CNC plasma ‘cuts it’ for Arcon Engineering

Posted on 17 Mar 2017 and read 1301 times
34 Close up
When Arcon Engineering ( made the trip from Ballymena to MACH 2008, the fledgling company was looking for a new CNC plasma cutting machine to replace its ageing and unreliable plasma machine.

When it met Rochdale-based Kerf Developments Ltd (, Arcon found a ‘partner’ that could supply all its metal sheet- and plate-cutting requirements.

Formed in 2003 to cater for the cutting and fabricating needs of the mining, transport, utilities and heavy-industry sectors, Arcon offers a range of services that includes design, CNC profiling, welding and fabrication, press brake forming, assembly — and more. Arcon has grown “at an exponential rate” and now has over 30 staff.

Commenting on buying machines from Kerf, managing director Paschal McLoughlin says: “Our old plasma machine was unreliable — a situation that was compounded by the difficulty of obtaining service support and parts. This caused considerable headaches and production bottlenecks.

Following our visit to MACH, in June 2008 we installed a Kerf RUR3000 CNC plasma cutting machine with a Hypertherm HPR260 plasma unit; it has been running over 18hr a day — plus weekends — ever since.

“However, after running this machine non-stop for many years, we knew that any breakdown or unscheduled maintenance would create a bottleneck or capacity issues. We bought a second machine; this was also running at capacity in no time.”

34 The KerfThe second machine — a Kerf RUR2500GP with a Lincoln Electric Proline 200A high-definition plasma system — was installed in November 2014; and like its predecessor, this has been running non-stop since.

Arcon is cutting profiles ranging from one-offs and small quantities to larger batch runs from materials that include stainless steels and mild steel with plate thicknesses that include 3, 4 and 5mm through to heavy plate up to 40mm thick.

The company has a policy of continually reviewing its processes and recently considered investing in a CNC laser profiling machine for high-precision cutting with ‘impeccable’ edge finishes. However, upon discussing its needs with Kerf Developments, Arcon was taken to a local company using the latest Lincoln Electric Spirit plasma unit with Ultrasharp technology.

Mr McLoughlin says: “The cut quality and precision were outstanding, and the machine price wasn’t even near that of a laser machine. Furthermore, the Kerf RUR3500P with its high-definition unit is powerful enough to cut through material far beyond the scope of a laser.”

The single-head RUR3500P machine with Lincoln Electric Spirit 400A high-definition plasma unit was installed in June 2016. The system incorporates a water reservoir that keeps the cutting-torch cool, extending torch and consumable life considerably — and the high-powered system has a lower gas consumption.

The result for Arcon is a more-powerful machine with significantly reduced operating and consumable costs. For a business that is sometimes running its machines 24hr a day, the saving over the life of the machine will be significant.

The 400A system can cut plate up to 75mm thick, which gives Arcon the potential to extend its capability beyond its current plate thicknesses. Furthermore, the new machine can mark components as well as cut them, allowing Arcon to mark datum points, identification features and location spots for secondary drilling operations.

In conclusion, Mr McLoughlin says: “We’ve had Kerf machines for almost 10 years, and the technology has evolved considerably. With the new Lincoln Electric Spirit high-definition plasma unit and the latest Burny CNC system, which automates production and reduces material usage, Kerf has ensured that we stay ‘ahead of the curve’.

We are likely to be buying machine number four in the near future, and I have no reason to even consider looking at a different supplier.”

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