For manufacturers looking for a cost-effective CNC plasma cutting table that is easy to install, easy to set up and even easier to operate, Kerf Developments has the solution with the new Linc-Cut S 1530W. If you are looking to boost your responsiveness and creativity, this new ‘plug and play’ plasma cutting system could be the perfect cutting machine for your business.
The machine has been designed and developed by Lincoln Electric, the leading Global supplier of cutting and welding equipment. Kerf Developments will be supplying and commissioning the machines and providing training for the operators, together with service, support and spares from their headquarters in Rochdale.
Perfect for cutting mild steel and stainless steel plate up to 1.5m by 3m, the Linc-Cut 1530 makes high-speed plasma cutting affordable and attainable for small metal fabrication companies, sheet-metal contractors, custom vehicle fabricators, and prototyping companies. Whilst the cost-effective price point and flexibility of the machine make it appealing; the productivity, capability and flexibility guarantee a shrewd investment for any sheet metal processing business.
Parts that customers may want to manufacture on the machine can be input using a variety of methods. The CAD software supplied as part of the turnkey package enables users to draw components. The system also allows users to import parts in standard file formats such as DXF or DWG. Pre-loaded into the software is also 36 standard parametric shapes that include everything from simple adjustable rectangles through to complex circular flanges to simplify and speed up part programming for the end-user. Once drawn, the system is able to nest components with the potential for manual or automated programming for maximum material utilisation and cost-savings.
The Linc-Cut 1530 is fitted with the latest Lincoln Electric Flexcut 125amp plasma system which offers excellent cutting and marking performance with a very low bevel angle and an impressive cut quality. Adding to the quality and precision is impressive productivity levels with the machine capable of cutting 25mm steel plate at up to 800mm/min and thin sheets in the 6mm range at speeds beyond 5300mm/min.
From an ease-of-use perspective, the Accumove CNC motion control technology provides increased processing power and synchronisation of each component on the table. The electronic torch height control, motors and computer-aided manufacturing software are all managed within this single operating system that keeps the entire communication loop enclosed and delivered through a single visual display. The new Visual Machine Designer (VMD) is the human-machine interface (HMI) of all Accumove CNC controllers as its user-friendly design and appealing layout is extremely easy to learn and use. This is credit to a set of new functions that have been installed directly in the controller to simplify the cutting process.
These features include Process Management that allows all parameters to be controlled through the 20inch touchscreen display with a host of functions that can increase productivity. This intelligent system can automatically determine cutting conditions based on a few simple parameters entered by the user such as material thickness and type. Additional innovations include plate alignment that simplifies material loading and calculates alignment to adjust and control trajectory accordingly and the laser positioning mode that simplifies the aligning of sheets. The package also includes an automatic nesting module that enables users to load DXF or DWG files, enter the quantity and the VMD software will automatically generate the production nests.
Suitable for installation in any environment, the water table makes it possible to capture any dust released during cutting and any residual gas escape will remain below the exposure limit values for workshop conditions.
For further details on how this machine can improve your productivity, throughput and drive cost reductions for your business, please contact Kerf Developments.
Plasma cutting machines use a variety of consumables which need replacing periodically in order for your machine to function optimally. Keeping on top of your plasma consumables is essential if you want to ensure high-quality cutting, time after time.
Since your cutting machine is forever operating at extreme high temperature, keeping on top of these parts will also reduce the time involved in refining and processing the finished parts.
So let's look at the different consumables & accessories for plasma cutters.
Plasma cutting consumables, as the name suggests, are a set of consumable (replaceable) components in your plasma cutter that need to be replaced over time, due to natural wear and tear and the high temperatures of the plasma arc.
All of the consumables can be found inside the cutting torch where the plasma energy is focussed. Keeping track of the parts in your machine is essential to its maintenance and longevity.
The specific parts that need replacing include an electrode, nozzle, swirl ring, shield cap and retaining cap. Let's look at the functions of each of these machine parts.
The electrode is a narrow tube, usually made of copper with an insert of hafnium, which has excellent conductive properties.
The electrode receives an electrical current from inside the connected plasma torch, focussing the charge through its tip and creating an arc on the piece of work being fabricated.
The nozzle is the fine tip that focusses the arc of plasma onto the workpiece.
Nozzles have different widths, the finer the nozzle, the more precision the cut. Wider nozzles are often used for gouging, where fine nozzles are used for detailed and intricate work.
This is a small piece that sits inside the torch that swirls the gas around the plasma arc, creating an outer layer of gas. This layer of gas serves to focus the arc more directly, creating even more precision.
This gas flow is what actually makes contact with the nozzle, so the cooler temperature prevents it from burning, which increases the overall longevity of the parts.
As the name suggests, the shield cap forms a shield, protecting the torch and other components from the molten metal, sparks and other heat effects of the plasma cutting process. It shields the other components from unnecessary wear and tear that would otherwise happen.
This important piece holds all the other consumable parts of the plasma torch together. Since its job is to do this, this component can bear a lot of the heat and wears down over time.
Inspect your machine, and its output frequently. If you start to notice degradation in the cut quality, then it's time to replace some of your components. The hole in the nozzle wears away, getting wider. As we explained earlier in this post, the width of the nozzle impacts the precision of the cut, so a wider nozzle will produce a wider cut (Kerf) in the piece of work. A visual inspection is often enough to see if the nozzle needs replacing. Compare with a new nozzle to get a real visual comparison.
There isn't a time limit on how often you should replace the parts, as there are many variables to consider, including the frequency at which the equipment is outputting, the thickness and speed of the cut, and the amount of amperage.
The copper electrode with its hafnium insert conducts the electricity that produces the arc. Over time the hafnium melts creating a recess at the end of the electrode. As a rule of thumb, if the recess gets deeper than around 1.5mm, it’s time to replace the electrode. It is critical to replace it before the hafnium melts away, or you could face significant damage to the rest of the plasma cutter consumables.
It is sensible to replace the electrode and nozzle at the same time, based on whichever is the first to show signs of wear and tear. This will return your machine to optimal efficiency and cutting performance. Basically, it makes no sense to have a new nozzle with a worn-out electrode and so on.
The rest of the components have a longer life span. They are most likely to receive wear from dropping, slag from cutting, the heating and cooling cycles, and thermal dynamics.
Inspect your parts visually. Check the retaining cap and the swirl ring for cracks and then replace them as soon as you notice any. As a rule of thumb, replace the swirl ring for every 4-5 nozzle and electrode replacement. Ensure you clean the shield cap regularly, remove any slag so that the airflow of the torch remains consistent. If the build-up becomes too large to remove, then it's time to replace the component.
There are several factors that can influence how long your components last. To get the best out of your equipment and ensure the long-lasting output of your Kerf machine, check the following:
Always ensure components are installed carefully and correctly in your plasma cutter if you want them to function properly. Ensure the tolerance of consumables matches the amperage you use.
Monitor For Wear & Tear
Inspect your machines plasma cutter consumables regularly. Ensure one component's wear and tear isn't causing damage and degradation to the other parts. Change the nozzle and electrode more frequently than other parts.
Ensure Correct Cutting Parameters
If you cut too slowly, too quickly or at the wrong distance, then your machine components will wear out faster than they should. Work within the proper parameters to ensure maximum efficiency.
Replacing your plasma cutter consumables at the right time is essential for the overall maintenance and lifespan of your Kerf machine.
The plasma cutting process has been around for many years and is proving to be a very flexible and cost effective method of manufacture. Systems are available that can cut 1mm thick parts right the way through to 60mm thick parts. The process is being used to cut aluminium, mild steel, stainless steel and the toughest wear resistant material.
Manufacturers from around the globe make great claims for their plasma units being the “best available” and “market leading”, however, many of the issues that might allow them to reach such a high accolade are out of their control.
Plasma units form a key part of the cutting process, however, it’s the sum of the complimentary parts that controls, holds and moves the plasma cutting torch that will ultimately define the cut quality.
Historically early CNC profiling machines were fitted with single or multiple oxy-fuel cutting heads.
These machines were built using large heavy castings and/or structural beams and driven around at relatively slow speeds using gearboxes with large motors. Machines are still available to this day that still utilise this type of design.
Modern high speed precision plasma cutting machines need to be able to accelerate, decelerate and change direction in a smooth controlled and vibration free manner. To achieve this requires a more refined machine design that includes the following features.
The key components that would form the “ultimate” machine design would include ……..
As the saying goes “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” and that is very much the case with a plasma cutting machine installation. A well designed machine that is serviced on a regular basis and fitted with the manufacturers’ original parts and consumables will reward you with years of reliable operation.
All you need do now is find a manufacturer who can deliver a machine and plasma unit to the above specification and who has a reputation for providing you with the quality of service and support that this type of technology requires!
The company remains owned and managed by the original founder of the Company. Key to the success has been the belief that equipment should be selected on merit. We believe that all of our machines utilise best in class elements that offer excellent performance and reliability.
Being completely independent brings significant benefits for our design team and indeed our customers. We are able to evaluate new products as and when they are launched and establish if they are suitable, reliable and cost-effective for our customers. We will only offer new products to our customers when our engineers are completely satisfied that they meet our in-house standards.
When applying these standards and beliefs to the specification for the “ultimate” plasma machine we have highlighted what we would recommend and the reason for the choice.
The key components that would form the “ultimate” machine design would include ……..
The bridge on Kerf plasma machines are strong portal frames manufactured from steel. They are fully welded, stress relieved and subsequently machined. They provide an excellent solid base onto which we mount the drive systems. The design of the RUR and RUM machines are such that other aspects (such as control system) can be replaced or upgraded if required to support new technology as and when it is available. A good example of this being the development of the UltraSharp precision plasma cutting technology.
A reliable and predictable CNC control and motion system that can position the cutting torch exactly where it needs to be in a smooth and controlled manner. The controller should be able to provide feedback to the user and communicate with the plasma unit to set power settings, speeds, feeds and gas pressures where appropriate.
Over the years Kerf have supplied a range of BURNY controller and drive systems. Our reason for opting for this unit goes back to the formative years of the Company where at the time we only offered service and repair for third party machines. It was clear at the time that the BURNY units were very reliable even in the most hostile of environments.
The modern BURNY systems provide reliable control and drive systems that feature ease of use and reliability. Furthermore for an OEM they provide Kerf with the highest possible levels of support which is something that we value greatly. There are lower cost options out there in the market; however, for our new oxy-fuel, plasma and waterjet machines Kerf specify a BURNY control system
The spring loaded EasyGlide drive system that we use in conjunction with the Burny systems eliminate backlash and reduces power consumption throughout the motion control system.
Precision electronic torch height control that can maintain the exact pierce and cut height for the plasma process. This needs to be vibration free as any movement or vibration in the torch will transmit into similar marks on the cut profile.
Our choice of electronic torch height control is the INOVA. The unit is extremely stable and provides precision height control.
The unit lowers the torch assembly down to the workpiece and sets the initial pierce height.
Having pierced the material, the INOVA unit then maintains the correct cut height above the plate and is constantly being adjusted as the head moves over the plate.
Safety breakaway device for the torch. This needs to be “rigid” but also able to protect the torch over the life of the machine.
These are typically either magnetic or maintenance free pneumatic style. Whichever style is selected the torch needs to maintain its rigidity as it operates during the cutting process.
Kerf can provide either a magnetic or pneumatic torch protection system.
Given the environment in which plasma machines operate our preference is for the maintenance free sealed pneumatic type.
The unit is linked to the e-stop system and once activated stops the machine immediately should the torch come into contact with anything on the machine cutting bed.
Independent downdraft cutting tables that are not connected in any way to the motion system. By remaining stand alone, the tables will ensure that vibrations are not introduced into the motion control system whilst cutting.
The heavy duty tables that Kerf supply have been designed to efficiently collect the dross in bins and at the same time extract the fumes generated by the cutting process.
The bins are approximately 500mm wide and controlled by pneumatic rams that open and shut baffle plates.
By extracting the fumes from the area immediately under the cutting torch and immediate surrounding area the tables are highly efficient.
Advanced CAM software that can take base CAD geometry and apply appropriate technology to the part to ensure consistent high quality profiles are cut.
This should include intelligent selection of cutting speeds for holes, slots and other internal features together with intelligent strategies to pierce and lead-in and lead out of cut profiles. Failure to do so will impact consumable life and subsequent cut quality.
The strategy of some machine suppliers is to offer their own dedicated software system. It is often seen as an easy option. Longer term however it does tie you as a user to one particular style of machine.
Kerf’s strategy is to work with leading independent global suppliers whose systems are not tied to any particular process or machine type.
This then allows our customers the freedom to invest in new equipment at a later date without having to compromise on selecting the most suitable machine manufacturer or scrap their previous investment in CAD and CAM databases.
The value of your production database should not be underestimated. It is worth significantly more than the initial cost of the software.
Kerf has worked with several independent CADCAM suppliers over the years. There are systems on the market that offer differing levels of user control and automation. For installations where customers already have a CAM installation Kerf are happy to work with customers and their suppliers for the creation of a machine efficient post processor.
In addition to industry leading nesting algorithms the software offers fully automatic nesting, remnant and material management, automatic tool path selection, intelligent lead-in and lead-out strategies and strong data import facilities.
The software produces UltraSharp quality programs irrespective of the origin of the base geometry.
In addition Lantek offer a range of complimentary software products that streamline the production process together with support for other machine tool types such as punching machines, laser cutting machines, press brakes etc)
As a supplier investing in numerous plasma systems we need the confidence that our supplier is offering reliable products and have the infrastructure to support us. As the World’s largest supplier of welding and cutting systems Lincoln Electric have delivered excellent products to us and have been there to support Kerf and its customer base. As a key strategic partner we could not ask more from them.
The team at Kerf have no doubt that the Lincoln Electric Spirit II based systems fitted to our machines offer unrivalled price performance and have proven reliable operation. They offer excellent cut quality, consumable life and cost of operation.
When investing in this type of CNC technology you are doing so with a view to decreasing your costs and increasing your profits. This can be by possibly bringing work back in house or perhaps to offer a cutting service to others. Therefore the machine needs to be fit for purpose, reliable and when things go wrong, as they sometimes do; you need the backing of a team of service and support engineers who know what they are talking about.
A high performance plasma cutting machine can reward you with returns in excess of a hundred pounds an hour if you are able to produce high quality parts. To counter that, a machine that lays idle waiting for spare parts, an engineer to arrive or simply for a call back from the supplier to resolve an issue will be costing you a similar figure plus the additional costs that the downstream disruption causes. Furthermore the knock on effect it has with your customers and possibly their customers is potentially even more costly and damaging to your business.
The true value of a good quality machine, serviced in line with the manufacturers guidelines, backed up by a team of service and support engineers (with the availability of spare parts from stock!) should not be underestimated.
The company originally started as a service-based organisation, repairing and upgrading a broad range of profile cutting machinery. It was the experiences gained working on such a varied range of equipment that formed the basis of the current machine range. Dan Taylor, Managing Director, explains the transition to machine building, “We have a considerable amount of experience in the industry and we could see which machine configurations gave the best and most reliable performance. The machines that we build here in the workshop in Rochdale have been designed by our team of engineers which, with Kerf being completely independent, means that we can select best in class products for our turnkey solutions from leading global partners such as Lincoln Electric and Burny.”
In addition to offering a standard range of profile cutting machines, Kerf works with its customers to specify a bespoke machine that matches their own individual application. They design and build machines up to 4m wide with a combination of plasma and oxy-fuel heads and of any length. The smallest machine the company have supplied has a working area of 2.5mx 1.25m. The largest has a huge working area of 40m x 4m with multiple bridges.
A choice of plasma systems can be supplied with the machines ranging in cut capability from 1mm right the way through to 90mm. For oxy-fuel applications machines can cut up to 150mm thick as standard or considerably more if the application requires it.
As part of their continued development, Kerf needed to evaluate the capabilities of various CADCAM and nesting systems as this was becoming an ever-increasing requirement from its customers. Following evaluation of several of the leading systems the one that came out on top for the engineering team at Kerf was the Lantek Expert system.
As a world leader in software for the sheet metal and fabrication sector Lantek now has over 24,800 customers in over 100 countries and 20 offices in 14 countries. Its Expert software is supported by a team of engineers in the UK and is developed at the company’s Technological Excellence Centre in Bilbao, Spain. For Kerf Developments, Lantek has trained Kerf’s engineers so that they can provide training and first line support. Dan Taylor says, “All our field service engineers have a copy of Lantek Expert software as part of their toolbox so that they can provide an instant response to any queries. Lantek provides regular and valuable updates to the software and are always on hand to provide online support to fine tune systems to work in line with our customers’ needs.”
For offline programming of the cutting machines, CAD data can be imported directly into Lantek Expert, parts nested on the material to optimise usage and the cutting path automatically created, providing a very fast and simple way of keeping the machine running, achieving high productivity levels and short delivery times.
As part of the collaboration, Lantek has worked closely with the engineering team at Kerf to perfect its UltraSharp technology which delivers high quality parts with a square edge, better quality edges and 1:1 hole sizes, for example, a 5mm hole in 5mm material, a capability which would previously have been impossible on a plasma machine. For the user, this capability makes it possible to use much lower cost plasma technology rather than laser technology to manufacture parts and is especially effective for thicker components. Dan Taylor adds, “The UltraSharp technology involves internally enhanced software protocols, accelerating and decelerating the torch dynamics on tight contours and holes, controlling the power, gas pressure and flow, amongst other things, and also automatically selecting special lead in and lead out configurations. The result is a constant and true arc with no lag between the top and bottom of the material being cut. All the parameters required to achieve this are built into our technology tables making it easy to achieve high quality components direct from the CAD data.”
One of Kerf Developments’ customers, Pressed Flights based in Littleborough, manufactures screw conveyors. The shape of the screw in its flat state is complex and, in many cases, varies along the length of the screw depending on the material being transported.
Previously, these parts were subcontracted for laser and waterjet cutting. Now, the company has a Kerf RUR2500p machine with UltraSharp cutting technology and Lantek’s software and carries out all the cutting in house achieving ± 0.25mm general tolerance. Mark Cryer, Managing Director at Pressed Flights says, “It is one of the best investments we have made. We transfer CAD data directly into Lantek, nest the parts for best yield, easily and quickly generating the CNC program. The Kerf UltraSharp plasma is very reliable producing augers which are spot on in size, it is a vital part of our operation. After sales service is excellent from both companies.”
Dan Taylor concludes, “The 14-year collaboration with Lantek has enabled us to deliver industry leading technology to our customers as part of our turnkey machine packages configured to meet the demands of each client’s business. Our focus is on providing excellent service, as it has been from the start. Lantek has the same mindset making it a valuable partner for the delivery of a full process offering.”
To learn more about Lantek follow this link: www.lanteksms.com
18th September 2020The past four decades has seen considerable development in the metal cutting process with a range of oxy-fuel, plasma, waterjet and laser cutting machines able to cut materials from 1mm galvanised sheet through to 300mm thick mild steel. Each process has its role to play in the cost-effective manufacture of a wide range of products.
Founded over 30 years ago in a small ‘shed’, CLH Trailers has grown into one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of trailers for the agricultural, fishing, marine, sport, leisure and farming industries.
As the product range has grown, so has the factory, staff levels and investment in technology – with the latest addition to the plant list being a plasma cutting machine from Rochdale manufacturer Kerf Developments.
Located in the picturesque village of Saint Clears, between Camarthen and West Wales holiday hotspot Tenby, the 15 employee business manufactures hundreds of trailers every year; and with anything from 50 to 200+ components in each trailer, productivity and precision are critical for CLH Trailers.
With a burning desire to keep moving the business forward, Managing Director Mr Chris Hussell and shop floor foreman of over 20 years, Mark Reynolds started looking at available options for cost savings and productivity enhancements. Taking up the story, Mr Reynolds says: “First and foremost, we wanted to buy British. We looked for a viable option and we realised that laser cutting wasn’t suited to our business whereas plasma was a perfect fit. We found several vendors and we then spoke with customers for their testimonials.
First and foremost, we wanted to buy British. We looked for a viable option and we realised that laser cutting wasn’t suited to our business whereas plasma was a perfect fit
Out of the UK manufacturers, it was Kerf that had a reputation above all others. This reputation was backed by their customer approach and of course, the quality and productivity of their demonstrations. We were about to purchase a RUR 2500p plasma machine with a 4 by 2m bed – and then the pandemic hit.
We initially put the order on hold, but as the lockdown continued and we retained a steady level of business, we realised that the potential benefits of the Kerf plasma would send our business on a forward trajectory, so we finalised the order during the pandemic and the machine was delivered in July.”
I wanted a machine with a robust build quality that is capable of running all day, every day
Primarily cutting black steel and aluminium in thicknesses from 1.5mm to 25mm, CLH Trailers specified the RUR2500p machine with the user friendly Burny 10 LCD CNC controller, the powerful 275amp Lincoln Spirit II 275 plasma unit and Lantek software to drive the high-definition UltraSharp cutting technology.
Building a new factory unit specifically for the new Kerf machine, Managing Director, Chris Hussell says: “I wanted a machine with a robust build quality that is capable of running all day, every day. The Kerf machine certainly gives us that. The plasma unit can cut steel beyond 60mm thick, which is more than we need and the precision, repeatability and edge finishes are exceptional. We predict that the machine will pay for itself in less than 2 years.”
"The Kerf plasma will profile and cut the holes in less than 10 minutes with far superior precision"
Looking closer at how the new Kerf plasma will create such significant savings, Mr Reynolds continues: “As a business, we typically have 6 staff manufacturing parts to complete an average throughput of two trailers each day. The majority of parts require guillotining, notching, drilling, grinding, corner rounding, bending and welding before galvanising".
"Each of these processes can be slow and labour intensive; and with each subsequent operation, there is an increased opportunity for error and potential scrappage. With the Kerf machine, we can do many of these operations in a single set-up. Going forward, this will free-up at least two employees for other tasks. A labour saving of at least £40k is great; but equally important for a company in a rural area is that the plasma allows us to grow the business whilst re-distributing the highly skilled staff we have.”
Providing a practical example of savings, the mudguards on each trailer are processed in quantities of 6 to 8 from an 8 by 4ft sheet of 1.5mm thick black steel.
“The batch of mudguards would take 10 minutes to cut on a guillotine, then another 10 minutes on our variable angle notching machine followed by another 10 minutes for marking and subsequent drilling with the final process before bending being the grinding and rounding of the corners, which takes another 5 minutes. If you add to this total of 35 minutes additional time to move the mudguards from machine to machine and position the parts in jigs, you’re looking at over 40 minutes".
"The Kerf plasma will profile and cut the holes in less than 10 minutes with far superior precision. Not only does the Kerf machine reduce our cycle times by more than 75%, but it also removes the opportunity for operator error, improves quality and consistency, eliminates hand finishing and frees-up capacity from existing machines.”
“We’ve only had the Kerf machine a matter of weeks and it has already lightened the workload of our staff and our machines, streamlining our production. Our guillotine was working for over 4 hours a day, now it's only used for an hour a day.”
Manufacturing ATV, livestock, flatbed, beavertail, container, motorbike, boat, tipper, tilt-bed, signage, car transporter and camping trailers to name a few, each design can have beyond 200 components.
At present, the Kerf high-definition plasma is only cutting 15-20 different components, something that will rapidly change, as Mark states: “Our designs and aesthetics were limited by our machine capabilities and also a limited appetite for innovative designs from the ‘function-first’ approach of the agricultural sector.
The Kerf machine opens up a world of opportunity to re-design trailers for improved aesthetics, functionality, light-weighting and even the potential for reduced components and shorter assembly times. The mudguards are one component that we have already re-designed to improve the aesthetics, reduce material usage and weight, and also offer a wider range of shapes and sizes.
This is the first demonstration of how we can move our designs forward to create a greater appeal among the consumer market.”
Another example of design for manufacture and aesthetics is the winch post for boat trailers. Previously manufactured from three pieces of 5mm thick steel that are each cut to size, punched, notched and then jigged for welding; each winch post takes 30 minutes to produce – a time only achieved when efficiently processing in batches of 20+.
“The capabilities of the Kerf machine have allowed us to redesign the winch posts and these are now profiled with holes in less than 2 minutes with an additional minute for second-op bending,” continues Mark.
“We have also re-designed the hinge assemblies for loading gates on agricultural trailers. We produce over 40 of these thin long parts every month and they were cut and punched before welding two gudgeon pins to each hinge. The gudgeon pins were made externally, so by re-designing the hinge assemblies we have eliminated the requirement, cost and lead time of the gudgeon pins".
"Most importantly, the cycle time has been cut from six minutes per part to 30 seconds. The hinges are a perfect example of how the capabilities and precision of the Kerf machine has enabled us to redesign an existing part to eliminate subcontract costs, reduce cycle times, reduce material requirements and reduce the weight of the part. Additionally, I can set the RUR2500p to cut 40 hinges and leave the machine running to do other tasks. Essentially, the Kerf machine is giving me more time to be productive elsewhere and even look at other opportunities for the business.”
The Kerf machine has only been here a short while and we are already doing decorative wrought iron fencing, cutting letters and signage and much more."
Looking to the future, CLH Trailers Managing Director, Chris says: “We have always undertaken an element of subcontract metalworking and fabrication, but now we can extend this significantly. The Kerf machine has only been here a short while and we are already doing decorative wrought iron fencing, cutting letters and signage and much more".
"The potential of the Kerf machine is huge. Equally significant are the savings. On top of the labour and cycle time savings, the reduced waste and added capacity throughout our facility has been hugely noticeable in a short period. But, one of the biggest savings for us will be on the material. We order 6 tonnes of sheet steel every month and an additional 4-5 tonnes of box section, up to 30% of this is wasted in off-cuts that are sent back for recycling.”
“With the Kerf plasma we have already taken our material utilisation from 70% to 85% and the more familiar we become with the machine, the more material and costs we will save. This is a credit to the Lantek software and UltraSharp cutting technology that nests the parts in very close proximity to minimise waste".
"Furthermore, we can use off-cuts from larger parts to nest and produce small batches of smaller parts such as brackets, making sure we waste minimal amounts of material. With thanks to Kerf, we are very excited about the future of our business. It is great to see two UK manufacturers supporting each other, developing relationships and successfully rising to the challenge of the current economic climate,” concludes Chris.
Kerf Developments, the Rochdale based manufacturer, has launched a 2020 Version of the highly acclaimed UltraSharp plasma cutting technology.
The cutting technology provides a cost-effective alternative to laser cutting for many applications. The UltraSharp technology intelligently utilises material databases to calculate the most appropriate cutting strategy, identifying the most suitable speeds and feeds, gas pressures and applying the most appropriate lead-in lead-out strategies.
Calculating and combining all these strategies, UltraSharp offers customers high cutting speeds, consistent cut quality, excellent edge finish and downstream productivity benefits. Improving up, what as Kerf states, is already considered the best technology available.
The RUR2500 is an extremely popular and cost effective Plasmaster 3015 profiling machine. Initially launched at MACH 2016, the Plasmaster is a compact machine that enables Kerf to bridge the gap between the high-end RUR machines and the refurbished machines the Rochdale company supplies. Significantly with new technology since its introduction, the enhanced Plasmaster 3015 targets smaller businesses wanting to cut everything from thin materials such as ductwork through to heavy duty fabricators needing to cut thicker materials up to 25mm. Kerf has created a robust, efficient and productive machine that appeals to a range of manufacturers.
Finance for the entire product range is available through Kerf Developments long standing partner; Finance for Business.
Tel: 01706 757 670
Like many small start-ups, P.P. Profiles Ltd was a business conceived in a remarkably small building. In this case, a basement of a cotton mill in Walkden, Greater Manchester.
43 years and the profile and processing company has bought a plasma and flame cutting machine from Kerf Developments that, at 39 m in length, wouldn't fit in most factories, let alone the basement of a cotton mill.
Almost as soon as the business started, it generated immediate success that brought the formation of P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd in 1978, a company that has moved twice down the years before settling in its current 70,000 sq/ft site in Batley. Over the last four decades, the subcontract manufacturer has built a reputation for providing cutting solutions for carbon steel, stainless steel and a range of additional materials in the nuclear, oil and gas, construction, rail, bulk handling, food, water and waste, storage tank and yellow goods industries.
The 40-employee business produces anything from one-offs to small and large batch runs that range from small components to the extremely large.
To get a scale of the workload at the heavy engineering business, it is processing an average of 400 to 500 tonnes of steel every month, almost 40 percent of this material is run through the new Kerf RUR4500. It is this reliance on the Kerf Plasma and Flame cutting machine that justified its acquisition. The level of investment at P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd now stands at more than £2m in the last two years.
The reason behind the investment in the colossal Kerf RUR4500 was due to two older 12 m by 2.5 m flame cutting machines and a 6 m plasma machine proving unreliable, creating an inefficient workflow.
Commenting upon the acquisition of the Kerf RUR4500 machine, P.P. Profiles(West Yorkshire) Ltd commercial director, Daniel Morley says: “We specified the Kerf RUR4500 with a single high definition 400 A plasma cutting, head on a 12 m by 4 m bed and a two-machine 24 m by 4 m bed that consists of both a 6-head and a 4-head flame cutting gantry, all in a single 39 m by 4 m cell. This allows us to load much larger jobs and it has opened us up to new markets, as parts over 12 m long parts are not uncommon."
The arrival of the Kerf RUR4500 machine made the previous two flame and one plasma machine surplus to requirements, reducing the required floor area and drastically improving efficiency and workflow.
Referring to the savings, Daniel Morley says: "Anybody wishing to not only survive but thrive in the UK manufacturing sector must have efficiency at the forefront of their minds and prior to the arrival of the Kerf RUR4500, we had to run a late shift and a night shift. The Kerf machine cell instantly eradicated the need for extra shifts and we now only work a day shift.
This is because each of the three previous machines required loading, material processing, unloading the steel sheets that could be up to 12 m long and then cutting the sheet remnants into smaller sized quantities for scrap disposal. This would be very labour intensive and alI happening when the machine was not cutting. Our crane operator would be feeding three machines with material instead of just one.”
"Now, we have four people running the three machines within the Kerf RUR4500 cell. There are operators running each of the two flame cutting gantries and another operator on the plasma machine. Feeding the Kerf machine is a crane operator that organises and sorts material flow as well as ensuring the three machines are always loaded with material, he also removes the plate remnants. This workflow configuration has reduced our processing times by at least 50 percent.”
"The 50 percent time saving is credit to having the ability to pendulum load and process our workflow. This means we can cut steel plates on the extremely large bed and whilst this process is ongoing, the crane operator can load the next plate. So, as soon as the machine has cut one plate, it can move on to the next. This eliminates non-cutting times and slashes setup times. During cutting times. the crane operator is constantly loading and unloading plates to ensure all three stations are constantly running. As the new Kerf plasma head is running on a 12 m bed compared to the previous 6m bed, the benefits of pendulum loading, and unloading are particularly pertinent on this station.”
The typical lead times at P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd are three to five days. However, the Kerf installation has eliminated bottlenecks, improved workflow and scheduling and given the company the facility to react much faster to customer demands. On top of this, the ability to service sectors where rush jobs and breakdowns are frequent is crucial to PP Profiles, so having machinery that hinders this is not an option.
Daniel Morley continues: "Machine uptime and service are critical to our business. We bought a Kerf water-jet machine over 10 years ago and the support has been outstanding. We have machines from several suppliers and the service from Kerf is something that any company could learn from. If we ever have an issue, Kerf will get an engineer out straight away and the problem is always resolved in less than 24 hours. What is equally impressive is the customer care, Kerf will regularly call us or pop-in to check everything is running smoothly. It is just excellent service and customer care."
As well as previously experiencing frequent breakdowns, the other reason for investing in the Kerf machine was quality and consistency. "We found with our old flame cutting machines that dimensions were susceptible to drifting during cutting and this could lead to re-working and scrap parts. While the Kerf flame machines can cut beyond 300 mm thick material, we are generally cutting up to 150 mm plate and at these dimensions, drift was possible in all axes. The Kerf RUR4500 has eliminated this issue," Daniel Morley explains.
He concludes: "The Kerf RUR4500 has delivered everything we wanted and more. It has streamlined our workflow, reduced labour requirements, improved machine utilisation and uptime by 50 percent and it has improved productivity by over 20 percent. Additionally, we have a reliable, well supported machine that is very accurate with the UltraSharp cutting technology and that gives us the confidence to take on any future challenges."
Kerf Developments Ltd
Tel: 01706 757 670
Email: email@example.com www.kerf.flywheelstaging.com
P.P. Profiles has installed a colossal 39m long Kerf plasma and flame cutting machine to process almost 40% of its steel.
Like many small start-ups, P.P. Profiles Ltd. was a business conceived in a remarkably small building. In this case, the basement of a cotton mill in Walkden, Greater Manchester (UK).
Forty-three years later, the profile and processing company has just bought a plasma and flame cutting machine from Kerf Developments that, at 39m in length, wouldn’t fit into most factories, let alone the basement of a cotton mill...
The business generated immediate success that led to the formation of P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd. in 1978. The company moved twice over the years before settling into its current 70,000 square foot site in Batley (UK).
Over the last four decades, the subcontract manufacturer has built a reputation for providing cutting solutions for carbon steel, stainless steel and a range of additional materials in the nuclear; oil and gas; construction; rail; bulk handling; food; water & waste; storage tank and yellow goods industries.
The 40-employee business produces anything from one-offs to small and large batch runs that range from small components to extremely large ones. For a scale of the workload at the heavy engineering business,
it is processing an average of 400 to 500 tonnes of steel every month – almost 40% of this material is run through its new Kerf RUR4500 plasma and flame cutting machine.
It is this reliance on the machine that justified its acquisition. The level of investment at P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd now stands at more than £2m in the last two years.
The reason driving the investment in the colossal Kerf RUR4500 was the fact that two older 12m x 2.5m flame cutting machines and a 6m plasma machine, which were creating inefficient workflows.
Commenting upon the acquisition of the Kerf RUR4500 machine, P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd. commercial director, Daniel Morley, explained: “We specified the Kerf RUR4500 with a single high-definition 400-amp plasma cutting head on a 12m x 4m bed and a two-machine 24m x 4m bed that consists of both a six-head and a four-head flame cutting gantry – all in a single 39m x 4m cell. This allows us to load much larger jobs and has opened up new markets, as parts of over 12m in length are not uncommon.”
The arrival of the Kerf RUR4500 machine made the previous two flame and one plasma machine surplus to requirements, reducing the required floor area and drastically improving efficiency and workflow.
Referring to the savings, Daniel Morley added: “Anybody wishing to not only survive, but thrive, in the UK manufacturing sector must have efficiency at the forefront of their minds. Before the arrival of the Kerf RUR4500, we had to run a late shift and a night shift.
The Kerf machine cell instantly eradicated the need for extra shifts and we now only work a day shift. This is because each of the three previous machines required loading, material processing, unloading of steel sheets (which could be up to 12m long) and then cutting the sheet remnants into smaller-sized quantities for scrap disposal. This could be very labourintensive and took place while the machine was not cutting…. Our crane operator would be feeding three machines with material, instead of just one.
“Now, we have four people running the three machines within the Kerf RUR4500 cell. There are operators running each of the two flame cutting gantries and another operator on the plasma machine. A crane operator feeds the Kerf machine – he organises and sorts material flow, as well as ensuring that the three machines are always loaded with material, and he also removes the plate remnants," he continued.
“This workflow configuration has reduced our processing times by at least 50%. This 50% time saving is because we can now pendulum load and process our workflow. This means that we can cut steel plates on the extremely large bed and, in the meantime, the crane operator can load the next plate. So, as soon as the machine has cut one plate, it can move onto the next one. This eliminates noncutting times and slashes set-up times. During cutting times, the crane operator is constantly loading and unloading plates to ensure that all three stations are constantly running.
As the new Kerf plasma head is running on a 12m bed, compared to the previous 6m bed, the benefits of pendulum loading and unloading are particularly pertinent on this station.”
The typical lead times at P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd. are three to five days. However, the Kerf installation has eliminated bottlenecks, improved workflow and scheduling and given the company the ability to react much more quickly to customer requirements.
On top of this, the ability to service sectors where rush jobs and breakdowns are frequent is crucial to PP Profiles.
“Machine uptime and service are critical to our business. We bought a Kerf waterjet machine over ten years ago and the support has been outstanding. If we ever have an issue, Kerf will get an engineer out straight away and the problem is always resolved in less than 24 hours. What is equally impressive is its customer care; Kerf will regularly call us or popin to check that everything is running smoothly,” added Daniel Morley.
“Our previous machines were frequently breaking down and regularly disrupting production. This was a key reason for the new acquisition. The core reason for selecting Kerf was not only down to the machine capability, but also our positive experiences of reliability consumable supply and, of course, our confidence in its service support.” Another reason for investing in the new machine was quality and consistency.
“We found, with our old flame cutting machines, that dimensions were susceptible to drifting during cutting and this could lead to re-working and scrap parts. Whilst the Kerf flame machines can cut beyond 300mm thick material, we are generally cutting up to 150mm plate and, at these dimensions, drift was possible in all axes. The Kerf RUR4500 has eliminated this issue.
Precision is guaranteed, the cut quality is far superior and this is all driven by the Burny 10LCD control, which is very easy to use and program. The 7.5bar pressure through the cutting nozzles also makes the machine 20% faster than its predecessors,” Morley outlined.
The Burny 10LCD Plus CNC control unit is on each of the three cutting stations to provide flexibility and familiarity for operators. With a Windows embedded operating system, ease of use and familiarity with precise and repeatable motion control are important.
The Kerf plasma unit is powered by the Lincoln Electric Spirit II 400amp machine with UltraSharp cutting technology.
“The entire machine has an ingenious ‘plate alignment’ feature that identifies the corners of the steel plate as datum points and then uses these points to automatically adjust the cutting path via the Burny CNC platform to eliminate the need for perfect alignment.
This means that our crane and machine operators no longer have to perfectly align plates and sheets on the machine bed before cutting. This offers a considerable saving with regard to set-up times and the reduction of non-cutting time. We are cutting 12m long plates up to 40mm thick on this machine, so continuous re-alignment can be a very timeconsuming process,” added Daniel Morley.
“The Kerf RUR4500 has delivered everything we wanted and more. It has streamlined our workflow, reduced labour requirements, improved machine utilisation and uptime by 50% and increased productivity by over 20%.
Additionally, we have a reliable, well supported machine that is very accurate with the UltraSharp cutting technology and that gives us confidence to take on any future challenges,” he concluded.
Structural steel applications have been one of the most signi cant growth areas for Kerf, as manufacturers can now cut bolt-ready holes and slots more accurately than ever before. This is largely credit to the latest UltraSharp plasma cutting technology, now available across a complete range of Kerf machines.
The ability to also cut holes and slots into box sections, angles, channels and other sectional materials on standard machines has also been a factor in sales to this sector.
Sales of larger sized oxy-fuel and plasma cutting machines have also been strong. Machines with huge cutting beds sometimes beyond 40 m long and in many cases with multiple cutting stations offer signi cant improvements in material utilisation, throughput and productivity, with larger plates being processed with ease, around the clock, if required.
The engineering team has been busy throughout 2019, developing and evaluating new products and technologies, as well as refurbishing a wide range of older Kerf machines. As part of the machine lifecycle, Kerf accepts ageing machines from customers that outgrow existing technology.
Customers frequently upgrade to larger machines and Kerf can accept and refurbish to as-new such old machines.
The refurbishment process includes a complete strip-down and rebuild, with many machines receiving upgraded control and plasma systems to breathe new life into them. This offers customers with smaller budgets the opportunity to purchase a high quality and extremely productive Kerf machine, an approach that has become very popular among pro ling companies.
In fact, the service has become so popular with customers that every factory-refurbished machine rebuilt in 2019 has now been sold. Finally, Kerf Developments enjoys an unparalleled reputation for customer service.
A PES report By Ed Hill - reprinted from Production Engineering Solutions
Although a well-established technology for cutting sheet metal, plasma cutting can seem overshadowed by lasers. However, the latest advances from Kerf Developments demonstrate that this process can compete, not only in cutting speed and quality but importantly on cost as well. Ed Hill reports.
The systems for cutting sheet metal have evolved into a diverse range of processes over the years, but in recent times the power of lasers seems to have become the most widespread technology amongst many operators in this sector of manufacturing.
A key factor in the adoption of the laser process is the speed and quality of cut it can provide; however, lasers are an expensive capital investment, running costs can be high (particularly with the CO2 variants) and they can struggle with thicker materials.
So are there more cost-effective solutions available? One company leading the way in advancing plasma cutting technology is Rochdale-based Kerf Developments.
Founded in 2002 by Dan Taylor the company began as a service and support company repairing oxy-fuel, plasma and waterjet cutting machines.
After a few years of growing the business and establishing a reputation for excellent support, Kerf was asked if it could build a new plasma cutting machine for a customer in Northern Ireland.
Sales director Craig Walsh begins: “The nature of our work gave Kerf a really good understanding of the products that were out in the field: which ones were reliable and which ones were not.
Kerf was asked to quote for a replacement plasma cutting machine so a specification was drawn up using what we considered to be the best in class components. The machine was built onsite which led to the subsequent sale of hundreds of similar machines across the UK and Ireland.
“Kerf is completely independent and free to choose products and services from leading global suppliers,” he adds. “Our expertise is in bringing these products together and supplying
them as a turnkey solution for customers, with packages including CNC cutting, CAD/CAM software, installation and training. We then look after the customer with effective postsale support and service.”
Mr Walsh continues: “Our users’ applications can be varied from small one man operations, right through to large high-volume subcontractors.
The majority of our customers tend to be involved in processing heavier materials that range from 6 - 30mm although we do have one customer with a specially designed machine that can cut 1,000mm thick material!
Our expertise is in bringing these products together and supplying them as a turnkey solution for customers, with packages including CNC cutting, CAD/CAM software, installation and training. We then look after the customer with effective post-sales support and service
"A disadvantage of early plasma cutters was that although they were fast, hole quality wasn’t great and the edge finish had a large bevel angle,” Mr Walsh explains.
“Furthermore, edge dross meant components often required a considerable amount of manual reworking after being cut, a process that was time consuming and labour intensive.
Step forward the modern high-speed CO2 laser, developed during the 1980s. The laser is a precise process that produces a high-quality edge finish and excellent hole quality.
For years lasers have been improving in speed and capability, however, they do appear to have reached their limit in terms of the thickness of material that can be cut.
While new more powerful laser sources have been developed, there is a grey area of cutting mild steel plate from 12-15mm upwards. Some laser machines can cut these thicknesses but the edge finish is not as neat as on thinner materials.”
In the thick of it Kerf has developed its UltraSharp flatbed machines which provide a quality of cut that can match and even better lasers when it comes to cutting these types and thicknesses of materials; mounted on the company’s own rigid bridge assembly and stable, downdraft cutting tables.
“UltraSharp plasma can pierce and cut mild steel up to 60mm thick, howeverit is material in the 10mmto 30mm thickness rangewhere it offers the major benefits,” Mr Walsh says.
“This thickness range posesan issue for laser cutters as they start to run out of power and cutting speeds have to be significantly reduced. This is not the case with the Kerf UltraSharp technology. As a direct comparison, the Kerf UltraSharp process will cut 25mm mild steel typically two to three times faster than a CO2 laser.”
He adds: “UltraSharp takes the well proven high definition plasma process to the next level. It enables an improvement in edge quality and offers a solution for cutting 1:1 holes in thicker materials. That is to say a good quality 12mm diameter hole in 12mm thick material.
Additionally, the process is driven by CAD/CAM software and a technology database that matches geometry to proven cut data. By using this we have deskilled the highquality plasma cutting process for the machine operator and as a result are able to offer more consistent cut quality.” Creating cost downs
So what are the sorts of cutting applications where UltraSharp really offers users benefits compared to lasercutting technology?
“There is no doubt that a high-speed laser travelling and cutting at full speed is impressive but this does come at a high price, both for the initial purchase price and the ongoing operational costs,” Mr Walsh notes.
“On thin materials, 1mm through to 6mm, you could consider laser if you had a sufficient volume of work for the machine to justify the investment levels. For a laser to be cost-effective it really needs to be fitted with a load/unload system and operate around the clock six days a week. Plus, depending on the size and power of the laser, the investment level for that might be in the region of £700,000. Additionally, the laser process may require premium grade material.
“The cost of an UltraSharp plasma machine for 3mm - 35mm applications would cost less than £100,000 for a complete turnkey installation, with operational costs of around £15 per hour. The process doesn’t require premium grade material and in some cases it provides better cut quality. Kerf can supply a machine that can cut from 1mm through to 60mm on the same machine with different models which match customers’ requirements and budgets.”
are ideal for cutting mild steel, stainless, aluminium, wear plate metals and checker plate. Kerf opts for the US made, Lincoln Electric, Burny systems for the CNC, which can work in tandem with various CAD/CAM packages, although Lantek Expert is the preferred option for new machines.
Mr Walsh says: “The UltraSharp cutting database can import geometry from multiple sources. For those using a 3D structural steel design system they can transfer files directly into the database. Similarly, DXF or DWG files can be imported into the databases. Once in the UltraSharp database the geometry is analysed and the most appropriate cut technology applied to the geometry irrespective of where it originated.
“The software can automatically nest the parts together, apply the lead-in and lead-out technology and then generate the machine efficient CNC code required. Multiple jobs for different customers can be nested together on the same plate to maximise material utilisation.”
Kerf also opts for Lincoln Electric plasma systems along with its Inova torch height control, which sets the initial piercing height of the cutting head and then constantly adjusts it as it moves over the plate to optimise the cutting process. The company also has a remote monitoring system for its machines which greatly enhances customer support.
“We are able to log into any machine around the world with Internet access and with the owner’s permission check if there are any issues. This has been very popular with our customers where we have been able to diagnose problems without having to send an engineer, saving them and ourselves time and money.”
Kerf mainly sells its plasma machines to the UK and Ireland although it will supply customers further afield if there is a local support for its machine’s control systems and plasma units.
The company prides itself on putting together bespoke turnkey packages for its customers, from small compact machines through to the large multi-bridge types installed at companies like the P.P. Group, which featured in the September 18 issue of Production Engineering Solutions.
And although the company has evolved to be a manufacturer and supplier of the latest plasma technology, its ethos is still rooted in its reputation for service and support.
Mr Walsh states: “Wherever possible we try to look at the type of products that the customer is looking to manufacture. Not all products are suitable for UltraSharp and it is essential that we and our customers understand this from the outset.
“Effective post-sales support is what Kerf is known for. It’s where the company started and it’s still at the heart of our business. We have resisted adding additional product ranges, preferring to focus and concentrate on our core products.” he concludes.