You've definitely got the background with the cnc equipment! I work for Hypertherm...31 years...so at least take a good look at Hypertherm plasma equipment...it's not the lowest cost, but is the best value when you factor in the consumable life and cut quality advantages.....Hypertherm is an employee owned company based in Hanover NH (Dartmouth College, Thayer School of Engineering)....was founded by an engineer in 1968....today we are the largest and highest technology producer of plasma cutting equipment.
I own my second PlasmaCam machine.....the newest DHC-2 version......and I can attest it is one of the best entry level machines. While it does use its own operating software....I draw most of my parts in AutoCad and import them as .dxf files....the PlasmaCam software posts processes them (kerf width, lead ins, lead outs, simple row and column type nesting).....it also has a decent arc voltage torch height control system with initial height sensing....using ohmic contact to find the plate surface before each cut.......and servo motors as opposed to steppers. On my first PlasmaCam I used the hand torch holder...on the new one, I ordered their machine torch holder....it was $35 dollars more than the hand torch holder and worth every penny.
Good luck...and If I can offer any advice, just ask.