Hobart Airforce 12ci Review

Hobarts reputation for high-quality, affordable fabrication equipment is legendary. So it should be no surprise that the Hobart Airforce 12ci ranks among the best plasma cutters on the market.

Featuring an inverter based design and built-in air compressor this plasma cutter is made for portability. Coupled with its light weight and small dimensions this rig can be easily transported anywhere there’s a power source.

If you’re looking for an extremely capable plasma cutter from a trusted brand name then keep reading. The Hobart Airforce 12ci might be exactly what you need.



  • Built-in air compressor
  • Inverter based
  • Redesigned torch
  • Narrow kerf
  • Post-flow cooling
  • Fan-on-demand technology
  • Runs on standard 120 V
  • Thermal overload protection
  • Lightweight/Portable
  • Solid warranty


  • Slag build up
  • Trouble with dirty metal
  • Slow

What’s Good?

Built-in air compressor

When it comes to plasma cutters there are two distinct categories: those with built-in air compressors and those without. The Hobart Airforce 12ci falls into the first category.

A built-in air compressor offers many advantages over having a separate unit including portability and convenience.

For starters, having everything contained in one unit saves you a lot of hassle if you’re a freelancer or have to move around from job to job. Instead of lugging around a plasma cutter and a separate air compressor – unloading it, setting it up, loading it back in the truck – a built-in air compressor will save you time, money and headaches.

hobart airforce 12i


The Hobart Airforce 12ci features an inverter based design making it one of the most lightweight and portable plasma cutters on the market today.

Weighing a mere 27 pounds wrapped up in in a 19 x 17 x 11 inch casing this rig is a dream for anyone who needs to move around a lot. It even has an industrial strength carrying handle on top to make your life that much easier.

That’s not to say the Hobart Airforce 12ci is only for people on the move, it also makes a great addition to any hobby shop. Its small size and weight allow you to easily pack it up in the corner when not in use.

Redesigned torch

The redesigned high-performance ergonomic XT12R torch is an absolute dream to use.

If you weld or cut metal all day long you know how uncomfortable it can get at times. Hobart knows this too and has taken it into account for the XT12R torch, placing a huge value on ergonomics. The grip, the trigger and the safety are all carefully placed for the least amount of hand strain. It may not seem like a big deal but ask anyone who has suffered from repetitive strain injury and they’ll tell you how important it is.

The XT12R even allows for a standoff guard attachment so you can rest the torch on the work when you cut instead of trying to hold it steady from above.

hobart airforce 12i

Long leads

The long torch lead and clamp cable add another level of versatility to the Hobart Airforce 12ci. Both measuring 12-feet in length the leads are long enough for most hobbyists tinkering around the shop.

While the long leads give you a sense of freedom and maneuverability, the power cord could use some improvement.

At 7-feet in long, there’s plenty of room to get the job done but I would’ve liked to see a uniform 12-foot cord for the power as well.

Runs on standard 120 V

While we’re on the topic of leads and cables lets talk about the power supply running through it all.

Since the Hobart Airforce 12ci is considered an entry level machine – outputting 12 amps –  it doesn’t require a whole lot of power. In fact its runs completely through your typical 120 volt, 20 amp circuit so there’s no need to call an electrician to set up something more powerful.

While you’re obviously not going to poke holes through 1-inch thick plate, for its size it provides plenty of power.

Post-flow cooling

Thanks to the built-in air compressor the XT12R hand-held torch features a post-flow air cooling mechanism. This feature blasts a stream of cool air to the torch for a few seconds after you stop cutting. Not only does this allow you to get back to work quicker, it greatly reduces costs by extending the life of your consumables and your torch.

Fan-on-demand technology

In an effort to keep your plasma cutter clean and in working order the Hobart Airforce 12ci has a unique feature that should be on every welder/ plasma cutter.

It’s called Fan-On-Demand and it’s such a simple idea.

Most machines have inefficient and noisy fans running as soon as you hit the power button. As long as you’re working the machine is on, attracting dirt and dust.

With fan-on-demand, the fan only turns on when you’re cutting in order to cool the machine and when the cutting stop so does the fan. You’ll not only keep your plasma cutter in perfect working condition but you’ll also save money on energy costs (and earplugs).

Thermal overload protection

We’ve all done it. Get so caught up in the work that you go well past the recommended duty cycle towards dangerous territory, maybe even damaging your rig.

Thankfully technology has caught up in the fabrication industry and now most welders/plasma cutters have some type of thermal overload protection – the Hobart Airforce 12ci being no exception. If the machine gets too hot, it shuts down to protect itself.

Even though the Airforce 12ci has a strong duty cycle of 35% it’s still good to have the added protection for peace of mind.

Solid warranty

As you’ve probably come to expect from Hobart, they have an amazing warranty program. It’s a refreshing change of pace to see a company so confident in their products that they stand behind it for up to 5 years.

Hobarts 5/3/1 year Industrial warranty ensures you’ll be satisfied with your purchase.

5 year: Transformers, Stabilizers and Generators.

3 year: Electronics

1 year: Guns (MIG, TIG, Plasma)

Made in America

Nothing says quality like good old fashion American Made products.

Hobart is designed and manufactured in Troy, Ohio, USA.

What’s Bad?

Slag build up

Whether it’s the lack of amperage of lack of air power I’m not sure, but slag build up is a real issue on anything thicker than 3/16″.

They claim a severance of 1/4″ and while it CAN make the cut, it’ll look like someone tried to chew through the metal rather than cut it.

Trouble with dirty metal

If you have a clean shop with clean metal to work with then the Airforce 12ci is an ideal rig.

However, in the real world not everything is as perfect as that.

Unfortunately because of its entry level status it seems to struggle with dirty metal. Even stopping halfway to cool down left a nasty looking cut.


With only 12 amps of power the Hobart Airforce 12ci is a beginner plasma cutter. As a result you need to go slow and steady.

Get something bigger if speed is a concern.

The Verdict – Hobart Airforce 12ci

Hobart takes portability to a whole new level with the Airforce 12ci.

Featuring an inverter-based design and a built-in air compressor, this rig only weighs 27 lbs. It even has an industrial strength handle for easy moving. In addition, it runs on your standard 120 V household electrical current  so you can take it pretty much anywhere you have power.

If you’re thinking of buying your first rig and don’t plan on cutting anything crazy thick, the Hobart Airforce 12ci is the best entry level plasma cutter with built-in air compressor.

Specs and Features


Weight: 27 lbs

Size: L13″ x W7.5″ x H10″

Power Input: 120 V

Power Output: 12 A

Duty Cycle: 35% @ 12A

Severance Thickness: 1/4″

Warranty: 5/3/1 year