Are you wondering if you can use a plasma cutter without an air compressor? If yes, you are far from alone. Although most plasma cutting machines come with an air compressor, you can find some units that come without this useful component. This can be confusing for beginners, especially, and might have you questioning, does that mean that we don’t need one? Let’s take a closer look.

What are the components of a plasma cutter?

If you have not seen a plasma cutter up close and personal before, then it can be difficult to understand how they are set up. There are several vital components that all plasma cutting machines need to have in order to function properly.

These are:

How is an air compressor used in plasma cutting?

Plasma cutting uses a combination of heated gas and electricity to cut through various metals such as stainless steel and aluminium, but where does compressed air come into play?

It’s simple really. The reason why people use plasma cutters is that they are able to harness high-intensity heat for a superior cut quality. However, it is through the use of an air compressor that this heat is directed to the metal, allowing for a more precise cut.

The amount of air pressure that you need when using a plasma cutter is about 4-8 SCFM delivered at 90-120 psi. This covers units that are intended for up to 3/8 inches thick steel to large units that can handle 7/8 inch steel.

Ideally, you should choose an air compressor with a CFM rating that is 1.5 to 2 times higher than your plasma cutter.

Should you invest in an air compressor?

There are multiple reasons why you should invest in an air compressor to use alongside your plasma torch, with one of the most notable ones being you can enjoy a more precise and cleaner cut. In fact, if you want to make the exact same cut time and time again, then an air compressor is a definite must.

Another benefit of using compressed air is that you can find high-performing plasma cutting machines that have built-in air compressors. Not only does this allow for portability but it also means you will only have one power cord which can make the laser cutting experience easier.

Whether you think that a portable air compressor and plasma cutter combo is the right choice for your cutting needs or you are unsure still, contact us here and let us find the perfect plasma cutting machine for you.

Are there any downsides to using an air compressor?

If you are wondering why some people choose not to use one of these pneumatic tools, then you should know that it predominantly comes down to cost. Whether you choose to purchase a separate air compressor or you opt for a built-in model, you are still going to have to spend a little bit more money.

Another factor that puts some people off buying built-in air compressors is that these rely on a fixed air pressure, which means that any leaks will have a serious impact on your ability to cut.

All of the above being said, a built-in air compressor can transform your cut quality and provide a level of flexibility that you won’t get from buying a separate unit.  

Favoured by automotive repair shops, fabrication shops, industrial construction sites and salvage operations due to their high speeds and precision cuts, plasma cutters can be used to cut through a wide range of materials, including stainless steel, brass, aluminium, and copper.

However, can they cut through very thick material? This is a typical question that many people have asked in the past before buying their plasma cutter, and it is sensible to do so. Let’s take a closer look below.

How does a plasma cutting machine work?

Our high-end plasma cutting machines use compressed air and special gas to produce a plasma reaction that can cut through metals such as aluminium and stainless steel. In fact, any conductive metal is well suited for using a plasma cutter, including:

That being said, the thicker a metal is, the more hazardous it can be. You should expect sparks to be produced, so you need to ensure you are sticking to your machine’s cutting capacity and that you are taking all the necessary safety precautions.

How thick can a plasma cutter cut?

Plasma cutters provide an effective way to cut both thin and thick materials. However, depending on the machine that you choose, they do have their limitations.

Typically, a handheld plasma torch can cut up to 38mm (1.5 inches) thick steel plate. Whereas, if you need something a bit more powerful, an industrial computer-controller torch can cut steel up to 150mm (6 inches) thick.  

You also need to consider the type of metal that you are cutting. For example, if you are cutting a piece of mild steel, you will experience faster and thicker cuts than with alloys.

How to choose a plasma cutter

Many plasma cutting power sources are rated on both their cutting ability and their amperage. If you want to mostly cut ¼ inch thick materials, you should opt for a low amperage plasma cutter. However, if you regularly cut metals that are around ½ inch thick, then you will need to seek out a higher amperage unit.

If you choose a plasma cutter that operates at the limit of its cutting capacity, both your cutting speed and the quality of your cuts will be affected.

Each one of our plasma cutting units has an optimal range of cutting thickness so that you can easily match the machine to your needs.

Carry out Tests to Help you Decide

If you are not sure which plasma cutter to choose, it can be a good idea to test cuts on a number of different machines, travelling at the same rate of speed on the same thickness of material so that you can see which one offers the highest quality of cut.

You should also look for a machine that provides a quick transfer from pilot arc to cutting arc at a large transfer height, as this will ensure you have better support when cutting.

If you are still not entirely sure whether a plasma cutter is the right choice for your cutting needs, or you need help on choosing the right plasma cutting machine, contact us here and our knowledgeable team will do their best to answer your questions.

Have you recently invested in a waterjet cutting machine? Or perhaps you are thinking about buying one, but you are worried about the upkeep? Either way, the below blog will tell you everything you need to know about keeping your waterjet cutting machine in optimum condition for longer. Follow these tips, and you will ensure that you truly make the most of your tool and your money. Keep reading to find out more.

Familiarise yourself with the manufacturer’s recommendations

Wherever you shop for waterjet cutting machines, you should be provided with specific maintenance guidelines and recommendations that will help you to keep your abrasive waterjet working as it should.

Make sure that you thoroughly read through these recommendations and that you familiarise yourself with how to carry out any listed maintenance procedures.

Use preventative maintenance software

Many people don’t realise that you can actually purchase preventative maintenance software systems for your waterjet cutter, which will actively monitor the operating conditions of elements such as the high pressure plumbing, the filters, the pump, and the water quality.

This clever software will also alert you if you require any replacement parts or if your machine needs any maintenance work carried out so that your waterjet cutter can be fixed before any required work becomes cost-prohibitive.

Regularly inspect and clean your waterjet cutter

There are several aspects of your waterjet cutting machine that need to be inspected on a regular basis. These include checking the pump and plumbing components for leaks and inspecting the slats for wear and tear.

You also need to regularly remove any accumulated abrasive and material particles from the tank, as these can damage your machine over time and result in an inferior cutting process. You can find a removal system to do this task for you.

Finally, don’t forget to remove any dissolved solids from the inside edge of the machine’s nozzle using white vinegar to ensure that your machine performs at its best each and every time.

Purchase spare parts in advance

Rather than wait for a component of your waterjet cutter to need replacing, it can be a good idea to purchase spare parts in advance as sometimes you have to wait a while, and this can affect your productivity.

If you need any spare parts for your CNC waterjet or another well-known waterjet cutting machine, contact us here, and we will source these for you. This will ensure your waterjet cutting machine always works in optimal condition.

Test the quality of water

You need to make sure that the water quality meets your waterjet manufacturer’s specifications. You should find that most UK city water supplies will meet the requirements. However, if you are using poor quality water and high-temperature water, you will find that the lifespan of your machine’s components, such as its pressure seals, are greatly reduced.

If the water you are using is not of the highest quality, you may want to use a chiller, water softener, or water treatment system to improve it.

Are you thinking about investing in a waterjet cutting machine but are not sure if this popular tool lives up to the hype? Known for its ability to cut through almost any material, surely even this innovative technology must have its limits?

Keep reading to find out whether these high pressure pumps are everything you hoped them to be. Plus, discover how thick they can cut and where to buy the best waterjet cutter online.

What materials can a waterjet cut?

If you are looking to buy a waterjet cutting machine, rather than look at what you can’t cut with a waterjet machine, let’s take a closer look at what you can cut with this versatile and multitasking tool. This should help in making that final purchasing decision.


Waterjets can cut all types of metal, including aluminium, hardened tool steel, titanium, and a whole host of other lesser-known types of metals that you would struggle to cut through with another cutting method.

When you cut material with a waterjet, you will obtain a smooth edge with no burn marks or cracking, and, since the cut process is a cold one, there is no heat-affected zone.


Natural materials such as glass, stone, and wood can also be easily cut using a waterjet cutter. In fact, our waterjet cutting machines can cut through practically any natural material you can find.

Using special abrasive waterjets, you can machine natural materials with the utmost precision and producing less particulate than with static cutting methods.


Abrasive waterjet cutting has many advantages when cutting composites, such as carbon fibre, including no melting, no hazardous fumes, and no need to change tooling halfway through the job.

Water jet cutting machines can be used to make an accurate cut in any fibre-reinforced material with both high speed and high precision.  

Plastic & Rubber

Using just a stream of water, you can easily cut through machine foam, rubber, and acrylics with ease, making a waterjet cutter one of the most flexible cutting tools on the market. As many products are made using these two materials, plastic and rubber, it can be handy to know that you have a suitable tool to handle the job of cutting them to the shape and size you require.

How thick can a waterjet cutting machine cut?

The only thing you need to consider when deciding if a waterjet cutter is the right tool for you is whether it can cut thick enough for your requirements. As a general rule, abrasive waterjets can cut through 12 inches of most materials, with some users reporting that their chosen waterjet cutter cut even thicker than that.

That being said, most people who use waterjet cutters cut material that is 3 inches thick or less as cutting thicker materials reduces the tolerance that can be maintained and increases the length of time it takes to make the cut.

Interested to know more about waterjet cutting machines and whether or not this is the right cutting method for your professional or personal needs? Contact us here, and our friendly and knowledgeable team will answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Waterjet cutting involves using a special cutter that employs a jet of high pressure water to cut through a variety of different materials. Watching the process of this jet stream is quite fascinating, and this method of cutting certainly gets the job done quickly, but that exactly are the advantages of using waterjet cutting? Read on to find out.

Waterjet Cutters Are Green Technology

We all know – or should know, at least – that we have to become a lot more environmentally friendly in everything we do. That applies to business owners and individuals, and whether it’s your home or business, you need to work out ways to be kinder to the planet.

Using waterjet cutting methods is one such improvement you can make. The cold cutting process doesn’t create any kind of dangerous or hazardous waste, and neither does it employ any chemicals in the cutting methods. As we’ve said, it’s simply a water jet, albeit a highly pressurised one.

Waterjet Cutters Can Get Through Almost Anything

Another get benefit to using waterjet cutting machines is that they will cut almost any material. Compare a waterjet cutter with another type of cutting machine, and you’ll see that whereas other units might have quite large limitations on what they can cut for you, the waterjet cutter is far more likely to do the job you need it to do. As examples, the waterjet cutting machine can cut through:

So no matter what job you need to be done, waterjet cutting technology will help you achieve your goal.

The Cutting Steam Produces Less Heat

When working on metal fabrication, one of the big and potentially most dangerous issues is the heat. Traditional laser cutting will produce a huge amount of heat which means you need to be extremely careful when using the equipment, and damage is highly possible. If you choose to cut metal with a waterjet cutting machine, however, you’ll find that much less heat is produced, making it a lot safer to use.

Not only does the material you are cutting not get as hot as it would if you were using other cutting services, but there are no additional heat affected zones adjacent to the cutting tables either. This means that the area you’re working in won’t overheat, making it safer for you, your work colleagues, and your place of work in general.

Waterjet Cutting Is Highly Accurate

Another advantage of waterjet cutting that is sure to mean a lot to both business owners and their customers is that this method of cutting is extremely accurate. In fact, waterjet cutters can offer a 0.13mm degree of accuracy. Plus, they can cut highly intricate 3D shapes and specific patterns, meaning that no matter what you need in terms of the material you’re cutting, the waterjet cutter can offer it to you.

For more information about waterjet cutters and what they can do for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Are you worried about the lifespan of your plasma cutting machine?

If yes, you needn’t be. With the right care and regular maintenance, there is no reason why your plasma cutting machine can’t last for many more years to come.

It can be a good idea to think about your plasma cutting machine as like the tyres on your car. If you want to get the best performance out of it, you need to make sure that you undertake all the necessary machine maintenance.

As with most things in life, prevention is always better than cure, so within the below blog, we have detailed the top preventative maintenance tips for your plasma cutters which promise to extend the life of this crucial metal cutting tool.

How to Maximise the Lifespan of Your Plasma Cutting Machine? 1

Clean and Inspect

As part of the proper maintenance of plasma cutting machines, you need to carry out routine cleaning and inspections, as don’t forget, this tool comes into close contact with molten metal on a daily basis!

There are several steps within these processes which are as follows:

How to Maximise the Lifespan of Your Plasma Cutting Machine? 2

Check common wear items

As well as routine maintenance tasks, you also need to check your plasma consumables, i.e., the components of your plasma cutter that have a certain life cycle and will need replacing at some point.

The frequency at which you need to replace a specific part of the machine, such as your torch consumables, main contactors and relays, will be dependent on how often you use your machine. However, typically, each item will need replacing after a set number of months or arc hours.

Recommendations are as follows:

Every six months or 500 arc hours, you should replace:

Every 12 months or 1,000 arc hours, you should replace:

Every two years or 2,000 arc hours, you should replace:

When you purchase a plasma cutting machine from us here at Kerf Developments, you are guaranteed high-quality post-sales support. We won’t disappear like so many other manufacturers as soon as we close a sale. We will always be standing by to help you get the most out of your plasma cutting machine.

Although plasma cutters are great at getting the job done, they do need to be treated with care if you want to avoid any unexpected and unwanted incidents. As a general rule, you should not let any unauthorised personnel handle a plasma cutting machine without supervision. However, there are also several other plasma cutting machine safety tips that you and your team should be aware of.  

From wearing the right clothing and gloves to ensuring the area is well-ventilated, keep reading to discover the necessary safety precautions that you and your employees should be taking when using plasma cutting equipment.  

Plasma Cutting Machine Safety Tips 3

1.   Avoid electrocution

The power output levels for plasma cutting machines such as profile cutting machines can result in fatal shocks if electrocution were to occur, so you need to take active steps to avoid this from happening.

Ways in which you can prevent electrocution include:

2.   Check the cable

Faulty wiring is extremely dangerous when it comes to plasma cutting machines, so you need to make sure the ground cable is checked over before use. If you do find any issues, make sure they are repaired before the machine is used again.

Plasma Cutting Machine Safety Tips 4

3.   Wear safety glasses

The arc rays from plasma cutters produce both infrared and ultraviolet rays, which are harmful to the skin and eyes. Therefore, you must wear a face shield or safety glasses when using this type of cutting equipment.

4.   Invest in protective clothing

Your eyes are not the only thing that needs protecting when you use a plasma cutter. You also need to protect your body during the cutting processes as flying sparks are commonplace.

Protective clothing you should purchase includes:

Plasma Cutting Machine Safety Tips 5

5.   Provide adequate ventilation

The plasma cutting process involves fumes and gases that can be detrimental to your health. Therefore, you should make sure that you provide a well-ventilated environment for your employees. If your team have to work in a confined space, you should supply air-supplied respirators.

Plasma Cutting Machine Safety Tips 6

6.   Handle gas cylinders with care

Plasma arc cutting systems use compressed air and other gases such as nitrogen and hydrogen, so you need to make sure that you handle these gas cylinders with care. When using a cylinder, securely chain them to a stationary, upright support at all times.

If you need to move a gas cylinder, make sure that you fasten the threaded protector cap to the top of the cylinder first, as this will shield the valve system from impact damage.

Need more advice on how to stay safe when using plasma cutting machines? Here at Kerf Developments, we are experts in plasma cutting and can tell you everything you need to know about safety precautions when cutting.

Plasma cutting is one of the fastest, most efficient ways to cut metals such as carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminium, allowing you to cut through materials up to 6 inches thick.

However, to achieve a superior clean cut, you need to make sure you are using the right type of gas for your material. There are several gases that are used in plasma cutting, with each one having its own advantages and disadvantages. Find out below which gases are used in plasma cutting, plus what gas you should use for each type of metal.

Compressed air

Air is one of the most adaptable forms of gas on offer, and as you don’t have to purchase it, this dramatically lowers the cost of the overall cutting process. That being said, shop air is a superior choice as it is cleaned before sold, thus eliminating contaminants such as oil, mist and moisture.

For cutting aluminium:

For cutting carbon steel:

For cutting stainless steel:

What Type of Gas Do You Use With a Plasma Cutter? 7


If you want fast speeds with lower power levels when using your plasma cutting machines, then oxygen is the plasma gas for you. Ideal for cutting structura- low carbon and low alloy steel, it can be used for cutting materials with a variety of different thicknesses.

For cutting aluminium:

For cutting carbon steel:

For cutting stainless steel:

What Type of Gas Do You Use With a Plasma Cutter? 8


If you need to cut large amounts of aluminium or stainless steel, then nitrogen is a great choice. This plasma gas offers excellent parts life but is not the best option for thick materials.

For cutting aluminium:

For cutting carbon steel:

For cutting stainless steel:

What Type of Gas Do You Use With a Plasma Cutter? 9


Hydrogen plasma gas is classed as environmentally friendly as it reduces the emission of Co2. This gas contributes to increased productivity due to its high-speed cutting.

For cutting aluminium:

For cutting carbon steel:

For cutting stainless steel:


For materials that are greater than ½ an inch thick, argon is good to use. Argon does not react with metals when cutting, which is why it is classified as an inert gas.

For aluminium cutting:

For carbon steel cutting:

For stainless steel cutting:

What Type of Gas Do You Use With a Plasma Cutter? 10


You can also use an argon hydrogen mix to cut through stainless steel and aluminium. This is usually a percentage of 35 hydrogen and 65 argon. This option offers maximum cutting capacities and is the hottest plasma gas available.

It should be used for any cutting processes that involve materials that exceed a 3 inches thickness.

Plasma Gas

As well as the five named plasma gases above, plasma gas can also be further categorised into three different phases:

Need help picking the right case for your plasma cutters? Get in touch with our friendly and knowledgeable team here.

Plasma Cutting Consumables

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.

What are plasma cutting consumables?

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

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

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.

The Swirl Ring

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.

The Shield Cap

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.

The Retaining Cap

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.

How to tell if my consumables need replacing

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.

Replacing the electrodes & Nozzles

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.

Replacing Other Components

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.

How To Get The Best Lifespan out of your plasma cutter consumables

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:

Correct Installation

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.

In Summary

Replacing your plasma cutter consumables at the right time is essential for the overall maintenance and lifespan of your Kerf machine.

Kerf offer plasma cutting consumables for a range of plasma units including Air Liquide, Hypertherm plasma consumables, Kjellberg plasma consumables, and Lincoln Electric consumables.

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.


The Evolution of the Plasma Cutting Process 11

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

The Evolution of the Plasma Cutting Process 12

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.

The Evolution of the Plasma Cutting Process 13

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

The Evolution of the Plasma Cutting Process 14

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.

The Evolution of the Plasma Cutting Process 15
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.

Picture map 1

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.

The Evolution of the Plasma Cutting Process 16
The Evolution of the Plasma Cutting Process 17

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

The Evolution of the Plasma Cutting Process 18

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.

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