Kerf is Part of the Family at Made Profiles

After working in the sheet metal profiling industry for over 20 years, Mark Derbyshire admirably wanted to build his own family business to provide a better future for his young family. Starting with nothing but industry contacts and experience, Mr Derbyshire formed Made Profiles in March and only a matter of months later, the company is already exceeding its projections and expectations. This is largely credit to a management team that helped found the company - a management team that consists of a sales and CAD/production manager both having over 20 years of experience that has been integral in the early success.

When forming the company with limited finances, Mr Derbyshire needed a cutting table that would deliver reliability and first class service levels, first and foremost. The first point of call for the new business to achieve this, was Kerf Developments. As Managing Director of Wigan based Made Profiles, Mr Derbyshire comments: "As a start-up company buying our first machine, it was imperative that we bought a quality machine with outstanding service levels. This was because if the machine went down, the profit centre of the business would be on-stop. We reviewed the marketplace and the deciding factor was that I worked with Kerf machines in my previous post, so I knew their service and support was second-to-none."

Whilst Made Profiles set the bar high with its service and reliability expectations, another key factor was the ability of Kerf to manufacture a bespoke machine that fitted the needs of the subcontractor that services the offshore, automotive, rail, construction and bridge building industries. When specifying a cutting table, Made Profiles wanted flame cutting heads for profiling up to 250mm thick steel plates whilst simultaneously requiring high definition plasma cutting capabilities for high speed and high quality cutting of sheets below 25mm thick. Kerf duly obliged by manufacturing an RUM3500 machine with four flame cutting heads for simultaneously profiling multiple parts, plus one high definition plasma head for high speed cutting of thinner profiles.

Kerf is Part of the Family at Made Profiles 1

However, Mr Derbyshire also had the industry nous to specify the Kerf RUM3500 with a particularly large 12 by 3m bed. As Mr Derbyshire continues: "I wanted a large bed machine for two reasons.

Firstly, it would allow us to cut very large profiles whilst also catering for small parts in larger batch sizes using the multiple heads. Most importantly, I wanted a large bed for flexibility and work flow purposes. For example, we are continually growing and the large bed enables us to prepare up to three jobs simultaneously on the machine. This allows us to set-up

at one end of the bed whilst an operator is cutting profiles at the other end. This reduces our set-up and lead times drastically and it improves our workflow through the shop-floor."

This workflow is of particular importance to Made Profiles. One of the founding principles of the business is to deliver quality profiles at lead-times the customer requires. As Mr Derbyshire says: "In general, the lead-times in steel profiling industry for small quantity volumes can be quite lengthy, so we aim to work to a lead time of 2-3 days for our customers. To consistently meet our target, the Kerf RUM3500 is running up to 15 hours a day, 7 days a week. Despite this non-stop running, the RUM3500 has been outstanding with no breakdowns or downtime, which justifies why we opted for Kerf."

Kerf is Part of the Family at Made Profiles 2

The Next Step

The fast turnaround service at Made Profiles has enabled it to exceed its growth expectations in year one. The result of this growth is the imminent delivery of a second Kerf RUM3500 machine. As Mr Derbyshire continues: "Now we have been operational for a number of months, we have a better projection of what materials, thicknesses and profiles our customer require. Up to 75% of our year 1 work is precision steel profiles up to 25mm thick, so we have ordered a second RUM3500 with a single 275AMP plasma cutting head. The new machine will allow us to cut high quality profiles up to 40mm thick whereas the existing 150AMP head is limited at 25mm thicknesses."

Kerf will add the second RUM machine to the existing cutting table and at the same time extend it to 15m. This will effectively provide Made Profiles with the flexibility to manufacture components up to 15m or alternately use the bed as two individual 7.5m machines on a single platform.

As Mr Derbyshire concludes: "We are cutting anything from mild and stainless steel through to Hardox, Durbar and boiler plates and the new plasma head will improve our through-flow of work and enable us to maintain our benchmark in the industry as a supplier that can consistently meet short lead times. We have built our business on this philosophy and the support of our customers has been outstanding. With such exceptional support from our customers, we will continue to invest to exceed their expectations. Kerf has been, and undoubtedly will be instrumental in our future plans."

About Kerf

Founded in 2001, Kerf Developments have grown over the years to become the leading supplier of profile cutting machines in the UK and Ireland.

The company was originally formed to provide a repair and support service for customers operating a range of profile cutting machines. These machines were varied in size and capabilities. From small magic-eye gas cutting machines through to automated plasma and high pressure waterjet cutting solutions.

As the company’s reputation for repairing and in some cases upgrading older machinery spread – predominantly through word of mouth, additional engineers were employed to provide additional cover for the UK and Ireland. 

It was a chance request from a customer who stated that his older machine had reached the end of its life and needed replacing that journeyed the Kerf team towards machine development. The customer asked Kerf and it’s engineers to design and build a new machine using their considerable experience of what were the “best” products available.

The first machine was built using a rail based design which helped to isolate delicate electronic systems from shock loading, particularly when loading and unloading large steel plates from the machine. The control system selected was from Burny which has proven itself to be very reliable in challenging industrial applications across the world.

Heavy duty downdraft cutting tables were selected and the plasma unit was a high definition system supplied by Hypertherm.

After the installation, news of the productivity and reliability that the new machine provided along with the quality and accuracy of the parts being cut spread, and further orders for similar machines came flooding in.

The simplistic design and choice of best in class products are still in use today with new machines utilising the current Burny control systems, INOVA electronic torch height controls, and with the latest best in class UltraSharp plasma systems supplied by Lincoln Electric.

The success of the company has been based on providing quality products at competitive prices and backing the equipment up with effective customer service and support be it for oxy-fuel, plasma or waterjet cutting technology.

Kerf Improves Cycle Times by 70% for Subcontract Profile Company

When subcontract profile cutting company Patrick Steel Ltd was looking at possible ways to expand its well established business, the Coventry company investigated the potential benefits of acquiring a plasma cutting machine to complement its existing cutting, grinding and fabrication capacity.

Kerf Improves Cycle Times by 70% for Subcontract Profile Company 3

As a company established in 1986, Patrick Steel has the expertise, experience and industry insight that has seen the business continually grow for a generation. The company decided that the addition of a high definition plasma cutting machine, coupled with the four multi-headed flame cutting machines would have a positive impact on lead times and quality. In addition, it would open up the potential to explore new markets, particularly with thinner material, allowing customers a viable alternative to the more expensive laser and water-jet cutting. The future potential to offer a non-ferrous cutting service, including stainless steel and aluminium would be a further benefit.

The automotive, aerospace, construction, fabrication and general manufacturing subcontractor, fully investigated the potential benefits of a plasma cutting machine. Upon investigation, the clear benefits of adding plasma cutting to the existing flame cutting and grinding services were apparent. It was the recommendation of numerous independent steel profiling companies and service engineers that led the 12 employee company to Kerf Developments and its RUR2500 plasma cutting machine.

Commenting upon the acquisition, Patrick Steel's Joint Managing Director, Mr Jamie Bruce says: "Our flame cutting machines have the capacity to cut from 5 to 300mm thick steel plate. After an in-depth analysis of our actual cutting habits we deduced around 50% of material sold was 25mm thick and under - ideally suited for high definition plasma cutting. The Kerf machine will also enable us to drop below the 5mm lower limit of flame-cutting to thinner gauge material, further enhancing our product range. The benefits of plasma cutting were evident and based on our review of the market and recommendations, we opted for the Kerf RUR2500."

With a decision made, the Kerf RUR2500 was chosen and the new acquisition instantly delivered results. As Mr Bruce continues: "In general, flame cutting machines have a pre­heating period of 30 to 35 seconds prior to piercing whereas the plasma machine is almost instant, with a fully automated cutting procedure. This has made an immediate impact on our productivity. Furthermore, the Kerf machine has improved the quality and precision of our parts with the Kerf RUR2500 achieving a cut precision of ±0.25mm through most plate thicknesses in comparison to ±1.0mm achieved with flame cutting. In addition, the edge quality has also improved and customers are recognising this and often requesting a plasma-cut finish."

The need for speed...

Patrick Steel has always been aware that plasma cutting was faster than flame cutting for parts up to 25mm and once the Kerf RUR2500 was installed and running the cutting speed advantage became apparent. The machine, with a 6m x 2m cutting bed proved itself to be 4.5 times faster than the flame­cutting machines and in some instances up to 7 times faster. "The cutting speed is significantly faster and with no pre-heat time, the Kerf RUR2500 has been an excellent addition to our plant list. The setting-up of plates has also been improved and this also increases our throughput and capacity and decreases downtime.

Kerf Improves Cycle Times by 70% for Subcontract Profile Company 4

The Lantek software and Burny control unit on the RUR2500 has contributed to throughput for Patrick Steel, as Mr Bruce continues: "The machine software has an automatic nesting feature that works on a database configuration. This improves the location and through-flow of repeat jobs from the office to the shop-floor. It also allows us to produce more parts from each plate by automatically utilising any remaining plate stock to produce components from any previous production run by digitally locating stock. This has further reduced our material costs. Furthermore, the control unit on the Kerf machine is very user friendly, easy to operate and enjoyable to use."

Looking to the Future...

In the few short months since taking delivery of the Kerf RUR2500, Patrick Steel has improved productivity by 75% for almost 50% of its workload. Additionally, by moving this work to the more productive Kerf machine; Patrick Steel has also freed up capacity for its four flame cutting machines allowing them to seek out heavier work better suited to the flame-cutting process. The software on the Kerf machine has also expedited the workflow for Patrick Steel with lead times being further reduced.

From a quality perspective, customers are appreciating the better surface finishes and precision delivered by the Kerf RUR. Concluding on the acquisition, Mr Bruce says: "The Kerf purchase has been a revelation for our business. It has improved quality, throughput, productivity and also given us extra capacity on our alternate machines. The service and support from Kerf has been outstanding and we are extremely pleased with the plant purchase."

Patrick Steel April 2020

About Kerf

Founded in 2001, Kerf Developments have grown over the years to become the leading supplier of profile cutting machines in the UK and Ireland.

The company was originally formed to provide a repair and support service for customers operating a range of profile cutting machines. These machines were varied in size and capabilities. From small magic-eye gas cutting machines through to automated plasma and high pressure waterjet cutting solutions.

As the company’s reputation for repairing and in some cases upgrading older machinery spread – predominantly through word of mouth, additional engineers were employed to provide additional cover for the UK and Ireland. 

It was a chance request from a customer who stated that his older machine had reached the end of its life and needed replacing that journeyed the Kerf team towards machine development. The customer asked Kerf and it’s engineers to design and build a new machine using their considerable experience of what were the “best” products available.

The first machine was built using a rail based design which helped to isolate delicate electronic systems from shock loading, particularly when loading and unloading large steel plates from the machine. The control system selected was from Burny which has proven itself to be very reliable in challenging industrial applications across the world.

Heavy duty downdraft cutting tables were selected and the plasma unit was a high definition system supplied by Hypertherm.

After the installation, news of the productivity and reliability that the new machine provided along with the quality and accuracy of the parts being cut spread, and further orders for similar machines came flooding in.

The simplistic design and choice of best in class products are still in use today with new machines utilising the current Burny control systems, INOVA electronic torch height controls, and with the latest best in class UltraSharp plasma systems supplied by Lincoln Electric.

The success of the company has been based on providing quality products at competitive prices and backing the equipment up with effective customer service and support be it for oxy-fuel, plasma or waterjet cutting technology.

AEM Steel Profiles Invest for their Future

When Adam May was working for a steel profiling company, the young engineer was disillusioned by the poor quality and lead times of the supply chain. Mr May spotted a gap in the market for a reputable company to deliver high quality steel profiles to tight delivery schedules; so he set up AEM Steel Profiles Limited. Four years later, the Bristol company is already outgrowing its 5,500sq/ft facility and is harbouring ambitions of hitting a £2m turnover - not bad going for an engineer that has not long turned 30.

After developing a budding business over the last four years that now has 10 staff; the company is growing rapidly by maintaining its mantra of supplying the marketplace with high quality steel profiles on time. With the ability to supply flame cut, waterjet, laser and high definition plasma cut steel profiles up to 500mm thick; the pride of AEM's shop floor is the three flame cutting machines from Kerf Developments.

AEM Steel Profiles Invest for their Future 5

As Managing Director, Mr Adam May recalls: "Like any start up business with limited finances, we started out with 2nd hand machines. Despite our first two machines working well for the first 18 months, we wanted to start investing in new machines. Added to this, the OEM supplier was providing poor and unreliable service levels. We found Kerf Developments on-line and compared them against our current vendor. The cost, build quality and proposed service levels from Kerf won us over."

The company's first foray into Kerf machines arrived with a small footprint Scorpion 2500 Flame Cutting Machine with four cutting heads. This 3.2 by 2m bed machine was initially acquired to conduct one-off and small batch production runs, so AEM could retain longer production quantities on the large table machines without interrupting production with urgent jobs. As Mr May continues: "Quality and delivery is everything to us, so having a machine that can allow us to turn urgent jobs around in hours instead of days is a huge selling point. Added to this, Kerf has lived up to its promise of providing outstanding service levels. So, when we were looking at replacing our other two machines - Kerf was a clear frontrunner in the selection process."

After due diligence, AEM replaced its older machines with two Kerf RUR3500 Flame cutting machines. The new Kerf additions have a 3m wide cutting bed. With four cutting heads on one machine and five torches on the other, when compared to the configuration of 3 and 4 heads on the older machines, the two RUR3500's have drastically improved cycle times. This is particularly the case when cutting large batches of parts. Furthermore, the larger work envelope and improved nesting capability reduce waste material for the subcontractor. Operating in industries such as nuclear, oil & gas, yellow goods, Engineering and structural fabrication.

The Kerf machines at AEM are now configured with the two RUR3500's constantly running high volume batch work, cutting up to 200mm thick steel profiles. Whilst the smaller Scorpion machine produces smaller production runs. As Mr May continues: "The current telecoms sector job on the RUR will be produced in a batch of 250 parts. The 60mm thick, mild steel plate has taken 2.5 hours to cut 160 parts, this is a 50% cycle time reduction compared to our previous machines. If we wanted to reduce our turnaround and set-up times further, the bed of the Kerf machines can be extended to accept larger steel plates. If we get an urgent job whilst this batch is running, we don't have to disrupt production as the smaller machine can cater for this."

AEM Steel Profiles Invest for their Future 6

Summarising upon the Kerf acquisitions, Mr May is extremely impressed with the build quality, precision and edge finishes provided by the Kerf product line. However, it is the ease of use and user friendliness of the control unit that was an unforeseen benefit. As Mr May states: "The Kerf machines are supplied with a Burny 10 LCD control unit, which is extremely intuitive and visually reassuring for the machine operator. On our previous machines, we would download jobs to the machines and the machine CNC would only display code. With the Burny 10, the operator has a large screen with a complete visual of the process, so any necessary changes can be made at the machine. This has also eliminated any potential errors and acted as a secondary quality control process. The simplicity and user friendliness of the Burny control combined with the robust build quality of the machine has been a revelation for us. Kerf has delivered us a simple, robust, reliable and well supported solution that meets all our profiling needs.

About Kerf

Founded in 2001, Kerf Developments have grown over the years to become the leading supplier of profile cutting machines in the UK and Ireland.

The company was originally formed to provide a repair and support service for customers operating a range of profile cutting machines. These machines were varied in size and capabilities. From small magic-eye gas cutting machines through to automated plasma and high pressure waterjet cutting solutions.

As the company’s reputation for repairing and in some cases upgrading older machinery spread – predominantly through word of mouth, additional engineers were employed to provide additional cover for the UK and Ireland. 

It was a chance request from a customer who stated that his older machine had reached the end of its life and needed replacing that journeyed the Kerf team towards machine development. The customer asked Kerf and it’s engineers to design and build a new machine using their considerable experience of what were the “best” products available.

The first machine was built using a rail based design which helped to isolate delicate electronic systems from shock loading, particularly when loading and unloading large steel plates from the machine. The control system selected was from Burny which has proven itself to be very reliable in challenging industrial applications across the world.

Heavy duty downdraft cutting tables were selected and the plasma unit was a high definition system supplied by Hypertherm.

After the installation, news of the productivity and reliability that the new machine provided along with the quality and accuracy of the parts being cut spread, and further orders for similar machines came flooding in.

The simplistic design and choice of best in class products are still in use today with new machines utilising the current Burny control systems, INOVA electronic torch height controls, and with the latest best in class UltraSharp plasma systems supplied by Lincoln Electric.

The success of the company has been based on providing quality products at competitive prices and backing the equipment up with effective customer service and support be it for oxy-fuel, plasma or waterjet cutting technology.

Kerf Gets Subcontractor into Top Gear

Ten years ago, Hopwood Gear Ltd invested in an Oxy-Propane gas cutting machine from Kerf Developments. Owning a machine that run like a dream with exemplary service support for over a decade was two of the key reasons why the Oldham based subcontractor went back to Kerf for its latest machine, a twin-head waterjet machine.

Founded in 1974, Hopwood Gear immediately set its stall out as a subcontract manufacturer with a niche for producing gears, gear sets and all associated components. Now with 40 years of gear manufacturing under its belt, Hopwood Gear is a true specialist, manufacturing gears from 4mm diameter up to 3m - and everything in between. The 33 employee company serves the defence, aerospace, automotive, white goods and consumer markets with bespoke gears for anything from a tank or submarine through to the everyday watch or washing machine.

Kerf Gets Subcontractor into Top Gear 7

To manufacture its gears and meet the demands of its wider subcontract business, Hopwood has a machine shop stacked with CNC EDM, turning and machining centres from Agie, Haas, DMG and Mazak as well as a multitude of specialised gear production machines. However, the issue for Hopwood was the upstream issue of profiling its gears and the consequent subcontract costs and lead-times. Discussing the issue, Hopwood Gear Managing Director, Mr Cory Hopwood says: "Ten years ago we were either buying steel plates for £500, or to save time we were paying upward of £1000 for the plates to be pre-cut into blanks. We invested in a twin-head Kerf Scorpion gas cutting machine to cut the cost and gain control over the process."

The 4m by 2m machine immediately cut costs by 50% when processing steel plates up to 150mm thick. Additionally, the Scorpion cutting head allowed the Manchester company to 'semi-finish' large gears with its impressive precision levels. Still in operation after a decade, the Scorpion is still well used today. Nowadays, the company has a need for a more flexible machine for processing a wider range of materials at even greater precision levels - enter the Kerf Optima 420 waterjet machine.

Kerf Cuts Through Customer Issues With New Waterjet.

The evolving face of gear manufacture now sees Hopwood Gear producing more gears up to 50mm thick from materials such as aluminium, titanium, plastic, stainless and mild steels. For profiling these gears, Hopwood was using a subcontract profiling company at a cost of up to £5000 each month. Commenting on this, Mr Hopwood continues: "We were spending a lot of money getting gear profiles cut prior to entering our machine shop for secondary processing.

Kerf Gets Subcontractor into Top Gear 8

However, the quality of gears was indifferent.

The supply was regularly outside our tolerance band and the gears were often tapered where the waterjet wasn't cutting at 90 degrees. As soon as we heard Kerf had a waterjet machine, we spoke to Dan at Kerf and gave him some of our externally processed gear profiles. Dan was confident the cut quality and precision of the Kerf Optima would solve all our issues. We trust Kerf implicitly, so we bought the Optima 420 waterjet machine. We haven't looked back since."

Kerf Unlocks Productivity for Hopwood Gear.

By installing the Kerf Optima 420, Hopwood Gear immediately improved the precision of its profiles, attaining a precision level of +/-0.05mm as opposed to +/-0.3mm on subcontract supplied profiles. This precision is credit to the highly acclaimed BFT high pressure pump on the Optima 420. The enhanced precision reduced returns and it also cut the internal re-working of gears. These factors reduced lead-times, improved precision and edge finishes and also prevented labour and machine time from being unnecessarily absorbed in the machine shop.

From an economic standpoint, Hopwood Gear estimates that £2000 of the £5000 monthly cost of profile cutting was actually material cost. So, by purchasing the Kerf Optima and acquiring the material direct from the stockholder, Hopwood Gear has reduced its subcontract costs by £3000 each month. The flexibility of the waterjet means that Hopwood has also eliminated an additional £500 per month in subcontract costs for laser cutting of thin plates and discs. With the easy-to-use IGEMS CAD/CAM system on the Optima machine, Hopwood's staff were comprehensively trained on the machine in one-day. The unparalleled ease-of-use and the automated running of the machine allows one operator to simultaneously run a number of machines, avoiding the cost of additional staff. Furthermore, the twin-head configuration permits fast dual-cutting production. This is ideal for a company producing anything from one-off and batch work in the region 50 through to production runs up to 200,000 off.

Far Reaching Benefits of Kerf Waterjet.

Whilst the Kerf Optima 420 waterjet machine has cut costs, improved quality and precision for the subcontractor, the benefits reach much further. As Mr Hopwood concludes: "The lead-time for external waterjet profiles was 4-6 weeks, now we can get the material next day and often turn work around in less than a week. By eliminating the 4-6 week supply chain, we can get gears into the machine shop for secondary machining a lot faster. This gives us more production capacity, better scheduling and it means our machine shop is always busy, as nobody is waiting on a third-party to deliver profiles to the machine shop."

"Furthermore, the profiles are more precise and this means fewer set-ups and operations in the machine shop. With fewer down-stream operations, there is more machine and labour capacity and even our cutting tool consumption has been reduced. To put it simply, our entire production facility would struggle to keep up with demand if we didn't have the Kerf Optima on the shop-floor."

Optima 4020 - April 2020

About Kerf

Founded in 2001, Kerf Developments have grown over the years to become the leading supplier of profile cutting machines in the UK and Ireland.

The company was originally formed to provide a repair and support service for customers operating a range of profile cutting machines. These machines were varied in size and capabilities. From small magic-eye gas cutting machines through to automated plasma and high pressure waterjet cutting solutions.

As the company’s reputation for repairing and in some cases upgrading older machinery spread – predominantly through word of mouth, additional engineers were employed to provide additional cover for the UK and Ireland. 

It was a chance request from a customer who stated that his older machine had reached the end of its life and needed replacing that journeyed the Kerf team towards machine development. The customer asked Kerf and it’s engineers to design and build a new machine using their considerable experience of what were the “best” products available.

The first machine was built using a rail based design which helped to isolate delicate electronic systems from shock loading, particularly when loading and unloading large steel plates from the machine. The control system selected was from Burny which has proven itself to be very reliable in challenging industrial applications across the world.

Heavy duty downdraft cutting tables were selected and the plasma unit was a high definition system supplied by Hypertherm.

After the installation, news of the productivity and reliability that the new machine provided along with the quality and accuracy of the parts being cut spread, and further orders for similar machines came flooding in.

The simplistic design and choice of best in class products are still in use today with new machines utilising the current Burny control systems, INOVA electronic torch height controls, and with the latest best in class UltraSharp plasma systems supplied by Lincoln Electric.

The success of the company has been based on providing quality products at competitive prices and backing the equipment up with effective customer service and support be it for oxy-fuel, plasma or waterjet cutting technology.

The Power Of Plasma

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.


The Power Of Plasma 9

“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.”

Kerf sells oxy-fuel, plasma and waterjet cutting machines but plasma is by far its biggest market making up around 70% of sales.

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.”


The Power Of Plasma 10

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.”

Head control

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.


The Power Of Plasma 11

“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.

The Evolution of the Plasma Cutting Process

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.

CNC Profiling Machine

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.

Key COMPONENTS FOR ULTIMATE MACHINE DESIGN

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The key components that would form the “ultimate” machine design would include ……..

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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 key to the success of Kerf is Independence

Kerf Developments and its team of experienced engineers have developed a wide range of profile cutting machines. These include solutions for oxy-fuel, plasma and waterjet cutting applications.

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.

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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.

Burny controller systems

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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.

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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.

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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.

For new installations or where UltraSharp cut quality is required our most popular system is the Lantek Expert system.

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.

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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)

Plasma Units

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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.

Summary

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.

What Is High-Definition Plasma Cutting?

High-definition plasma cutting machines are a clear cut above standard systems. While this may not necessarily be relevant to you if the cut quality is not high on the priority list, it is crucial to know enough about these innovative tools to decide which plasma cutter is right for your needs.

For some, the additional accuracy, improvements in cut quality, and cutting speeds make high-definition plasma cutters a no-brainer, while others may not require this level of performance and are better off sticking with standard CNC plasma equipment. 

By developing a deeper understanding of the various plasma cutting approaches, you will better appreciate how beneficial high-definition plasma cutters can be. Even if you don’t opt for it right away, it can form part of your future work processes if and when you decide to upgrade your production line. 

Here is what you need to know about high-definition plasma cutting technology, how it improves over standard CNC plasma cutting, and whether it is the right option for you.

working with plasma cutting machines can make your workplace more efficient and productive, they are not without dangers.

Different types of metal cutting

Before you learn more about the benefits of high-definition plasma cutting, it is important to understand the different approaches to cutting metal and how they differ from one another.

One of the most effective forms of metal cutters is a conventional plasma cutting machine. This is a relatively low-cost solution, which allows you to cut metal far more quickly than if you were to use a laser machine. 

Alternatively, you could use an oxy fuel cutting machine, which is exceptionally accurate and is ideal if you are looking to create intricate designs on cut surfaces. They have a small plasma torch, which allows it to reach awkward, narrow, or minuscule areas of a piece of metal. 

Lastly, you could use a waterjet cutting machine, which is ideal if you are looking for an environmentally friendly and cost-efficient cutter that can be used in a wide variety of industries and tasks, such as profile cutting. It uses a mechanical sawing action to cut through materials rather than a thermal approach, such as plasma. The result is that it can cut through almost any metal with minimal waste. 

Benefits of high-definition plasma cutting

Now that you have a detailed overview of the alternative cutting solutions on offer, it is time to learn more about how high-definition plasma cutting machines can be of service. 

You are probably wondering why you would bother with the high-definition solution when the conventional plasma cutting machines are already so effective at cutting a wide range of both ferrous metals and non-ferrous metals.

The answer is that HD plasma machines allow you to cut thinner materials at a higher cutting speed, providing a high quality finish for cut parts. 

High-definition plasma cutters are similar to standard CNC machines, but they have a greater level of control over their plasma arcs, resulting in a superior cut quality. 

Therefore, it is best to treat high-definition plasma cutters as standard cutters that have been enhanced in every measurable way. If you are looking for the finest quality cuts, completed at high speed, without spending eye-watering amounts on operating costs, then this is a compelling option to consider.

Indeed, given the impressive cutting speeds and consumable life of its constituent parts, high-definition plasma cutting systems might be a more cost-effective solution than seemingly cheaper alternatives. 
If you are interested in high-definition plasma cutters, contact us now.

How Does a Water Jet Cutting Machine Work?

Are you thinking about investing in a water jet cutting machine?

If yes, then it can be a good idea to first find out how this high-speed cutting tool works.

Offering unrivalled precision cutting and the ability to cut a wide range of different materials, read on to find out exactly everything you need to know about this superior cutting process and how it can benefit your home or business.

What is a water jet cutting machine?

A “Waterjet Cutting Machine” is an industrial tool that uses high-pressure jets of water generated via a high-pressure pump – and that pump generates a lot of pressure – to cut through a variety of different materials. Waterjet cutting is most commonly used during the fabrication of machine parts in industries such as mining and aerospace.

There are many benefits to this type of cutting, including the ability to produce intricate cuts in metal without warping or affecting tempers.

How does a water jet cutting machine work?

As briefly touched upon above, water jet cutting relies on jets of water, sometimes combined with an abrasive, to cut through materials.

The abrasive is added in the nozzle so that you can easily switch between water and abrasive cutting depending on the type of material that you are cutting, or you can use a mixture of water and abrasive.

The abrasive waterjet nozzle uses the configuration of a mixing chamber and a tube to ensure efficient cutting. Although, if you are cutting soft material, an abrasive jet may not be needed, and a simple jet of water will be enough to make a clean cut. These cutters permit the production of accurate parts with minimal experience.

What materials can a water jet cutting machine cut through?

A water jet cutting machine can make sure you are cutting a wide variety of materials in no time due to its high-velocity cutting stream and the unique design of its cutting head.

Some materials that you can effectively cut through using a water jet cutter are:

In fact, there are very few materials that cannot be cut using a water jet cutting machine, unlike other cutting tools that are limited to only metals. Just remember to be careful when cutting soft materials.

What are the benefits of water jet cutting?

As well as the ability to cut through a wide range of different materials, there are many other benefits to choosing this method of cutting, including:

If you would like more information about how water jet cutting machines work or you want advice on how to choose the right water jet cutting machine for you or your business, then “contact us” here today and one of our friendly and knowledgeable team will do our best to help you.

What Materials Can a Waterjet Cutting Machine Cut Through?

Waterjet cutting machines are incredibly useful tools because they can easily cut through an incredible range of materials. Many cutters or drills have a difficult time cutting through dense materials like concrete or metals, but waterjets take it in their stride.

This is why they are regarded so highly in a variety of industries – from aerospace to healthcare, automotive to construction.

However, it is important to note that waterjet cutters aren’t invincible cutting machines that can be used on everything. Every tool has its limits, and you need to know exactly which materials it can cut, at what width, and with what quality.

Not only will this give you a clearer idea of whether it is the right type of cutter for you, but you will be able to get the most out of your waterjet cutter if you already have one.

For example, although waterjet cutters can theoretically slice through up to 12 inches of the following materials, it is not practical in everyday use. This is because you no longer get a clean cut and the cutting time becomes longer than is desirable.

Instead, it is better to stick to cutting depths of three inches.

In no particular order, these materials can be cut with a waterjet cutting machine:

Metals

First off we have metals, which waterjet cutting machines have the ability to cut through with ease, in a way that other cutting tools simply can’t match.

There are several reasons why metal is usually difficult to cut accurately. There are issues with stress and thermal distortion which results in a jagged, uneven cut. 

However, because waterjet machines use a cold-cutting method, the metal is not burnt or distorted by the heat involved. Not only does this provide a neat finish to the cut, but there is less waste afterward.

This even includes hardened tool steel and copper materials.

Glass

Another material that is often associated with water jet cutting is glass. Usually, glass is a time-consuming and resource-heavy material to cut, because of the number of tooling alterations required. 

Not so with waterjet cutting machines, which can accurately cut glass and provide the delicacy required, thanks to their unique cutting process. However, tempered glasses cannot be cut with a waterjet tool.

Composites

Composites - such as carbon fiber - are inherently brittle when cut. This is because a lot of the time they are thin materials. Other cutters cause burn marks and other blemishes, but when they’re cut with a waterjet they are preserved immaculately. 

Plastics 

Waterjet cutters are great for cutting plastic and reinforced plastics because they provide a neat cut without emitting any hazardous fumes, as there is no heat-affected zone involved. 

Stone

Waterjet machines can also cut stone. This is because these cutters don’t require any meaningful force to be pressed down on the stone, which is where other, more established cutting methods fail.

If you would like to find out more about waterjet cutters, contact us here.