There are so many choices when it comes to CNC plasma tables. Fully DIY, Kits, Turnkey Plasma Table and blends of all of those. No matter which way you go, everyone wants something that is going to work, be reliable, and turn out a great product, Right? Every table manufacture will tell you their table does this. How do you sort through all of this?
Start off by making a list of features you want. Use this website and the blog to learn the lingo and differences. Water or Downdraft, size, air scribe, budget, turnkey, kit, DIY, accessories, plasma cutter size and brand, bolt together or welded, bearings or linear guides, etc. Once you have compiled a list of your ideal plasma system, you can start your quest.
Find table Manufactures. Google, Plasma Spider, and Facebook are all great resources to start looking for Plasma Table Manufactures. There are no shortage of them these days so start picking them, write them down on your list, and then head on over to the manufacturers websites for these brands. Compare their tables to your list and start eliminating companies that don’t match up to your list. Don’t spend time looking at reviews at this point.
If you have any questions about the tables in your narrowed list, start calling or emailing the manufactures. Pay attention to how quick they respond and how well they answer your questions.
Be careful and keep an open mind. There are a ton of opinions out there and you need to sort though opinions, facts, fiction, and experience. Just because someone does not know how to use something, does not mean the product is bad. There are a ton of Facebook groups and website Forums out there. Use Google to join the groups and forums and lurk for a bit. Use the search function, read the posts, watch the posts, and start to form some options. Don’t go on there and say I’m new to this and want opinions on tables, its already been asked, search first, ask later.
At this point you should have some standouts in your mind and be narrowing the list a bit more. Seeing the tables in person is a big plus. You will not be able to travel to every manufacture, but there is a good chance someone has a table near you that you can go take a look at. Contact the manufacture and get references, or visit the manufacture in person and come prepared with a list of questions a note pad. Be ready to write down notes while you are there. Ask a ton of questions and make sure you can see the machines run and work. Take a look at the software they use and what’s involved from start to finish.
After all of the above steps, you should have a pretty short list of about 4-5 tables you’re seriously considering. So the next thing to do is request samples. Use a small sample design and send the file to the manufactures. Tell them to cut this on their table with a Hypertherm Plasma cutter, don’t finish it or remove the dross, have them cut the samples in 18g, 14g, 10g, ¼ in steel and ship them to you. Always offer to pay for shipping and materials. Most manufacturers will never have you pay a thing. When you get the samples, compare them closely. Since the plasma cutter, file and material should all be virtually the same, it comes down to the table in most cases. It’s amazing to see, with almost every variable eliminated, how different the cut results will be.
This is a great option. You’ll get to see several tables and manufactures in one spot. Some of the trade shows that people attend are: SEMA, Fabtech, PRI, Offroad Expo, Shot Show, National Hardware Show. Most manufactures will list what shows they attend on their websites. If one manufacture is there, you’re likely to find others.
Repeat previous steps
Now that you should be down to the final two or three, concentrate on these manufactures again. Look at their websites, table, data, reviews, options, price, and all of the other variables you looked at before. Asking more questions, doing more visits, and getting more info wherever necessary.
Take all the information that you get with a grain of salt and review it all carefully. This is a huge purchase, and one that you do not want to make a mistake on or repeat down the road.
Other things to Consider
Try and get a sample version of the software from each manufacturer and see if its something that works well for you and has a logical flow. There will obviously be learning curves with any software package, but this should not be a “make it or break it” deal. There are lot of software options, and some are much easier to use than others.
During the other steps, if you found that you could not get a hold of the table manufacture, or did not get calls or emails back, this is a big red flag. You are going to have problems and questions after the purchase. Look at the support options available, hours, after hours, phone, email, remote log in capabilities. These are critical components of the purchase. Ensure these are good and in place.
Is there a warranty? what does it cover and, how long does it last?
Many table manufactures these days offer in-house financing, and there are always, banks, loans and business equipment finance companies. Carefully review the terms and conditions, and weigh the cost of finance over purchase. I get asked all the time if CNC Plasma cutting is profitable, and can it pay for the table and equipment. Absolutely it can, but just like anything else, it’s dependent on you and how hard you work. You get out what you put in.
Check out our in-house CNC plasma table financing.
Getting into CNC Plasma can be a big and costly step. You need to make the best decision the first time around. Make sure you use multiple sources for your decision making, take info with a grain of salt, and consider the source. Taking info as gospel from someone with no experience can lead you down the wrong path. Go see the tables in person when ever possible. It’s so much different in person. Ask lots of questions, confirm, compare and challenge anything you hear or see. I hope you use this website as well since that is the whole idea behind it, to gather information to help you make a decision. If you have questions, or want honest answers about my experiences, you can always email me, call me, or set up and in person visit to my shop.
Thanks for reading! And happy hunting!