Many people have asked if they need to use an air dryer on their plasma cutter’s air supply line coming from their compressor. They are often times unsure of exactly what it does and why it’s useful for plasma cutting. So today we are going to help explain the benefits on an air dryer when plasma cutting and help you decide whether it’s worth investing in one for your setup.
What purpose does an air dryer serve for plasma cutting?
An air dryer is a filter that cleans out moisture, oil and particulates from the air that is coming from your compressor into your plasma cutter. These contaminates will cause your plasma cutter to wear out its torch consumables faster and run less efficiently. Plasma cutters that run on unfiltered air typically will not produce as clean of cuts compared to machines running on filtered air. This is especially noticeable on machines that see long periods of operation time such as a CNC machine or a professional using a machine for production.
Motor Guard M-30 NPT Submicronic Compressed Air Filter
The Motor Guard is a common inexpensive filter that is used and recommended by a lot of different plasma cutter owners. It’s well known on many forums as the “go to” filter for plasma cutters as it’s simple to install and easy to maintain. It houses one single replacement cartridge that traps moisture, oil and particulates from going into your air supply line. This filter cartridge needs to be replaced after extended use. With Motor Guard being so popular you can be confident that replacement filters will be available many years from now.
Motor Guard M-723 Replacement Filter
Replacement filter for the Motor Guard listed above. Very easy to change and only runs about $15.
Is it worth buying an air dryer?
The answer to this question is yes. If you plan on using your plasma cutter for more then 10 hours a year, then buying a filter will likely save you money in the long run on consumables. Consumables for quality machines like Miller or Hypertherm are expensive and can start out at $100 for an assorted set. An air dryer will only run you about $80 and will likely pay for itself in a year. Also, while using the air dryer you will get the benefit of your machine making cleaner cuts.
The only time it’s not worth investing in an air dryer is if you’re using a cheap Chinese plasma cutter with very cheap consumables. Most of these plasma cutters are non-pilot arc causing them to wear out consumables faster anyway because they have to drag the tip of the torch on the metal the entire cut. While providing clean air to these machines will help produce better cutting results, the amount of money savings you will see in consumables is significantly less.
Which air dryer should I purchase?
There are a lot of different air dryers out there, but we find that single cartridge air dryers are the best and easiest option. They do a great job of filtering the air and when it comes time to change the filter you just simply pop in a new one and you are good to go. A single cartridge air filter that we recommend and has been recommended on many forums such as welding web, pirate 4×4 etc. is the Motor Guard (Amazon.com). It has proved to be the most cost efficient and easiest filter to run. If you want more information about air dryers check out our article on the best air dryers for plasma cutters.
Useful Information If You Plan To Buy A Plasma Cutter
If you are in the market for a new plasma cutter check out our buyer’s guide that will help you find the best plasma cutter for your needs.
If you are on a budget then check out our article about the best plasma cutters under $500
If you have never used a plasma cutter before and need help getting your machine setup and making you first cut check out our Plasma Cutting Beginners Guide. Here we answer commonly asked questions and review important safety information that is crucial to operating your machine safely. It’s a short read and 100% worth reading if you have never used one of these machines before.
If you are looking for a plasma cutter, but don’t have an air compressor we can help you with that as well. There are special plasma cutters made with built in air compressors. You can view our buyer’s guide for plasma cutters with built in air compressors here.