Aaron Zou, regional director for Asia at Hypertherm, discusses the trends shaping the metal cutting industry, the common industrial cutting challenges, and key considerations in choosing your metal cutting systems.
Founded in 1968 and headquartered in New Hampshire, United States, Hypertherm designs and manufactures industrial cutting products for use in a variety of industries such as shipbuilding, manufacturing, and automotive repair. Its product line includes cutting systems, in addition to CNC motion and height controls, CAM nesting software, robotic software and consumables.
In an interview, Aaron Zou, regional director for Asia at Hypertherm, discusses the trends shaping the metal cutting industry and the common industrial cutting challenges. He also talked about the latest plasma technologies to address those issues as well as the key considerations in choosing metal cutting systems.
WHAT ARE THE TOP TRENDS CURRENTLY SHAPING INDUSTRIAL CUTTING PRACTICES IN THE METALWORKING INDUSTRY?
Aaron Zou (AZ): The current landscape brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transformation of traditional manufacturing practices—forcing manufacturers to leverage on innovations, integrate new technologies to current processes, and to develop new solutions or services to address evolving market needs. This change will continue to be driven by automation and digitalization, where technologies related to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will enable companies to build up smarter production facilities and allow the industry to establish a smart machinery eco-system. By adopting such technologies, businesses can better utilize the ‘down time’ during this pandemic to improve production efficiencies and to implement automated processes, so as to be prepared as normalcy returns and pent-up demand starts picking up.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON INDUSTRIAL CUTTING CHALLENGES?
AZ: Most manufacturers in the metalworking industry are familiar with increasing customer demands for improvements to their parts design, in a bid to achieve higher quality standards. In fact, many have had to deploy a secondary operation, like drilling or grinding, to correct unsatisfactory hole quality after using a plasma system on a CNC machine.
Another challenge that manufacturers typically experience is related to bevel profiling—an increasingly difficult job due to advanced automation in welding processes. A common approach is for manufacturers to have their parts cut by plasma systems and later achieve the bevelled edges using secondary processes like grinding, mechanical bevel, or oxyfuel. In some cases, manufacturers were able to achieve bevelling using just their plasma CNC machines. However, this usually involves some constraints such as machine bevel set-up (which can take up to 3 hours) and bevel profile outcomes that do not meet the required design tolerance.
Furthermore, manufacturers have to deal with rising expectations and demand for better customer experience. Product quality is increasingly becoming a given, or a ‘standard’ feature, and customers’ expectations are shifting—valuing the experience delivered over the entire duration of their project life cycle more than they had previously. Businesses will need to redirect their focus from merely selling products and services to creating an exceptional overall customer experience.
HOW DO THE LATEST TECHNOLOGIES DEVELOPED BY HYPERTHERM HELP BUSINESSES OVERCOME THE SAID CHALLENGES?
AZ: Through the expertise of our team and the feedback collected from our users, we were able to develop a range of specific applications to enhance plasma machine usage with Hypertherm’s automated solutions. SureCut technologies like True Hole and True Bevel were developed to remove the need for secondary operations like grinding to produce high quality parts, and to improve production efficiency by reducing set-up time or the need for trial-and-error.
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