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Plazma innovation: Foresight at the Forefront

The occasion was the DAE-BRNS Symposium on Applications of Plasma, Lasers and Electronic beams in Advanced Material Processing. Hughen Thomas, founder of Plazma Solutions (what was then known as Plazma Cutting Equipment Pvt. Ltd.) was addressing an august gathering of over 300 premier Indian scientists solely devoted to physics research.

Those were the early days when BARC’s research in plasma physics was dependant on a government grant of Rs 4 crore. Given Hughen’s early path breaking strides into the field, he was specially invited to share his thoughts and experiences in the capacity of a BARC Trust Board member. His perceptive lecture was later reproduced in a BARC book published in 2002.

It’s remarkable to note that Hughen has singularly surpassed whatever he predicted then as the future of Plazma Beam technology. The lecture bears testimony to his inventive mind as also the subsequent body of work that has made PLAZMA a technology and R&D driven engineering company offering the whole range of best of breed products and turnkey solutions.

Here’s an excerpt of his historic symposium address:

At the outset, he articulated the Mantra for the fabrication industry worldwide: “cut it right the first time” on the strength of highly accurate, ultra-fast and cost-effective technologies. The bridging of machining and cutting divide, he observed, represented a huge growth opportunity for technologies with the potential to replace the conventional oxy-fuel plate cutting – namely Plasma, Laser and Water jet.

Turning his focal attention to Plasma technology, he first sketched the size and scope of the global Plasma cutting market, citing the pioneering work between 1957 to 2011 in the form of over 460 patents owned by renowned industry leaders like Hypertherm, Lincoln Electric, Miler Electric, Thermal Dynamics and Union Carbide – Linde division.

Amidst all the global innovative strides that invariably thrived on mega corporate and institutional support, Hughen’s humble Pune-based engineering set up – Plazma Cutting Equipment – secured India’s first ever patent for its Plazma Torch Head in 2001, thanks to its phenomenal shop floor agility and ability to anticipate customer needs and surpass expectations. This fundamental method patent was granted in record 5 months by the US patent office. Subsequently, the company was also granted European and South African patents for its Plazma Torch Head.

The Plazma patent ushered in a vastly improved method of electrode and nozzle centering causing minimal disturbance in Vortex gas flow. No wonder, this simple and cost effective solution was destined to revolutionize the global metal cutting industry in the form of low-cost, high density Plazma beams.

Design and development of a high quality Plasma torch is a herculean task, precisely why there are barely 5 to 7 manufacturers worldwide. A pilot arc is initiated between the torch, electrode and nozzle tip and then transferred to the metal for cutting. The intense heat of the Plasma process builds up excessive heat in the torch and consumables. As this heat exposure stands to damage the torch and consumables, two types of cooling technologies –air cooling and water cooling – are administered to counter the potential damage.

Plazma answered this need through its cutting edge high density beams that blurred the distinction between cutting and machining in a single stroke of innovation. Thanks to Plazma’s high density beams, top-notch Indian companies like Bajaj, Bharat Forge and Fouress could produce direct “welding-ready” components. Just what was so distinctive about these ‘miracle’ Plazma beams that in conjunction with precision automation made manufacturing cost-effective and super-efficient in the same breath?

Let’s take a closer look at its unique characteristics:

Dual mode High current density Generates density of around 35,000 to 55,000 amps/per sq. inch optimised for low and high density operation

Coherent flow technology to counter hypersonic velocity turbulence  With higher current density comes exponentially higher velocity that could break down the Plazma beam flow. The Plazma torch is equipped with a coherent flow technology that works with hypersonic velocity to form an extremely small kerf causing With higher current density comes exponentially higher velocity that could break down the Plazma beam flow. The Plazma torch is equipped with a coherent flow technology that works with hypersonic velocity to form an extremely small kerf causing minimal wastage.

High arc impedance Plazma torch operates at 180V to 220V as against the normal arc voltages of 120V to 150V. Plazma’s fine focus high arc impedance beams generate phenomenally high cutting power. For instance, the Plazma torch cuts a 12 mm plate at 2.7 meters per minute with just 180 amps.

Wear & tear resistance These beams are created with precision manufacturing for close tolerances of all torch components that are normally prone to wear and tear resulting from high current densities and inherently unstable beam flows. The Plazma torch comes with a unique thin film liquid cooling which provides for rapid thermal transfer keeping torch components sufficiently cool.

Cost effective and super productive performance Plazma robotic systems provide three dimensional cutting capabilities besides a singles et-up trimming, contour beveling and cutting of plate, formed components and welded assemblies. This cost effective innovation enables batch manufacturing to supersede mass manufacturing, thereby helping small sized companies to compete with mega corporations through JIT batch deliveries.

Plazma Robotic Cutting System