Plasma Technology
Tuesday | 20 April, 2010 | 7:29 am

Sharp, swift, streamlined

By Lauren Duensing

April 2010 - For most people, high definition means more pixels and a clearer picture--a big change in how they watch television or shoot video. For Anthony DeMoura, manufacturing manager for Taco Inc., Cranston, R.I., upgrading to Hanover, N.H.-based Hyper­­therm’s HyDefinition plasma cutters saved money and made his operation more efficient.

"The jump into high-tolerance plasma was a big deal for us," he says. "We bought robot cells with high-tolerance plasma mounted on the robots, which eliminated hand cutting, drilling and stamping operations. When that happened, it was like going from ‘The Flintstones’ to ‘Star Trek’--night and day. We were able to reduce labor costs in that one department by 50 to 60 percent when we automated. And throughput went through the roof."

Established in 1920, Taco Inc. is ISO 9001 registered and employs about 500. The company develops and manufactures hydronic-based components for heating and cooling applications in residential, commercial, industrial and institutional applications. It manufactures pumps, heat exchanger expansion tanks, flow measurement devices, air separators and valves. and zone control products.

Solid product
DeMoura chose Hypertherm for his high-tolerance plasma equipment because he had experience with the company and was impressed with its local support, saying, "My local distributor was extremely knowledgeable about the products and the repair of the products."

In the past, DeMoura says his division has used a wide range of Hypertherm equipment. "We just purchased an HPR400XD plasma, which is being used on an automated burn table. We have three HPR130s; two of them are mounted on robots, and one is mounted on a second burn table. And then we have numerous hand-held traditional plasma units. The hand-held units were the first ones I bought from Hypertherm. They have always been pretty good workhorses with very little downtime--just a solid product."

DeMoura says his newest plasma machine, the HPR400XD, replaced some 10-year-old Max200s that "were still running by the time we got rid of them. We just wanted to upgrade."

He notes that he’s pleased with the integration of the control on the HPR400XD. "We bought a brand-new control and had it retrofitted onto our machine by a third-party vendor. The plasma machine and the control are made to go together. It’s a relatively seamless connection."

In addition, "The plasma itself can cut thick material, which is a really big benefit. It definitely has a better cut quality than we ever got out of the Max200s. And consumable life is much higher, especially on the thinner material. On the heavier material, it’s not quite as good, but on the inch and a half and below, consumable life is very good."

And DeMoura has noticed a jump in his output. "On the thicker stuff, I’m at least 40 percent ahead of where I used to be, and on material inch and a half and below, I’ve come close to doubling my capabilities. Part of that is the plasma and, at the same time, we’ve made some material handling integration changes."

Advancing high-tolerance cutting
Hypertherm recently upgraded its HPR HyPerformance product line with Extreme HyDefinition, adding the HPR130XD and the HPR260XD to the HPR400XD.

The company points out that adding Extreme HyDefinition technology to the HPR130 and HPR260 plasma cutting systems allows metal formers and fabricators to achieve more consistent cut quality for longer periods of time at half the operating cost.

All HPRXD systems come with patent-pending PowerPierce technology for production piercing. Hyperthem says that when compared with previous HPR130 and HPR260 systems, PowerPierce cuts metal up to 25 percent thicker than before while maintaining cut speed, HyDefinition cut quality and consumable life.

According to a press release, the new HPRXD systems "have argon capabilities to deliver improved marking, a new 80-amp mild steel bevel process and an Ohmic contact integrated into the torch. Other benefits include the ability to cut better holes using Hypertherm’s new True Hole technology."

"Hundreds of businesses are benefiting from the capabilities of our original HPRXD system: the HyPerformance HPR400XD," said Kat McQuade, product marketing manager for Hypertherm’s HyPerformance line, in a press release. "With these two new product introductions, we are incorporating all of the HPR400XD benefits into our HyPerformance line to increase productivity and profitability for our customers."

Numerous benefits
DeMoura uses his plasma equipment to cut flanges, flange pads and tank shells. "We used to run a lot of oxy-fuel torches, maybe as many as four oxy-fuel torches, at once to cut flanges," he says. "And now, we just run the one torch. It gives us more flexibility.

"We used to have a part on one of our tank heads that we had to manually drill 161/8-inch-diameter holes in a very close pattern through a tank head that was maybe 0.01 inch thick. We switched that operation over to high-tolerance plasma and were able to cut so thin a kerf that we didn’t have any problems with the product’s functionality. The plasma was capable of cutting such a fine kerf with almost zero slag or dross that we didn’t even require a secondary grinding operation."

The HPR130s sold DeMoura on the concept of high-tolerance plasma. Adding the HPR400XD was "an extension of that original comfort zone."

When his operation was considering switching from conventional to high-tolerance plasma, DeMoura says he considered lasers.

"We looked at lasers, but we’re a heavy metal fabrication shop. We’re grinding and cutting all day long, and there’s a lot of dust. I know lasers have come a long way, but for the investment, it’s not worth it for us."

He points out that the plasma equipment holds up in a heavy industrial environment and is easy to repair, especially when compared with a laser.

And, as a result, the operators at Taco Inc. are satisfied with their equipment. "You have to have an operator buy into a system, and operators live and die by little things," DeMoura says. "It’s not crashes of the machine that freak out operators. It’s the little annoyances day in and day out. If you have a machining center that’s always giving the operator little problems, the operator ends up hating the machine and hating the job."

DeMoura says the HPRs aren’t temperamental and work very solidly. "If I stepped outside of the plasma arena, I could probably get a better cut quality, but in the end, I’m in business to make money, and I can make the most money with plasma. The consumables are low, and as far as infrastructure, all I had to do was run an oxygen line from my bulk oxygen tanks, throw on a nitrogen bottle, and we’re in business." MM

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