Retrofits to ESAB Suprarex plasma cutting machines boost quality

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ESAB has retrofitted two Suprarex plasma cutting machines with new CNC and plasma cutting systems for a longstanding customer, Eddison & Wanless. One machine was 12 years old and the other was five years younger, but both have been retrofitted with identical m3 Plasma systems so Eddison & Wanless is benefiting from improved cut quality and higher productivity. The complete retrofit project cost substantially less than buying two all-new plasma cutting machines, yet Eddison & Wanless is benefitting from state-of-the-art plasma cutting capability.

Retrofits to ESAB Suprarex plasma cutting machines boost qualityEddison & Wanless manufactures high-quality oil tanks, water tanks and air-tight tanks in mild steel, stainless steel and aluminium. These are used in the petrochemical and process industries, offshore oil platforms, marine and dockside applications, heavy industry and mining and mineral sites. Eddison & Wanless was founded in the late 1950s and has had a relationship with ESAB for more than two decades. Around 15 years ago Eddison & Wanless purchased an ESAB Suprarex plasma cutting machine, and 5 years later the company invested in a second similar Suprarex. These two machines proved to be robust and reliable, with Eddison & Wanless ensuring they were regularly serviced by ESAB. However, as the machines aged, maintenance costs started to creep up, so ESAB suggested retrofitting new equipment to bring the machines up to date, improve cut quality, raise productivity and reduce maintenance costs.

Andy Benson, the Managing Director of Eddison & Wanless, takes up the story: “We have worked with ESAB for 22 years and have established a very good relationship with them, so when they suggested the retrofit I knew I could trust what they were telling us; after all, plasma technology had evolved considerably over 20 years. When we compared the cost of retrofitting new plasma systems with the cost of buying new machines, it was an easy decision to make – the retrofits made perfect commercial sense. The upgrades cost us in the order of £100,000 but the payback period will be between two and three years.”

ESAB planned the retrofit project so that Eddison & Wanless would always have one machine fully operational. From beginning to end, the work took around 1 month. Andy Benson is very pleased with the result, saying: “The cut quality is noticeably better, particularly on holes. And whereas we used to be restricted to cutting holes 1.5 times the material thickness, the improved machines cut holes the same diameter as the thickness, which often eliminates a drilling operation. Furthermore, the machines cut faster without compromising quality. Overall, we have therefore seen a marked improvement in productivity.”

Simplified production planning

Previously the two Suprarex machines were slightly different, but now they both have identical plasma systems. This simplifies production planning and part programming, and will also help maintenance in the long run. Another benefit of the upgrades is that the machines can now cut and mark, with no need to change the torch or nozzle between cutting and marking operations.

ESAB’s m3 Plasma system uses Micro nozzles for cutting thinner plate at high speed and improved cut quality with Precision Hole Technology as well as providing marking capability, all using the same torch and nozzle. The m3 system also supports SmartCycle Technology for increased productivity through full integration of the CNC controller, plasma system and CAD/CAM/nesting software. In addition, the m3 system benefits from Smart Voltage Height Control capability, which automatically adjusts the torch height to maximise consumable life while ensuring consistent cut quality through the life of the consumables.

A vital component of the m3 system is the EPP-362 power supply that provides precise control of the plasma current (up to 360 A) using all-digital control circuitry, and a high-speed data bus connection ensures precise control of the current and gas pressure, as well as enhanced diagnostic capabilities, including advanced status and process monitoring. For maximum reliability, the power supply has an internal coolant circulator to maintain the operating temperature at a constant, controlled level.

To complement the m3 Plasma system, ESAB retrofitted the Suprarex machines with Vision 51 CNC. These Windows-based controllers feature a solid-state hard drives, large colour display, built-in diagnostics and ruggedized componentry. Each controller also has a process database for easy setups, plus a shape library. True multitasking capability means that new programs can be entered while the machine is cutting.

The Vision 51 controller and m3 Plasma system operate together extremely well, but the full benefits of the two are only achieved by implementing the Columbus III CAD/CAM/nesting software as well, so Eddison & Wanless upgraded its software from Columbus II. This Windows 10 package is network-compatible and provides a level of future-proofing to help Eddison & Wanless with any future upgrades to either its IT systems or the Suprarex plasma cutting machines. Columbus III makes programming easier and more efficient, improves material utilisation, streamlines workflow and increases productivity. Intelligent wizards contribute to intuitive operation for both simple and highly complex cuts, as well as marking, labelling and nesting.

Eddison & Wanless has been using ESAB welding and cutting equipment and consumables for 22 years. Andy Benson states: “Over that period we have got to know ESAB’s salesmen, engineers and managers, and the people at ESAB are certainly first rate. The fact that we are still using ESAB products after 22 years speaks for itself, but the quality of the people is just as important as the products and technology. The support we receive from ESAB is second to none, and our relationship is far more of a partnership than simply supplier and customer.”

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