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Can I run a plasma cutter with bottled gas?

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  • Can I run a plasma cutter with bottled gas?

    Was following the thread on running a plasma cutter off a TB and picked up that you could operate a plasma cutter without compressed air. I'd love to get a plasma cutter but have held off because I do not have an air compressor, and my shop only has 110v.

    How exactly is it done? Is it just a bottle of Nitrogen, regulator, and feed into the plasma cutter? What pressure? Is Nitrogen expensive?

    Thanks for the help!

  • #2
    You would need a regulator at the cylinder of Argon, set to about 80-100 psi. Then, the regulator at the machine takes it to the exact pressure needed: 60 psi for a Spectrum 375.

    Nitrogen isn't as expensive as other compressed gases, what with the atmosphere being 78% nitrogen, but I've not bought it to know the exact difference. Costco fills all their tires with nitrogen, so you know they wouldn't do it if it was significantly more expensive than compressing air.

    BUT, I ran my Spectrum 375 with the compressed air from a 2 "HP", 4-gal. DeWalt 120V compressor for years. And that was a relatively expensive compressor for its size. You should be able to get a similar unit for only a few hundred dollars and it will do the job until you upgrade, and it'll still be a handy unit to have afterwards.

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    • #3
      You can run it off of bottled nitrogen, but, by the time you buy the bottle and go through a few refills, you will be very near the cost of a decent small compressor.

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      • #4
        Bottled Gas vs compressor

        I considered this issue. I purchased a plasma this week (Thermal Dynamics cutmaster 38) and had considered whether I would purchase one of the units with a built in compressor and 110 V or perhaps a gas bottle, regulator and plasma

        Looking at the compressor specs they are fairly anemic for the built in units, about half what a separate compressor will do. I figured by the time you purchase or lease the bottle, and by a regulator, you are not too many bottles away from purchase of a good compressor.

        Dont forget the hassle factor and down time of replacing empty bottles.

        I elected to by a 110/230 compatible unit and a compressor (porter cable job boss $300). A few cuts convinced me, a decent compressor is worth the bucks.


        Cheers

        Iain Grant

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        • #5
          MAC, When you ran the 375 off the Dewalt did you use any dryers? Also, was the Dewalt a portable unit that was stored with the tank empty?
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          • #6
            Originally posted by katiebo
            MAC, When you ran the 375 off the Dewalt did you use any dryers? Also, was the Dewalt a portable unit that was stored with the tank empty?
            You know, that plasma was a great tool to have in my shop and was the tool to have for a few jobs, but I didn't have the need to invest in the dryers and such for consumables life. I actually thought they lasted quite a while for just running ambient compressed air, though I would imagine that living in the middle of the Mojave Desert made a significant difference, too.

            I had the single-tank DeWalt with the roll cage. I rarely drained it because the few times I did it was bone dry. It stayed in the truck with a full tank at all times.

            The compressor had a 100% duty cycle, and when the plasma was running, it stayed on the entire time, but it never fell behind either.

            Eventually, the shop got a 7 "HP", 60-gal. unit and the DeWalt was strictly a truck machine.

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            • #7
              Just curious But could a plasma be run off a co2 tank? They make those regulators for the off road air supplies. Always wondered if that would work. Not saying it would be worth it.
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              • #8
                we have tried this and it don't work well

                we have tried running a plasma cutter off of tanks but didn't work so well. they can't seem to deliver enough pressure constantly . you would be better off buying a 8 gallon air compressor for a little less than 200 bucks. but watch out for low cfms the higher they are at 90 psi delivery the better off you will be. i know you can find ones at harber freight that deliver 5.0 scfm at 90 psi and delivers 6.0 at 40 so it would not have to continuosly run and it is 115 volt actually the one i have seen is on sale right now for 100.00 and would work perfect for you until you could get a big one.

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                • #9
                  where this makes sense is if you are running production and need to pierce holes in aluminum and require a welded fitting or pipe in that hole. Then use argon, Have you ever tried welding to a plasma cut edge of aluminum the apearance is horrible. So i guess its also a good idea where appearance matters.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by gangel99
                    Was following the thread on running a plasma cutter off a TB and picked up that you could operate a plasma cutter without compressed air. I'd love to get a plasma cutter but have held off because I do not have an air compressor, and my shop only has 110v.

                    How exactly is it done? Is it just a bottle of Nitrogen, regulator, and feed into the plasma cutter? What pressure? Is Nitrogen expensive?

                    Thanks for the help!
                    If you read the literature on the plasma cutters they will all tell you the required air flow rate. For example, a Miller Spectrum 375 requires 4.5 cfm at 60psi, while the 625 requires 6 cfm at 75 psi.

                    Another alternative is the Miller Spectrum Thunder. It has a built-in compressor and runs off of 120V power. Rated at 1/8 in and claims to sever 1/4.

                    Regards,
                    Bill
                    "The more I learn about welding the more I find there is to learn..."

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                    • #11
                      think you'd be better off with an air compressor,,, i tried the nitrogen which works well but the hassle with the bottles ain't worth it,,, i used a 6 pack of bottles on mine and running the plasma at 70 psi it don't last long,,, put you a good filter and some drains on your line,,, and possibly a refrigerated dryer in line ( if ya wanna go to that extreme ) and i think you'll be satisfied,,, later,,,outlaw

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