Craig Walsh, Author at Kerf Developments

Success is Made With Kerf

Success is Made With Kerf When Made Profiles first opened its doors for business in March 2014, the first acquisition for the sheet metal company was an RUM3500 profiling machine from Kerf Developments.

Just over two years later and the fledgling Wigan subcontractor has grown exponentially, recently taking delivery of its third Kerf profiling machine, an RUR2500 high definition plasma cutter.

RUR high definition plasma machine

Founded by Managing Director Mr Mark Derbyshire, Made Profiles started with one man’s ambition, decades of experience and a book of industry contacts. Using his expertise and business acumen, Mark initially opted for a Kerf Developments machine as he was familiar with the build quality, reliability, service and support that Kerf guarantee – all critical elements for a new business that would be reliant upon the uptime of its single machine. In the two years since its inception, Made Profiles has built its business around the reliability and productivity levels that Kerf has delivered.

The first plasma cutting machine installed, the colossal 12m by 3m bed RUM3500 has four flame cutting heads for simultaneously profiling multiple parts up to 250mm thick. This machine also has one 150amp high definition plasma head for high-speed cutting of steel profiles up to 15mm thick.

Only six months after the installation, Made Profiles commissioned Kerf to extend the machine bed by 3m. The now 15m bed received a second high definition CNC plasma table with a high powered 275amp plasma jet cutting head for rapidly processing steel sheets up to 30mm in thickness.

Supplying cut profiles for the rail, oil & gas, automotive, construction and general subcontract engineering sectors, the first two CNC machines suitably cater for the high speed and high definition cutting of thin profiles whilst the oxy-fuel flame cutting four- head configuration provides simultaneous cutting of extremely thick steel billets.

Kerf Develops a Bespoke Solution

If the first two machines and the respective plasma torch cutting head configurations were acquired to satisfy market demand, the arrival of the RUR2500 was specified to take the business to the next level.

Already processing anything from mild steel, Hardox, Durbar and boilerplates; the biggest market growth has been cutting stainless steel profiles. This is why the new RUR2500 machine was installed. Delivered with the UltraSharp plasma system technology for precision oxy fuel cutting to less than +/- 0.5mm with astounding edge finishes, the RUR2500 has been purchased specifically for cutting small stainless parts. The 150amp cnc plasma cutting unit is well suited for parts up to 20mm thick whilst the 4 by 2m bed has been configured by Kerf for small part production.

As Mr Derbyshire recalls: “Typical spacing between the machine ‘bed bars’ is 100mm, but we asked Kerf to supply a bed with a bar spacing of 50mm. With the wider spacing, small parts could fall through the bed. With the bespoke bed configuration, we can now comfortably process parts as small as 50-60mm square.

Complementing this, the UltraSharp profile cutter gives us unparalleled edge quality and clarity when cutting slots, holes and other internal geometries on small parts that may have once been beyond our scope. We used to subcontract out any work smaller than 120mm, with the RUR2500 we have brought this work in-house, slashed subcontract costs and reduced the associated lead-times by 4-5 days.”

photo: Example of cut metal

The new RUR2500 has been dedicated to stainless steel profiles, so its nitrogen and oxygen fuel configuration doesn’t have to be continuously changed over. Furthermore, the new oxyfuel RUR2500 also has an argon gas feed for etching components. As Mr Derbyshire continues: “We also wanted the machine to have an etching facility, this allows us to mark parts with identity numbers and reference codes to customer requirements. We are also etching datum spots for customers that want to drill or machine their profiles as a secondary operation. The changeover from cutting to etching is completely automated and seamless, thanks to the touch screen Burny 10 CNC control unit. We only have to enter our material types and cutting parameters and the control unit does the rest.”

The component programming and part nesting for the Kerf machines is conducted off-line with the Lantek CAD system that is also supplied by Kerf Developments. As Mr Derbyshire says: “We now have two seats of Lantek CAD software from Kerf and this maps out the cutting speeds, plasma gas flow, nozzle height and even the torch path based on how to optimise material usage, productivity and cut-quality. We bought the Kerf RUR2500 CNC plasma cutter as a ‘laser equivalent’ machine. With the UltraSharp system, the RUR2500 is far superior to standard plasma cutting and this gives us the ideal machine for stainless steel profiling.”

Commenting on the journey from the first Kerf machine to the latest acquisition, Mr Derbyshire says: “We started with five staff and now we have 13. The business grew 100% in year one and two. Year three is on-course to almost match previous figures. This growth is down to our expertise and sticking to our core strategy of turning out high quality bespoke and small batch steel profiles faster than our competitors. Of course, Kerf Developments have been with us all the way to ensure our machines never miss a beat. That is one reason why we will keep returning to Kerf whenever we need to invest in machinery.” MADE Profiles October 2016

Kerfs Plasma Cutting Systems use ultrasharp technology for laser sharp results. If you would like to know more, speak to our team of experts today. Read another case study: Kerf Gets Subcontractor Into Top Gear

When Arcon Engineering made the trip from Ballymena to the MACH exhibition eight years ago, the fledgling company was looking for a new CNC plasma cutting machine to replace its ageing and unreliable machine. In meeting Kerf Developments at MACH 2008, Arcon found more than a machine supplier; it located a partner that could confidently serve all their sheet and metal plate cutting requirements.

Formed in 2003 to cater for the complex cutting and fabricating demands of the mining, transport, utilities and heavy industry sectors, Arcon offers an extremely diverse level of services. With expertise in design, CNC profiling, welding and fabrication, press brake forming, assembly and much more, Arcon Engineering has grown at an exponential rate, now employing over 30 staff. Nowhere is this growth better demonstrated than with the CNC plasma cutting machines from Kerf.

Commenting upon starting his journey of buying machines from Kerf, Arcon Engineering’s Managing Director, Mr Paschal McLoughlin recalls: “Our old plasma machine was unreliable and this was compounded by our struggle to reliably obtain service support and parts. This caused considerable headaches and production bottlenecks. We went to MACH and reviewed all the available machines, and it was Kerf that had the build quality, service, support and productivity that we needed. We installed a Kerf RUR3000 CNC plasma cutting machine with a Hypertherm HPR260 plasma unit in June 2008 and it has been running over 18 hours a day plus weekends ever since.”

RUR Plasma Cutting Machine

Of course, the reliability of the RUR3000 combined with the often 24 hour production, led the Ahoghill manufacturer to invest in a second profiling machine and once again the company bought from Rochdale based Kerf. “Running our first machine non-stop, we were conscious of depending upon the reliability of the RUR3000. We knew that any breakdown or unscheduled maintenance would create a bottleneck or capacity issues. Considering this, we bought a second machine. Of course, the first Kerf machine never failed us; and within no time the second machine was also running at capacity.”

The second machine, a Kerf RUR2500GP with a Lincoln Electric Proline 200amp high definition plasma system slotted straight into the business in November 2014. Like its predecessor, the RUR2500GP has been running non-stop since installation. The company is cutting profiles from one-off and small quantities to larger batch runs from materials such as stainless and mild steel with plate thicknesses varying from 3, 4 and 5mm through to heavy duty 30 and 40mm plates.

As the Irish business has expanded, it has closely reviewed its processes and more recently considered investing in a CNC laser profiling machine for high-precision cutting with impeccable edge finishes. However, upon discussing the evolving needs of the business with Kerf Developments, it was soon realised that Kerf once again had the solution. Arcon wanted to achieve extremely precise profiles with outstanding edge finishes, so Kerf took Arcon to a local company using the latest Lincoln Electric Spirit plasma unit with Ultrasharp technology to demonstrate the system.

High Definition Plasma or Laser?

As Mr McLoughlin continues: “We wanted the quality of laser without the cost, Kerf gave us the alternative with their new RUR3500P machine that has a Lincoln Electric Spirit 400amp plasma unit with UltraSharp technology. The cut quality and precision was outstanding whilst the cost wasn’t near the price of a laser machine. Furthermore, the Kerf RUR3500P is more flexible than a laser as the high definition unit is powerful enough to cut through material far beyond the scope of a laser.”

The single head RUR3500P machine with a Lincoln Electric Spirit 400amp high definition plasma unit was installed in June 2016 and the company has been thoroughly impressed. The design and technology built into the Lincoln Electric Spirit system incorporates a water reservoir that keeps the cutting torches cool. The benefit of this technology is that torch and consumable life is extended considerably. Furthermore, 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 24 hours a day, the saving over the life of the machine will be huge. In fact, trials have shown that this technology uses up to 78% less plasma gas than competitor machines.

From a capability perspective, the powerful 400amp system can cut plate up to 75mm thick, which gives Arcon the potential to extend its workload beyond existing plate thicknesses. In addition, the new machine has the ability to mark components as well as cut. This allows Arcon to mark datum points, identification features and location spots for secondary alignment operations.

Picture of Machine Cutting

In conclusion, Mr McLoughlin says: “We’ve had Kerf machines for almost 10 years and the local service network, machine reliability, consumable availability and the overall build quality and productivity is outstanding. Furthermore, technology has evolved considerably and with the new Lincoln Electric Spirit high definition plasma unit and the latest Burny CNC control unit that 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 future and I have no reason to even consider looking at a different supplier. We’re delighted with our decision to invest in Kerf.”

Ten years ago, Hopwood Gear Ltd invested in an Oxy-Propane gas cutting machine from Kerf Developments. Owning a profiling machine that runs like a dream with exemplary service support for over a decade was two of the key reasons why the Oldham based subcontractor went back to Kerf Developments for its latest machine, a twin-head water jet machine.

Founded in 1974, Hopwood Gear immediately set its stall out as a subcontract manufacturer with a niche for producing gears, gear sets and all associated components.

Now with 40 years of gear manufacturing under its belt, Hopwood Gear is a true specialist, manufacturing gears from 4mm diameter up to 3m – and everything in between.

The 33 employee company serves the defence, aerospace, automotive, white goods and consumer markets with bespoke gears for anything from a tank or submarine through to the everyday watch or washing machine.

To manufacture its gears and meet the demands of its wider subcontract business, Hopwood has a machine shop stacked with CNC EDM, turning and machining centres from Agie, Haas, DMG and Mazak as well as a multitude of specialised gear production machines.

However, the issue for Hopwood was the upstream issue of profiling its gears and the consequent subcontract costs and lead-times. Discussing the issue, Hopwood Gear Managing Director, Mr Cory Hopwood says: “Ten years ago we were either buying steel plates for £500, or to save time we were paying upward of £1000 for the plates to be pre-cut into blanks. We invested in a twin-head Kerf Scorpion gas cutting machine to cut the cost and gain control over the process.”

The 4m by 2m machine immediately cut costs by 50% when processing steel plates up to 150mm thick. Additionally, the Scorpion cutting head allowed the Manchester company to ‘semi-finish’ large gears with its impressive precision levels. Still in operation after a decade, the Scorpion is still well used today. Nowadays, the company has a need for a more flexible machine for processing a wider range of materials at even greater precision levels – enter the Kerf Optima 420 water jet machine.

Kerf Cuts Through Customer Issues With New WaterJet..

The evolving face of gear manufacture now sees Hopwood Gear producing more gears up to 50mm thick from materials such as aluminium, titanium, plastic, stainless and mild steels. For profiling these gears, Hopwood was using a subcontract profiling company at a cost of up to £5000 each month.

Commenting on this, Mr Hopwood continues: “We were spending a lot of money getting gear profiles cut prior to entering our machine shop for secondary processing. However, the quality of gears was indifferent. The supply was regularly outside our tolerance band and the gears were often tapered where the water jet wasn’t cutting at 90 degrees.

As soon as we heard Kerf had a water jet machine, we spoke to Dan at Kerf Developments and gave him some of our externally processed gear profiles. Dan was confident the cut quality and precision of the Kerf Optima would solve all our issues. We trust Kerf implicitly, so we bought the Optima 420 water jet machine. We haven’t looked back since.”

Kerf Unlocks Productivity for Hopwood Gear…

By installing the Kerf Optima 420 water jet machine, Hopwood Gear immediately improved the precision of its profiles, attaining a precision level of +/-0.05mm as opposed to +/-0.3mm on subcontract supplied profiles. This precision is credit to the highly acclaimed BFT high-pressure pump on the Optima 420.

The enhanced precision reduced returns and it also cut the internal re-working of gears. These factors reduced lead-times, improved precision and edge finishes and also prevented labour and machine time from being unnecessarily absorbed in the machine shop.

From an economic standpoint, Hopwood Gear estimates that £2000 of the £5000 monthly cost of profile cutting was actually material cost. So, by purchasing the Kerf Optima and acquiring the material direct from the stockholder, Hopwood Gear has reduced its subcontract costs by £3000 each month. The flexibility of the water jet machine means that Hopwood has also eliminated an additional £500 per month in subcontract costs for laser cutting of thin plates and discs.

With the easy-to-use IGEMS CAD/CAM system on the Optima water jet machine, Hopwood’s staff were comprehensively trained on the machine in one-day. The unparalleled ease-of-use and the automated running of the machine allows one operator to simultaneously run a number of machines, avoiding the cost of additional staff. Furthermore, the twin-head configuration permits fast dual-cutting production. This is ideal for a company producing anything from one-off and batch work in the region 50 through to production runs up to 200,000 off.

Far Reaching Benefits of Kerf Water Jet Machines

Whilst the Kerf Optima 420 water jet machine has cut costs, improved quality and precision for the subcontractor, the benefits reach much further. As Mr Hopwood concludes: “The lead-time for external water jet profiles was 4-6 weeks, now we can get the material next day and often turn work around in less than a week. By eliminating the 4-6 week supply chain, we can get gears into the machine shop for secondary machining a lot faster. This gives us more production capacity, better scheduling and it means our machine shop is always busy, as nobody is waiting on a third-party to deliver profiles to the machine shop.”

“Furthermore, the profiles are more precise and this means fewer set-ups and operations in the machine shop. With fewer down-stream operations, there is more machine and labour capacity and even our cutting tool consumption has been reduced. To put it simply, our entire production facility would struggle to keep up with demand if we didn’t have the Kerf Optima on the shop-floor.”

Read another case study: Kerf Is Critical In Growth Strategy at BSK Engineering


Kerf Developments are leaders in tailored profiling solutions. For more information on our Water Jet CNC Machines, visit our water jet page.