Oxy-Fuel, Plasma, Waterjet or Laser Cutting?

At Kerf, we understand that as our industry evolves and new enhancements are launched onto the market, we need to evaluate them and keep you in touch with the latest product developments. In doing that, we appreciate that your over-riding concern will always be finding a cutting machine to do the job and do it well.

The past four decades has seen considerable development in the metal cutting process with a range of oxy-fuel, plasma, waterjet and laser cutting machines able to cut materials from 1mm galvanised sheet through to 300mm thick mild steel. Each process has its role to play in the cost-effective manufacture of a wide range of products.


For specialist precision cutting

A tried and tested process, oxy-fuel cutting has been around for many years and will be around for many more. Ideal for a wide range of applications, oxy-fuel cutting has been enhanced and refined to make it a more cost-effective method of manufacturing components.

In some instances, oxy-fuel can produce parts in thicker materials that other processes simply cannot. In other cases, many components can be produced more economically than they could be using laser, plasma or water-jet cutting.

From providing the right equipment as standard, our team of experienced engineers then ensure that any installation goes smoothly before demonstrating our accountability by being on hand to service and maintain your equipment long into the future.

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Within the Kerf range of oxy-fuel machine tools, there will invariably be a machine configuration to meet your requirements. From the single torch Scorpion which is ideal for precision cutting in small metal fabrication shops, to the largest fully-automated RUR, RUM and Maxi cutting systems for profiling large format plates with multi-head and multi-plate capability, Kerf assesses your needs before advising on the ideal machine for the job.

Whatever the application, we only give appropriate advice to ensure that your business feels the full benefit of our experience and expertise.

The oxy-fuel process can cut thicker materials than you can with plasma. It can cut faster than a waterjet and productivity can be increased by the use of multiple cutting heads. It is the only choice for many applications.


Your cost effective solution for mild & stainless steels

Plasma cutting has long been considered as a low cost alternative to oxy-fuel and laser profiling, where cut angle was not an issue. Recent developments in the high precision/high definition plasma process have significantly improved the quality and capabilities of plasma cutting, making it a more versatile and accurate option than ever before.

From the expandable flexible rail design of the Kerf RUR and RUM large format machines through to the compact Plasmaster (for use where space is at a premium), we believe that there is always a suitable cost effective solution available within the Kerf range.

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Plasma cutting is suitable for various materials, particularly mild steels and stainless steels producing an excellent edge finish.

The plasma cutting process can cut materials much faster than you can with oxy-fuel. It can cut significantly faster than a waterjet. It is for many the fastest and most productive way to cut parts for fabrication applications.


The ultimate plasma cutting process

There is no question that early air plasma systems created huge leaps in productivity with the high speed cutting of steel plate. The problem however was that for many; holes were not of a good enough quality and the edge finish often had a large bevel angle. Furthermore, edge dross also meant that components required a considerable amount of manual re-working after being cut, a process that was time consuming and labour intensive.

The introduction of high definition (HD) plasma systems around twenty years ago helped to improve this with reductions in bevel angles, however, holes would typically be perfectly round on the top face and slightly oval on the lower face due to the lag of the plasma arc.  UltraSharp is a process that has been developed to address this issue. In collaboration with Kerf’s strategic partners the process is able to harness the power of the latest hardware and software systems to control the plasma arc whilst cutting.

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Manufacturers have been able to offer good quality “bolt ready” holes cut with plasma for several years, however, it is the enhancement of this process for internal and external profiles with UltraSharp that has been a real game changer.

UltraSharp technology automatically applies the most appropriate cutting speeds and feeds for holes, slots and internal cut-outs and does so without the need for additional manual programming by the machine operator. The CADCAM database modifies the speeds, feeds, gas pressures and flow rates ensuring that UltraSharp plasma cutting machines can produce components with a consistently good cut quality.

UltraSharp technology offers all the speed advantages of HD plasma with an enhanced cut quality. The process is a well proven solution that will produce high quality components at the lowest possible cost and offers an alternative to laser cutting for a large majority of cutting applications.


The Most Flexible Cutting

For many years the flexibility and reliability of waterjet cutting systems has seen the process used in both high volume production scenarios and with lower volume or one-off bespoke creative applications.

The Benefits

A uniquely accurate and powerful process, a waterjet facilitates the cutting of the widest range of materials and thicknesses. Offering a rapid transition from drawing to finished part, the benefits are many and varied. High accuracy and edge finish often eliminate the need for secondary cutting in the majority of applications.

As well as being ideal for both short and long production runs, waterjet cutting also means that prototypes for products still in development are quickly and easily created. Where second generation prototypes are needed, these can be turned round quickly and at less expense than when the product has to be sent back to the planning stage.

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Materials that can be cut

Hard materials such as:

Aluminium, brass, copper, mild steel, stainless steel, titanium, tool steel

Soft materials such as:
Acrylic foam, nylon, polypropylene, rubber

Brittle materials such as:
Carbon Fibre, Ceramic, Glass, Granite, Kevlar, Marble

Waterjet cutting is a cold process, meaning that there is no heat effected zones, hardened material or material stresses. A clean accurate burr-free finish often eliminates the need for secondary surface finishing. The process also leads to small diameter highly accurate kerfs, ensuring that the clean finished products can be manufactured in a way that might not be possible with other processes.


Very Fast And Very Precise

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Modern laser machines are blisteringly quick to accelerate and cut a wide range of materials very quickly.

Over the years there have been several suppliers offering laser machines including Amada, Bystronic, LVD, Prima and Trumpf offering a range of machine from small entry level 1.5kw CO2 based machines right through to their current ranges of high powered fibre lasers.

Over the years we have seen the development of 2KW, 4KW, 6KW and 8KW CO2 lasers and more recently the more efficient fibre lasers have been developed at a similar rate with 15KW fibre machines now being made available. However, are we reaching the point where no matter how much power is available from the laser source the process of aiming a precise laser beam onto a very small area is hitting its limits?

In the world of metal fabrication, lasers can be used to cut mild steel, stainless steel and a wide range of exotic materials. However, this capability does come at quite a cost for both the purchase price of the machine and its subsequent operational running costs. To generate a reasonable return on investment the machine needs to be cutting for as long as possible.

The integration of a laser machine with an automatic plate loading and unloading system would help to keep everything running around the clock seven days a week with minimal human intervention. This maximises the productivity of the laser machine.

For sheet metal manufacturers producing intricate components in steel up to 5mm thick with lots of “fine” internal features then a laser or CNC punching machine might be the only options for you. A high speed laser could be a very cost effective investment if you have sufficient work for the machine and the infrastructure in place to keep the machine busy over a sustained period. As the saying goes “it’s only earning when its burning”.

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Kerf takes the time to understand your requirements and only ever recommends the most appropriate machinery for your needs. We have the capability to recognise which technologies are suitable for which applications, and our engineers advise on product suitability.

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