The Inspiration Behind Powermax SYNC
At Hypertherm, we know the best new product ideas come from our customers. Over the years, we've learned that it's always good business to listen! So now that we've introduced our exciting new Hypertherm Powermax SYNC plasma platform, we thought you might appreciate an inside peek at how this particular plasma cutting innovation came about.
The inspiration for the Hypertherm SYNC product line was largely the result of many, many conversations with industrial metal fabrication shops and other manufacturers all over the world, a process of several years. We heard what they liked most about their Hypertherm Powermax systems, and where they thought we might make improvements. They told us about their changing business environment and the challenges they were facing on the job and in their businesses.
Our plasma cutter design and field engineers got to work, and the conversations continued as we ran ideas by our user groups in heavy fabrication workshops, hydraulic repairs and machinery rebuild industries, first in a series of one-on-one discussions and later extensive, formalized research studies. As the ideas developed into actual products, we validated and fine-tuned them with one of our largest field trials ever - a two-year effort that involved more than 50 customers across different markets, industries, and applications in North America, Mexico, China, Spain, France, India, and Brazil.
Technical service data, user interviews, and market survey work all pointed to several common pain points that customer currently deal with when it comes to plasma cutting system operation. These include:
• Set-up time. The operator has to move from the workpiece over to the power supply to setup or make plasma adjustments. This can be inconvenient in the middle of a job, and results in unnecessary workshop production downtime.
• Consumable mix-ups. It happens, unfortunately. The operator grabs the wrong plasma consumable parts for the job at hand, leading to costly errors, wasted plasma consumables, and aggravation.
• Inventory management. Particularly in a large plasma cutting operation, it can be difficult to manage plasmaconsumables supplies, and to know what consumable spares needs to be ordered, and when.
• System optimization. Operators don't always select the correct plasma consumables and plasma power supply settings for specific tasks, leading to less-than-optimum metal cutting results and premature consumable wear.
• Inefficient processes. When users can't easily switch between plasma consumables for different plasma processes of cutting, gouging, mesh-cutting, bevelling etc., the versatility and value of the plasma system aren't fully realized.
All of these challenges are made worse by the labor shortage. Customers are having trouble finding both skilled and unskilled operators; they're looking to automated solutions to increase productivity, reduce operating costs, and help reduce the expense associated with frequent operator turnover and training. Automation also lets customer leverage operational data to help make their businesses more efficient. And where automation isn't an option, there's an industry-wide need to make equipment easier to use for less skilled operators.
The Innovative solution: Powermax SYNC
Hypertherm's response to these challenges, its Powermax SYNC platform, is an evolution of the trusted Powermax plasma line. It simplifies the consumable plasma platform into a single piece cartridge design, so that customer can minimize their plasma consumable inventory needs and easily identify which consumable they should be using.
RFID technology in both the cartridge and the new Hypertherm SmartSYNC torches enables automated process set-up. It saves time and minimizes potential mistakes while optimizing both process and alignment for improved cut quality and maximum consumable life. Convenient hand torch controls for amperage adjustments and cycling of power minimizes downtime because the operator no longer needs to return to the power supply during operation or for consumable change-outs. The plasma power supply also captures cartridge utilization data that provides valuable usage insights and eliminates any confusion about when the plasma consumable should be changed.
The response from our test customers in every industry has been consistently enthusiastic: A few of them had anticipated drawbacks to a single-piece cartridge. How would this affect cut quality and operational efficiency? Would the potential cost outweigh the benefits? Happily none of these problems materialized, and the Hypertherm Smart Sync plasma product more than proved its value in the field trials.
Structural steel farbicator - United States
A structural steel fabricator with locations throughout the United States was given an opportunity to use an early version of the Powermax105 SYNC at its location in Augusta, Maine. Managers immediately saw significant improvement in consumable life, a trend that continued throughout their year-long testing period. The company was so impressed, its managers plan to purchase their own powermax SYNC system and retrofit five older Powermax systems to the cartridge consumable platform. They also plan to use cartridge data to coach new and existing operators.
Container manufacturer - China
This container manufacturer was working to produce key components for a multinational technology corporation. Facing a tight timeline and the need for better cut quality, the manufacturer opted to upgrade their old mechanized cutting system to Powermax105 SYNC™. The new system enabled the manufacturer to cut 30% faster and achieve better and more consistent cut quality. In addition, the manufacturer enjoyed longer consumable life, reporting that the cartridge lasted 4 times longer than the consumable stack-up in its older system.
Aluminium dock manufacturer - United States
During its busy season, this dock manufacturer in Naples, Maine uses Powermax plasma on a small CNC table to cut various thicknesses of aluminium. Instead of using their usual Powermax, This company was recently given and opportunity to try out a Powermax SYNC system. Operators loved it and say they were especially impressed with the automatic set-up features and the improved cut quality they experienced while cutting with the system.
Automotive parts manufacturer - South Korea
This manufacturer of automotive parts purchased a plasma cutter on a robot in early 2001. Unfortunately, the company soon discovered that the system's consumables life span was short and unstable. Cut quality would deteriorate after cutting 20 workpieces, leading to near constant work stoppages so operator could install new consumables, and significant re-work. Since switching over to a Powermax105 SYNC, the company reports that the consumable cartridge is lasting more than seven times longer than before. It says the robot was able to cut 143 workpieces with one cartridge and no drop in cut quality.
Metal recycler - France
A metal recycler with locations throughout France replaced a Powermax105 with a Powermax105 SYNC. The company says the system has allowed it to cut thicker metal and that the cartridge consumable is lasting three times longer than the standard stack-up it had been using. Perhaps the biggest win for this company though the system's ease-of-use. The company cycles through a lot of employees and often has temporary workers filling in so the ability to save on training time was hugely appreciated.
Milling equipment producer - India
This producer of grain milling equipment swapped out six Powermax systems for the Powermax85 SYNC which it used on a CNC table. After weeks of testing, it reported the cartridges were lasting much longer than the traditional 5-piece consumable set it used before. The report of longer life was even more surprising because the company was already using CopperPlus electrodes, which are known to last twice as long as a standard electrode.
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