.
At 29 pounds, the Bostitch is a little more portable than the Craftsman, and while it’s still in the category of “pretty damn noisy,” a noise level of 78 decibels means you can probably stand to use it for slightly longer than you can with our leading compressor.
A 1-year warranty backs up the Bostitch, so it’s a strong alternative option to the Craftsman, with a few hidden bonuses, like being lighter and quieter, up its sleeve.
- 6 gallons of capacity means you can get rapid, precise plasma cutting with no drama
- 150 PSI is an ideal pressure for plasma cutting
- Slightly quieter than the Craftsman, meaning you can use it for longer
- The 1-year warranty is a handy support
- At 78 decibels, this is still a loud compressor
Dewalt has a strong reputation in air compression machinery, and in tool-making as a whole.
The Dewalt DXCMLA1983054 is a 30-gallon compressor with a 1.9 HP V-Twin cylinder oil-lubricated pump. That means it can deliver effective compression for smaller and more moderate jobs.
Because the pump is oil-lubricated, it has a smoother action than those that are unlubed, though it does require more thorough and regular cleaning.
The pump delivers 5.7 CFM at 90 PSI and 7.0 CFM at 40 PSI, which puts it in the range you need to get some effective plasma cutting done.
The 30-gallon tank capacity means you don’t need to stop cutting any time soon, though it’s not suitable for bigger, more professional level plasma cutting. But with a sustainable maximum pressure of 155 PSI, easy-to-moderate level plasma cutting is well within the wheelhouse of the Dewalt.
Weighing in at 190 pounds, it’s not heavyweight by the standards of the industry, but neither would it be entirely easy or fun to cart around, without the help of some handy wheels that make it a lot more portable than it would otherwise be.
It’s equipped with a particularly cool and useful dual voltage motor, so it can run on either 120 V or 240 V power. And – unusually – it also comes with two different pressure gauges, so you can add an extra level of precision to your plasma cutting when using this relatively miniature Dewalt compressor.
As you’d expect from a company as prominent as Dewalt, it backs its products to the hilt, meaning the compressor comes with a solid 2-year warranty on the pump, and 1 year of cover on all the other parts of the compressor.
If you’re only looking to do up to moderate-level plasma cutting, you can do a lot worse than opting for the well-known name in this case.
The Dewalt DXCMLA1983054 will give you all the compression you need, with competitive PSI and CFM ratings, and a 30-gallon tank should give you some good quality plasma cutting before you have to change the tank.
- 155 PSI is more than enough to give you moderate-level plasma cutting
- The motor on the DXCMLA1983054 can run on either 120 V or 240 V power, making it highly versatile
- While heavy to drag around, the wheels make it a genuinely portable air compressor
- The compressor comes with an impressive manufacturer’s warranty
- If you’re looking to do more heavy-duty plasma cutting, this is not your best option
If 6 gallons just won’t do the job for you, try the California 8010 compressor, with its 8 gallon tank. Ironically, while the 6 gallon options have a maximum PSI of 150, the California maxes out at 120 PSI.
That’s still more than enough to deliver effective plasma cutting though, so it scores highly on our list.
Add to that the lowest decibel count we’ve seen so far – just 60 dB – and an oil-free dual piston pump, and you’re starting to put together an extremely competent plasma cutting aid.
Designed for both high performance and extreme durability, the California 8010 will work at various temperatures, especially in the cold, and has been designed to have a lifespan of over 3000 hours, so you’re looking at buying it today and still using it effectively five years from now – significantly longer than the lifespan of some other compressors in the market.
While still not a back-breaker – or a deal-breaker, come to that, be aware that this unit weighs in at an impressive 48 pounds.
- An 8 gallon tank gives you more scope to plasma cut for longer
- The low noise level of just 60 dB makes working longer a realistic option
- Starting easily even in the cold, it’s a reliable compressor all year round
- It’s the heaviest compressor we’ve seen so far
Makita obviously has the name and the history to make any air compressor it puts out worth looking at.
The Makita MAC5200 3.0 HP Big Bore compressor though more than lives up to the reputation of the company’s name.
With the 3HP motor, and a 5.2 gallon tank, it gives you 140 PSI as long as you need it, with some joyous recovery time figures. Try 6.9 CFM at 40 PSI and 6.5 CFM at 90 PSI!
Both rugged and durable, this is a big compressor that can handle all your plasma cutting without breaking a sweat.
Our first oil-lubricated compressor, that means it will run not only smoother, but also cooler, meaning it can give you more power for longer without giving the slightest sign of concern.
Properly heavyweight at 72 pounds, it’s a compressor that’s constructed of cast iron to make sure it lasts you, but made easily portable by wheels and handles. You can work it hard because it comes with the now expected 1-year warranty.
If you’re looking for the fly in Makita’s ointment, it’s worth knowing that the MAC5200 puts out an ear-wincing 90 dB when in operation, so for domestic use… you might want to warn your neighbors.
- A 3HP motor gives you easy power
- Cast iron construction makes it a compressor that will last
- Impressive recovery time figures mean you can get some great plasma cutting out of this compressor
- It’s the loudest air compressor on our list, at 90 dB
If you don’t need a monster compressor, but you still want to get some plasma cutting done, you might take a look at the Metabo “Tank.”
There’s a touch of the “little compressor that could” about the Metabo Tank, and you might struggle to resist thinking of it as “cute” before your first day of using it is done.
But it actually impresses when you put it to use with a plasma cutter. A 200 PSI pancake compressor, it will give you around 25% more pressure than a standard pancake compressor, as if out of nowhere.
Delivering 4 Cubic Feet Per Minute at 90 PSI means it’s actually much more than “cute.” It will do the job you want it to do, which is ultimately the only reason it makes it onto our list!
While it’s not the lightest compressor on our list at 41 pounds, it’s lighter than, for instance, a traditional twin-stack compressor, and it has a durable construction that means you’ll certainly get your money’s worth out of it across its lifespan.
The money of course is an important plus point for the Metabo – it’s significantly less expensive than some of the mega-machines towards the top of our list.
And it still delivers reliable plasma cutting support, without costing you a fortune or forcing you to particularly compromise in any aspect of its operation.
The little compressor that could, as it turns out, really can – and all for a bargain price!
- 40 CFM at 90 PSI is more than enough for reliable plasma cutting
- It has a very durable build, meaning you’ll get your money’s worth out of it
- The price is extremely pleasing, given everything the Metabo can do
- Like many on our list, it’s on the loud side
Let’s get back to straightforward 6 gallon pancake compressors. The Campbell Hausfield bills itself as a quiet compressor, and at this size of tank and power, it meets the brief, giving out just 68 dB, compared to the over 80 of the Craftsman.
That means you can use it in more domestic sites, and probably for longer before your own ears want to beat you to death.
Again underscoring the domestic use, it has a 1 HP motor, powered by 120V, which means it’s easily powered by any household circuit you care to choose.
And despite being small in stature, it can still give you 125 PSI, which will give you all the plasma cutting you need.
As we’ve come to expect of the 6 gallon models, this is oil-free for extremely limited maintenance over time.
The key feature of this air compressor is oil-free maintenance-free pumps that can operate non-stop and last up to four times more than other same units. This characteristic also improves its performance and durability.
At 62 pounds, this is no lightweight, but thankfully, it comes with an easy-grip handle to help you move it around any job site. And guess what? What’s that you say? A one-year limited warranty?
Sure, no problem, so you can use it as a tool, rather than as an investment.
- 6 gallons gives you enough volume to do a lot of plasma cutting
- 125 PSI is quite enough power to get the job done
- 68 dB is acceptably quiet for domestic use
- Hefty to haul around
The Quincy QT-54 brings some high performable features to your plasma cutting operation, like a 5 HP motor, which is enough for all the more powerful cutting you need to do.
A V-shaped pump gives you better than average heat dissipation, keeping your compressor cooler for longer.
That means you can get 15.4 CFM at 90 PSI out of the Quincy, which is way up there, though it’s hardly surprising when you realize you’re dealing with a 60 gallon tank.
All of this means you can get the length of operation out of the Quincy that you need for some solid plasma cutting work.
The main issue with the Quincy though is that at 60 gallons, you’re not about to take this compressor from place to place. You bring the work to the compressor here, rather than the other way around.
- A 60 gallon tank is big enough for all your plasma cutting and then some
- The 5 HP motor gives you the power your need
- A recovery rate of 15.4 CFM at 90 PSI delivers beyond your plasma cutting dreams
- The V-shape pump keeps your compressor cooler for longer
- Not a portable compressor
- More expensive than any other compressor on our list
From a compressor that very determinedly stays where you put it, to the NorthStar, which is particularly portable.
But portability doesn’t mean you sacrifice power here, with a 2HP pump giving 5.0 CFM at 90 PSI and 6.0 CFM at 40 PSI.
What you do sacrifice slightly is the punch of PSI, as it will only give you a maximum of 145 PSI.
That’s not bad in the short term, but given that it comes with a 20 gallon tank, it falls slightly between the two stools of long-term expected use and slightly underwhelming PSI delivery.
- A powerful 2HP pump gives you power
- A high CFM rate also delivers great short-term performance
- The 20 gallon tank and slightly low PSI mean it doesn’t feel like it’s in for the long haul
A 60 gallon compressor announces it means business when it comes into the room, and the Industrial Air is no exception.
Plasma cutting? No problem to the 3.7hp motor here, delivering 155 PSI for full-on plasma cutting all day long. and a maximum of 155psi pump pressure making it one of the strongest.
Oil-lubricated, this is another compressor that will run longer and smoother and cooler than its oil-free competitors
Add that to a thermally stable cast iron cylindrical body, aluminum head and valves plates, and a one-piece cast iron crankcase and what you have is a compressor that will deliver all your DIY needs, but is also able to play with the bigger commercial boys. It also comes with 2 years of warranty
- A PSI of 155 will get all your plasma cutting done without question
- 60 gallons of capacity means you can plasma cut all day without concern
- Oil-lubrication means it runs cooler than some of its smaller competitors
- 2 years of warranty means double the length of protection
- There’s no moving support for this heavyweight machine
When buying an air compressor for your plasma cutting, keep in mind:
You’re going to need a fairly high PSI to keep your plasma cutting operations crisp long term, so don’t buy anything that’s too low for your needs.
Determine whether you’re OK with doing all your plasma cutting in one location. If not, take the weight and any wheels or handles into consideration when you buy.
Remember, you’re going to be plasma cutting for a while at a time. Go low-noise if at all possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
What size air compressor do I need to run a plasma cutter?
That depends on how long you intend to use it for at a time. For a decent length of time, look at those with tanks over 30 gallons. For more domestic or small-scale jobs, you can get away with a 6 or 8 gallon tank.
Why do I need an air compressor for plasma cutting?
Plasma cutting is a two-stage process. First, the arc heats the metal until it’s semi-gaseous. Then the plasma is forced by blasts of air to finish the cut. So without an air compressor, you have no cuts.