Plasma Technology
Monday | 24 May, 2010 | 8:39 am

All in a day's work

By Lauren Duensing

May 2010 - Cutting heavy plate in 90-plus-degree temperatures day after day is enough to prematurely wear out any CNC machine tool. But the Mega Hornet 3000 from Retro Systems, Valley Center, Kan., was created specifically for these types of extreme conditions.

"We didn’t cut any corners when we designed it," says Paul Riemann, president of Retro Systems. "Normally, the cabinets are in a very hot environment. We have three of these in the Middle East, running in a shipyard in Bahrain. It gets very hot over there, and all of the cabinets are air-conditioned to offset that kind of environment."

Machines like the Mega Hornet 3000 are built to last, and that’s exactly what Isaac Marceau, operations manager for Hutchinson Mfg., Hutchinson, Minn., was looking for in a plasma and oxy-fuel cutting machine. He points out that Hutchinson needed its system to have several specific characteristics: "One, a sturdy-framed, heavy-duty machine that could stand many years of use. Two, we were also looking for a fully integrated control system with proven reliability. The Retro Systems Mega Hornet 3000 fit that bill."

Heavy-duty work
The Mega Hornet 3000 is Retro Systems’ top-of-the-line product, says Allan Holst, vice president. "It is designed for customers who have the most demanding expectations and applications. These are typically companies that are running extensive operations that require two, perhaps three, shifts, and the machine is used in an environment where taking time for maintenance is not desirable."

Hutchinson Mfg. is experiencing a rise in demand for its products, which requires increased production capacity.

Holst says the Mega Hornet 3000 is configured with Hypertherm’s full suite of products, including a Hypertherm CNC control, plasma system, torch height control technology and MTC programming software.

"These new technologies are exactly what Hutchinson Mfg. needed to complement the laser cutting machines they also operate," Holst says.

Marceau is using his Mega Hornet 3000 to cut "heavier materials, meaning greater than 3/4-inch steel, up to 21/2-inch steel. Our shop runs about 80 percent mild steel, 10 percent aluminum and 10 percent stainless steel."

And, for customers looking to expand operations, the Mega Hornet 3000 can be customized with a variety of different tools. Holst says, "It’s a machine that has flexibility and capabilities that go far beyond a basic plasma cutting machine. It is capable of doing plasma beveling, oxy-fuel beveling, drilling and even waterjet cutting."

"We can put multiple plasmas on it, as well," Riemann says. "We have customers with machines that include two plasmas so they can put two 6-foot-wide plates on the table and run both plasmas at the same time and cut two plates."

Ultimately, the Mega Hornet 3000 is intended to last a lifetime. "Electronics or the cutting process may change over its life span, but from a mechanical and a structural standpoint, there are few other models from our competitors that would be the same sort of recognized design that is worthy of maintenance and rebuilding over a very long time. That’s what we intend to do with this product," Riemann says.

Expand in-house capabilities
The Mega Hornet 3000 allows companies to reallocate current jobs and take on new ones. Holst says a customer like Hutchinson Mfg. is "not going to stop doing laser cutting but [will] move as much work as they can to the plasma cutting operation because of the higher cost of ownership for the lasers. Plasma has not become laser, but it has improved to such an extent that quite a bit of laser cutting can be moved to a faster cutting process that has a much lower cost both to buy and to maintain. Manufacturers are accepting that today’s plasma systems offer a very attractive cost of ownership and expanded capability."

In addition, Holst says, "The purchase of all Retro Systems’ machines includes on-site installation and operator training." For Hutchinson Mfg., "our staff was on-site for approximately two weeks for installation and operator training," he points out. "Also, Hutchinson Mfg. plans to connect the CNC control to the Internet so we can deliver ongoing training and technical support via the built-in remote help feature."

With the remote help, Retro Systems can conduct machine operation training as well as resolve issues anywhere in the world "in a matter of minutes without dispatching a service technician," according to Holst.

"We are still new to using the Mega Hornet 3000, as installation was completed only a few short weeks ago," Marceau points out. "But so far, it has considerably lowered the quantity of parts needing to be purchased from outside vendors. We can now keep this work in-house, making it easier to maintain our quality of product and production schedule.

"The Mega Hornet 3000 provides consistent cut quality, and that is noticed by everyone in-house," he adds. "All metal fabricators, including machinists, welders and finishers, have noticed the good-quality parts that they are now seeing." MM

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