The Plasma Process

P.P. Profiles has installed a colossal 39m long Kerf plasma and flame cutting machine to process almost 40% of its steel.

Like many small start-ups, P.P. Profiles Ltd. was a business conceived in a remarkably small building. In this case, the basement of a cotton mill in Walkden, Greater Manchester (UK).

Forty-three years later, the profile and processing company has just bought a plasma and flame cutting machine from Kerf Developments that, at 39m in length, wouldn’t fit into most factories, let alone the basement of a cotton mill...

The business generated immediate success that led to the formation of P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd. in 1978. The company moved twice over the years before settling into its current 70,000 square foot site in Batley (UK).

Over the last four decades, the subcontract manufacturer has built a reputation for providing cutting solutions for carbon steel, stainless steel and a range of additional materials in the nuclear; oil and gas; construction; rail; bulk handling; food; water & waste; storage tank and yellow goods industries.

The 40-employee business produces anything from one-offs to small and large batch runs that range from small components to extremely large ones. For a scale of the workload at the heavy engineering business,

it is processing an average of 400 to 500 tonnes of steel every month – almost 40% of this material is run through its new Kerf RUR4500 plasma and flame cutting machine.

It is this reliance on the machine that justified its acquisition. The level of investment at P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd now stands at more than £2m in the last two years.

An eye on efficiency

The Plasma Process 1

The reason driving the investment in the colossal Kerf RUR4500 was the fact that two older 12m x 2.5m flame cutting machines and a 6m plasma machine, which were creating inefficient workflows.

Commenting upon the acquisition of the Kerf RUR4500 machine, P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd. commercial director, Daniel Morley, explained: “We specified the Kerf RUR4500 with a single high-definition 400-amp plasma cutting head on a 12m x 4m bed and a two-machine 24m x 4m bed that consists of both a six-head and a four-head flame cutting gantry – all in a single 39m x 4m cell. This allows us to load much larger jobs and has opened up new markets, as parts of over 12m in length are not uncommon.”

The arrival of the Kerf RUR4500 machine made the previous two flame and one plasma machine surplus to requirements, reducing the required floor area and drastically improving efficiency and workflow.

Referring to the savings, Daniel Morley added: “Anybody wishing to not only survive, but thrive, in the UK manufacturing sector must have efficiency at the forefront of their minds. Before the arrival of the Kerf RUR4500, we had to run a late shift and a night shift.

The Kerf machine cell instantly eradicated the need for extra shifts and we now only work a day shift. This is because each of the three previous machines required loading, material processing, unloading of steel sheets (which could be up to 12m long) and then cutting the sheet remnants into smaller-sized quantities for scrap disposal. This could be very labourintensive and took place while the machine was not cutting…. Our crane operator would be feeding three machines with material, instead of just one.

“Now, we have four people running the three machines within the Kerf RUR4500 cell. There are operators running each of the two flame cutting gantries and another operator on the plasma machine. A crane operator feeds the Kerf machine – he organises and sorts material flow, as well as ensuring that the three machines are always loaded with material, and he also removes the plate remnants," he continued.

“This workflow configuration has reduced our processing times by at least 50%. This 50% time saving is because we can now pendulum load and process our workflow. This means that we can cut steel plates on the extremely large bed and, in the meantime, the crane operator can load the next plate. So, as soon as the machine has cut one plate, it can move onto the next one. This eliminates noncutting times and slashes set-up times. During cutting times, the crane operator is constantly loading and unloading plates to ensure that all three stations are constantly running.

As the new Kerf plasma head is running on a 12m bed, compared to the previous 6m bed, the benefits of pendulum loading and unloading are particularly pertinent on this station.”

The typical lead times at P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd. are three to five days. However, the Kerf installation has eliminated bottlenecks, improved workflow and scheduling and given the company the ability to react much more quickly to customer requirements.

On top of this, the ability to service sectors where rush jobs and breakdowns are frequent is crucial to PP Profiles.

Uptime and service

The Plasma Process 2

“Machine uptime and service are critical to our business. We bought a Kerf waterjet machine over ten years ago and the support has been outstanding. If we ever have an issue, Kerf will get an engineer out straight away and the problem is always resolved in less than 24 hours. What is equally impressive is its customer care; Kerf will regularly call us or popin to check that everything is running smoothly,” added Daniel Morley.

“Our previous machines were frequently breaking down and regularly disrupting production. This was a key reason for the new acquisition. The core reason for selecting Kerf was not only down to the machine capability, but also our positive experiences of reliability consumable supply and, of course, our confidence in its service support.” Another reason for investing in the new machine was quality and consistency.

“We found, with our old flame cutting machines, that dimensions were susceptible to drifting during cutting and this could lead to re-working and scrap parts. Whilst the Kerf flame machines can cut beyond 300mm thick material, we are generally cutting up to 150mm plate and, at these dimensions, drift was possible in all axes. The Kerf RUR4500 has eliminated this issue.

Precision is guaranteed, the cut quality is far superior and this is all driven by the Burny 10LCD control, which is very easy to use and program. The 7.5bar pressure through the cutting nozzles also makes the machine 20% faster than its predecessors,” Morley outlined.

The Burny 10LCD Plus CNC control unit is on each of the three cutting stations to provide flexibility and familiarity for operators. With a Windows embedded operating system, ease of use and familiarity with precise and repeatable motion control are important.

A streamlined process

The Plasma Process 3

The Kerf plasma unit is powered by the Lincoln Electric Spirit II 400amp machine with UltraSharp cutting technology.

“The entire machine has an ingenious ‘plate alignment’ feature that identifies the corners of the steel plate as datum points and then uses these points to automatically adjust the cutting path via the Burny CNC platform to eliminate the need for perfect alignment.

This means that our crane and machine operators no longer have to perfectly align plates and sheets on the machine bed before cutting. This offers a considerable saving with regard to set-up times and the reduction of non-cutting time. We are cutting 12m long plates up to 40mm thick on this machine, so continuous re-alignment can be a very timeconsuming process,” added Daniel Morley.

“The Kerf RUR4500 has delivered everything we wanted and more. It has streamlined our workflow, reduced labour requirements, improved machine utilisation and uptime by 50% and increased productivity by over 20%.

Additionally, we have a reliable, well supported machine that is very accurate with the UltraSharp cutting technology and that gives us confidence to take on any future challenges,” he concluded.

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