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Do plasma cutters have built-in air compressors?

So, you’ve bought a portable plasma cutter?

But do plasma cutters have built-in air compressors?

The answer to this question and more in this post is below. So, keep reading up to the end.

Do Plasma Cutters Have Built-In Air Compressors?- YES/ NO

No, not all plasma cutters come with a built-in compressor. Conventional models don’t include an air compressor. But all plasma cutting machines need a compressor to produce the required air pressure to complete the process.

So, a non-compressor unit also requires an external compressor to operate.
When you purchase a non-air compressor plasma cutter, you also have to buy a separate air pump to work with the unit. That means it’ll cost you two pieces of equipment.

Again, taking along a heavy compressor with your plasma cutter off your worksite is also very inconvenient on your part.

So, what is great about the best plasma cutter with a built-in air compressor?

A unit with a built-in air source means you don’t need to rely on shop air or purchase an air compressor separately. It provides you the convenience of having a plasma cutting machine and a compressor in one single unit.

Ultimately, it saves you from having to buy and run two pieces of equipment. What you need to is the power source only to start cutting.

A Built-in air source makes a plasma cutter portable and easier to work in remote locations. Onboard compressor means no extra air sources to set up, maintain or lug around. This type of machine is always ready to go. They are quieter too.

Is There Any Limitations of Plasma Cutter with Built-In Air Compressor?

When it comes to the way of plasma cutting, there is little to no difference between the units with an internal compressor and an external one. The output amps of both types of machines are the same.

For example, both the Powermax 30 XP and Powermax 30 AIR are rated for 30 amps output, and if you cut a ¼-inch piece of steel with any of these units, you won’t find any difference between the two.

However, most built-in- compressor plasma cutters are only designed to work with standard household electricity. Besides, they have a limited thickness in terms of metal cutting capacity.

Without an air source, a plasma cutting machine can pack up to 80 amps because all its energy is focused on producing plasma arc.

On the other hand, a unit with an internal air source utilizes some of its energy to power the internal compressor. So, it has a lower output.

This type of plasma cutter has a limited thickness in terms of metal cutting capacity. They are not as powerful as those that use external air sources. So, these machines are only perfect for cutting thin metals (no more than 5/8 inches). What’s more, they have a lower output because the machine powers itself and its internal compressor at the same time.

Lastly, this combo unit is more expensive than a plasma cutter without an air pump. Some models are also costlier than a multi-functional plasma cutter with a stick, MIG, and TIG welding features.

3 Examples of Best Plasma Cutter with Built-In Air Compressor

A plasma cutter with a built-in source of air is a blessing for welders and handymen alike.

If you still don’t have one but require a metal cutting machine with an air compressor to get your job done, check out the following models.

Our team of experts has tried their best to depict the complete picture of what’s good and bad about these three models. I hope these plasma cutter reviews will help you in your journey to find the right one.

#1 Hobart 500564 Airforce 12ci Plasma Cutter with Built-In Air Compressor 120V

hobart 500564 airforce 12ci plasma cutter

If you’re looking for a quality plasma cutter, Hobart 500564 Airforce 12ci is it. It provides you with good parts availability, a longer life span, and reliable performance.

The internal piston-driven air compressor provides a fast and powerful air supply. It also makes the unit highly portable, eliminating purchasing or transporting any additional air source and air filter. Moreover, due to the inverter design, Hobart 500564 is lightweight and compact.

This unit is ready to cut out of the box and hassle-free to use with the preset pressure. Pull the trigger and start to cut your desired metal.

It runs on 120V (standard household voltage) and a single-phase 20 amp circuit. Its rated output is 12 A at 120 VDC, 35% duty cycle (at 104-degree F).

You’ll appreciate its pilot arc start that reduces tip burnout and ensures a consistent arc start to each cut.

12ci produces quality results on thinner metal (mild steel around 1/8-inch or 3.17 mm). Of course, you can use it to cut up to ¼-inch or 6.35mm, but the cutting process will be slower on thicker materials.

(Note: If you need to cut any materials over 1/8-inch, it’s better to get Hobart 27ci for 3/8-inch or Hobart 40ci for 5/8-inch)

You can use this machine for HVAC ductwork, sheet metal, auto body repair, plumbing, artwork, and hobby projects.

XT12R handheld torch with ergonomic trigger safety is more comfortable to use for long periods.

What’s nice about this product is its post-flow cooling circuit that extends the life of the torch and consumables by cooling them when the trigger is released.

Another notable feature is its fan-on-demand. That means its cooling system runs only when needed. As a result, it helps to reduce power consumptions and pollutants particles drawn into the unit.

The well-thought design of 12ci includes thermal overload protection. So, it can withstand harsh job site environments. What’s more, for increased user experience, this model has a LED light indicator that shows the status of temperature, power, and torch readiness for reduced downtime.

Hobart offers the industry-leading 5/3/1 warranty. You’ll enjoy five years warranty on main rectifiers, stabilizers, and transformers. There is also three years warranty on PC boards, drive systems, and generators. Plus, it offers one year warranty on guns.

So, you can completely trust the quality of this model.

Package Includes

  • 7 feet (2.1 meters) power cord with plug
  • 12 feet (3.7 meters) work cable with clamp
  • 12 feet (3.7 m) XT12R torch
  • Extra consumables (electrode, standoff guide, and two tips)


  • Lightweight and compact (weighs less than 27 pounds with a torch)
  • Highly portable
  • Offer faster cuts than oxy-fuel
  • Minor warping due to smaller heat-affected zone
  • Produce precise cut and thinner kerf,
  • less slag build-up to clean
  • Maximum portability and ease-of-storage
  • High-quality construction


  • Slow to cut materials over 1/8″ and slag builds up, so some clean-up is required.
  • Limited to cutting capacity that is not recommended for thick metals.
  • Only works with 110V


Dimensions: 10 x 8.25 x 13 in. (254 x 210 x 330 mm)

Rated Output: 12 A at 110 VDC, 35% duty cycle

Mild Steel Cutting Capacity

                     Rated: 1/8 in. (3.2 mm)

                     Max. Cut: 1/4 in. (6.4 mm)

Expert’s Opinion

Overall, Hobart Airforce 12ci 500564 is a great little plasma cutter with pilot arc torch for welders, metal workers, or hobbyists. It is a worthwhile unit to buy if you don’t require to work with thick materials but want a quality plasma cutter with an internal air source.

#2 Hypertherm 088096 Powermax 30 AIR Hand System with 15′ Lead

hypertherm 088096 powermax 30 air plasma cutter

Next, we have this plasma cutter with an onboard air compressor from the industry leader Hypertherm.

The onboard air compressor lets you cut anywhere and faster. It provides plenty of pressure to cut any metal, including aluminum, stainless steel, cast iron, and mild steel. What’s more, it can cut even rusted and painted materials.

Powermax 30 AIR can cut thick steel, which is extraordinary among this type of plasma cutter when it comes to performance. This model intends to cut 5/16-inch (8 mm). The severance cut that it offers for any conductive metal is 5/8-inch (16 mm).

One of the advantages of this unit features dual power input with auto-voltage technology. The included adaptor cord lets you plug in a 120 or 240V outlet using only a single power cord.

Despite its extraordinary performance, this handheld plasma cutting system is lightweight and compact. It weighs only 30 pounds. With the handle or shoulder strap, you can carry it on your back.

The Included AIR T3D torch is designed for rugged working environments. It can withstand heat and impact.

Finally, this model of Hypertherm plasma cutter with a built-in compressor comes with a 3-year warranty on power supplies. The torch also has a 1-year warranty.


  • Dual voltage capacity (110/220 volt)
  • Lightweight; easy to carry
  • Superior cut quality result
  • Fast cutting speeds
  • Extremely rugged construction


  • It is a non-pilot arc plasma cutter, so you’ll need to clean the metal piece before cutting.
  • Hypertherm powermax 30 price is somewhat high than most of the units of its class. But in terms of reliability, performance, cut quality and durability, this model indeed emerges as the winner.


Dimensions: 16.5 x 7.7 x 13.1 inches

Rated Output: 15 to 30 amp at 110 VDC, 35% duty cycle

Mild Steel Cutting Capacity

                     Rated: 5/16 in. (8 mm)

                     Max. Cut: 5/8-inch (16 mm)

Expert’s Opinion

Hypertherm 088096 Powermax 30 AIR is a real asset to anyone on the go. This model is an outperformer if you’re looking for an onboard compressor plasma cutting system for farm use, metal shop, or mobile work.

#3 Forney 317 250 P+ Plasma Cutter with Air Compressor, Green

forney 317 250 P+ plasma cutter

Forney 317 250 P+ is another very convenient plasma cutting machine with an onboard air compressor. You can use it in any remote location with household current. Thanks to its 120-volt input. Of course, it’s designed to operate on generator power.

Forney plasma cutter with built-in compressor is a perfect unit for light-duty jobs, DIY workshop use, farm use, and HVAC work.

This unit integrates an air pressure regulator and air dryer that makes it easy to operate. Moreover, it’s completely automatic with no controls to set up.

Drag torch technology enables you to move the torch tip directly across the metal surface. As the torch tip rest on the workpiece, it ensures precision cut and makes the cutting process easier for you.

This built-in compressor cutter also has drag torch technology built into it. You can drag the torch directly across the metal surface area to get precision cuts that are clean and smooth.

On the negative, due to the drag torch arc starting feature, Forney 250P+ takes a few seconds to start and a few more seconds to get hot enough to start cutting. This is problematic for high-volume cutting.

This user-friendly unit features three diagnostic LED lights. So you can observe what is happening with the machine. For Safety purposes, it unit thermal overload protection.

What’s nice, it comes with everything you require to use the machine out of the box.

Finally, you’ll get ‎a 5/3/1 warranty against manufacturer defects.

Package includes:

  • 15 feet ground cable
  • 15 feet power cable
  • Plasma torch and lead
  • One compressor shield cup
  • 1-diffuser ring
  • 5-electrodes
  • 10-.65 tips
  • Plastic storage container


  • Very easy to set up and operate
  • Drag torch technology for precision and steady cut
  • Generator friendly
  • Dual input (120V / 230V)


  • Not suitable for frequent use and fast cuts


Dimensions: ‎15 x 7.5 x 14inches

Rated Output: 20 to 50 amp

Duty cycle: 25% at 120V on 12 amps

Mild Steel Cutting Capacity                    

                     Rated: 1/8 in. (3.2 mm)

                     Max. Cut: 1/4 in. (6.4 mm)

Expert’s Opinion

If you’re working with smaller projects, you can’t go far wrong with this model. This plasma cutter with drag tip is certainly a good option for a precise cut.


Typically, these units cost a little more than a plasma cutter without a built-in air compressor. However, this isn’t a concern to the most user who wants a standalone portable plasma cutting machine.

Honorable mentions for the best plasma cutter with built in compressor for the money:

  1. Mophorn Plasma Cutter with Compressor 40 Amp, Portable Plasma Welder

2. EPICWELD AC3500 35 Amp Plasma Cutter with Air Compressor

3. Thermal Arc 1-1110-1 Air Cut 15C Plasma System

4. Thermal Dynamics 1-1110-1 AirCut 15C Light Duty Plasma Cutter, PCH-10

5. Rstar Plasma Cutter with Built-In Air Compressor