Hobart Airforce 12ci Review – Should You Buy It? (Updated 2020)

Hobart Airforce 12ci

  • Built-in Air Compressor
  • Cuts faster than oxy-fuel
  • Smaller heat-affected zone for less warping
  • No gas pressure settings for flame tuning needed
  • More precise cut, thinner kerf, less slag to clean up

Looking for a super portable cutting tool, that doesn’t sacrifice cutting capabilities? The Hobart Airforce 12ci deserves to get shortlisted as a great option for you. It’s reliable, relatively inexpensive, and lightweight – but that’s not it. 

In this review, I’ll take you through each and every feature of this product. I’ll list down its pros, cons, and how much value it brings for your money. 

The biggest reason why people look towards buying this is its humble price tag. It uses a combination of electric arc and compressed air. This provides more efficient results than Oxy-fuel, and the power won’t let you down on light work.

For its size, it’s surprisingly powerful – being able to cut aluminum and all conductive metals. You could cut 1/8 inch steel, or sever 1/4 inch mild steel. You’ll get clean cutting results, cleaner than what other cutters provide in its price range. 

Some of its key features include the post-flow air cooling system, fan-on-demand technology. XT124 plasma torch, and diagnostic LED light. At an affordable price point, this tool comes out on top as a top-notch plasma cutter. 

Specifications of the Hobart Airforce 12ci

Origin USA
Product Dimensions  16.5 x 18.5 x 11.2 inches 
Volts 120V 
Duty Cycle 35% at 104° Fahrenheit
Plasma Gas Flow/Pressure Preset with Built-in Compressor
Product Weight 31 lbs
Input Current 20A
Cut Performance (Mild steel) 1/8 inch (3.2 mm) at 10 inches/minute  (Mild steel) 1/4 inch (6.4 mm) at 3 inches/minute

Hobart Airforce 12ci Review 

As affordable as it is, your pocket’s still gonna be lighter after making this purchase. Sure, it’s cheaper in comparison, but the features are what make a product worthwhile. The Hobart Airforce 12ci definitely doesn’t disappoint in this department. I’ve listed and explained each notable feature in detail here, so keep reading! 

1. Safety and Durability

Post-Flow Air Cooling System 

With the post-flow air cooling system, the machine cools down quick. This, as you may know, extends the torch’s lifespan, enhancing the tool’s durability.

Fan-On-Demand Technology 

You get way better reliability with the fan-on-demand technology in heavy dust environments. The cooling fan runs only when it needs to, reducing the debris and dust that enters the unit. 

Automatic Shut-Off Mechanism

The cutter, rated up to 104° F, comes with special thermal protection. The cutter copes well with rough working environments. Its thermal overload protection shuts the system automatically when needed. 

If the duty cycle is exceeded, or the airflow somehow gets blocked, the tool could overheat. The system recognizes this and slows the duty cycle down to prevent damage. This prevents excessive build-up and keeps your $1200 investment safe. 

Finally, it automatically shuts off until the airflow is unblocked. 

Built-in Troubleshooting Indicators 

With its diagnostic LED light alerts, you’ll gain access to quite a few things. These include checking status, temperature, torch readiness, and troubleshooting power.

The light helps reduce unnecessary downtime. You get to efficiently assess the status in one glance, without any guessing games. 

2. Versatile Cutting Tool

Hobart Airforce 12ci Features

Easily lets you cut through a variety of metals; 

It’s a super versatile tool that’s able to cut through many different materials. Some of these include; 

  • Copper
  • Brass
  • Aluminum
  • Stainless steel
  • Galvanized Steel

It’ll cut 10 inches per minute of 1/8 inch mild steel, and 3 inches per minute of ¼ inch mild steel. 

Powerful Performance

With cutters, it’s usually the bigger boys that bring in more power. Obviously, I’ll be comparing the Hobart Airforce 12ci to other cutters of its size. It’s a lightweight tool that’s meant for light work but provides exceptional performance. For its size, the plasma cutting power could surprise you when you first use it. 


Pilot Arc Starts Operation 

Before the real arc starts up, an internal mini-arc gets created by the tool inside the nozzle. This pilot arc mechanism makes it so that the tip doesn’t have to touch the surface metal. It saves the tip from burnout, which adds to its durability! It also aids the cutter to start on rough, corroded, greasy surfaces. 

Built-In Air Compressor 

You get a piston-driven air compressor that comes built-in to the Hobart Airforce 12ci. This internal compressor adds to its portability. You save money by not having to buy an additional air compressor too! 

Use the tool anywhere in the working spot, without having to attach or detach a compressor. If you’ve used plasma cutters for a long time, you know how helpful this can be. 

XT12R Plasma Torch

The Hobart Airforce 12ci comes with the XT12R plasma torch that provides the best grip to its user. Finger contours are ever so comfortable; it’ll keep fatigue at bay while you get the job done. 

Runs on Standard Household Current

All you need to do is plug it into a 120V 20amp circuit at home, and voila! You don’t need an additional 240V hookup for it. Any standard socket in your garage, workshop, or home works. 

Compact & Portable Design

As I said, it’s compact design and portability is what makes up the market demand for it. Weighing only 31 pounds, it’s easier to move between sites. You don’t get tired as quickly, and you’re free to move it in different spots in your work spot. 

It comes standard with a cable management strap, a working cable, and a torch in place. All of this is designed to make transportation easier – which is what most of its buyers look for. 

Hobart Airforce 12ci Pros and Cons 

  • Super easy to use. 
  • You get an air compressor built-in. 
  • Lightweight – weighing only 30 to 31 lbs. 
  • Its mechanism cuts faster than oxy-fuel.
  • No flame tuning or gas pressure setting needed. 
  • You get more precise and cleaner cuts with it. 
  • Easier to move between several working sites. 
  • Operates on 120V, which can be considered as a pro, but not if you’re looking for a higher power. 
  • It’s not designed to cut thicker metals, so if that’s your goal, this isn’t the one for you. 
  • While the XT12R is a great torch, it’s not as nice as its big brother; the XT40R. 

Buying guide (FAQs)

Q. Do I need to set the pressure?

A. No, you don’t, the pressure is preset right out of the box. 

Q. Do I need to buy extra consumables?

A. Yep, the tool doesn’t come with those. You’ll have to buy what you need. 

Q. Do I need to buy an air compressor?

A. Not at all. That’s a big benefit of the Hobart Airforce 12ci – the air compressor comes built-in. 


If your main priorities are ease-of-use, and accuracy – go for it. It’s a lightweight, flexible plasma cutter, and quite unique! It’ll be a great partner in all your DIY and small workshop endeavors. It performs as per the advertised specifications, and you get it all at a pretty slim price point. 

Looking for more choices? Check out: The Best Cheap Plasma Cutters Under $350

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