What’s The Best Plasma Cutter For Cutting Shipping Containers?

If you plan on building any type of shipping container project, then you are without a doubt going to need a good plasma cutter to make cuts on your container. DIY shipping container projects are becoming more popular than ever before and many new fabricators are looking to purchase the tools they need to build their own container structure. A plasma cutter is one of the most important tools you can buy as it is the fastest and cleanest way to make large cuts on steel containers. Today we are going to breakdown everything you need to know in order to make an educated decision on which plasma cutter to purchase for your new project.

In A Hurry? Here Is The Best Plasma Cutter We Recommend

View On Amazon.com

LOTOS LTP5000D 50 Amp Dual Voltage Plasma Cutter

The Lotos LTP5000D is a great inexpensive plasma cutter that will work perfectly for small to medium sized container projects. For those looking to buy a plasma cutter specifically for a single project the LOTOS LTP5000D is a fantastic value. It has plenty of power to cut through the 14 gauge walls on shipping containers and will make quick work of large cuts. We have done multiple tests of this machine and are very impressed with the performance for the price. This is without a doubt your best option under $500.

Note: If you purchase this plasma cutter and plan to use it on 110V connection you will also need to buy the LOTOS Pigtail Plug Adapter (Amazon.com).

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

How Powerful Of A Plasma Cutter Do I Need For Cutting Shipping Containers?

Container Thickness

Shipping container walls are usually made of 14 gauge steel (5/64 inch) and the main frame of the container is made of 7 gauge (3/16 inch) tubular steel. This is rather thin material for a plasma cutter and you will have no problem cutting it quickly with the correct machine.

Amp Rating

For shipping container projects we recommend getting a plasma cutter that is rated at 30 amps or higher. This will ensure that you have plenty of power to produce smooth consistent cuts. It also ensures that you will be able to make those cuts quickly and not be held back by a lack of power.

Plasma cutters are commonly produced with 30-50 amp ratings so finding a machine with that amount of power is easy. There is no downside to buying a machine that is bigger than 30 amps as their output power can be adjusted on the machine (50 amp machine can run at 30 amps if needed). The only way you will run into issues is if you buy a plasma cutter that is too small. Stay away from plasma cutters like the Hobart 12ci, which is only rated at 12 amps and will likely leave you wishing you got a bigger machine.

110V vs 220V (Dual Voltage)

One very important detail to consider is what type of power source you have available in your work area. This can help you decide what plasma cutter will work best for you as well as what extra equipment you maybe need to buy to power your machine. Dual voltage plasma cutters are a great choice as they will operate on both 110V and 220V connections. In order to operate on both 110V and 220V, you will need to purchase a pigtail adapter that converts your 220V plug on your machine to a 110V plug. Most machines come with this pigtail adapter included or the manufacture makes it very easy to purchase alongside your machine.

Cutting Thickness

Plasma cutters operating on 220V will have more power than plasma cutters operating on 110v. For example the LOTOS LTP5000D we recommended above will make a clean cut on 1/2 inch steel with a 220V power connection, but only makes a clean cut on 1/4 inch steel on a 110V connection. For cutting shipping containers a 110V connection will work just fine as most shipping container walls are only 14 gauge steel. If you have access to 220V then we recommend you use it as it will increase your cutting speed and give you a better duty cycle (more cutting time before the machine needs to rest).

What Other Tools Do I Need To Cut With A Plasma Cutter On A Shipping Container?

Air Compressor

Normal plasma cutters require an external air source from an air compressor in order to operate. We recommend you use a compressor that is 20 gallons or more for the best results. If you use a compressor for your plasma cutter that is too small, your machine will shut off rather quickly while cutting and display a low air pressure warning light. You will have to wait for your compressor to build sufficient air pressure before you start cutting again.

View On Amazon.com

DeWalt 30 Gallon Mobile Air Compressor

This air compressor will work great with a plasma cutter between 30-60 amps. Getting a compressor that is 30 gallons allows you to move it around easily and use it for a variety of applications in you container build.

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

If you do not have access to an air compressor in your work area you can also buy a plasma cutter with a built in air compressor. This will allow you to run your machine without the need of an external compressor. Plasma’s with built in compressors are more expensive, but in certain work environments with limited access they work really well. Often times you can buy a new compressor and plasma cutter for the same price as a plasma cutter with a built in compressor. We recommend this as you can use the air compressor for other parts of your build as well.

View On Amazon.com

Hypertherm Powermax30 AIR (Built In Compressor)

If having an external air compressor is not an option then getting a plasma cutter with a built in compressor can get the job done. The Powermax30 AIR from Hypertherm is one of the few plasma cutters that still provides you with 30 amps of power despite having a built in compressor. Yes it is a bit expensive, but it is by far the best option in this price range.

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Welding Helmet And Safety Gear

When cutting you will need a proper welding helmet for your plasma cutter. This will protect your eyes from the arc as well as your face from sparks and blow back. Be sure to also pick up a welding jacket and gloves as well to protect your skin. Wearing jeans and boots is also a great idea to protect your lower half from hot metal sparks.

Extension Cords

Depending on your work location, you will need extension cords to supply power to your machine so you to move freely around your container. Heavy duty thick extension cords work best.