Plasma Cutting Improves Productivity by 25 Percent for HVAC Contractor
January 1, 2007
Central Temperature Equipment Service says its shop and field welders increased productivity when they switched from power saws and electric cutters to a Spectrum® Thunder plasma cutter with built-in air compressor from Miller Electric Mfg. Co.
Plasma Cutting Improves Productivity by 25 Percent
Increasing production, meeting deadlines, working within budget. All are important to any contractor's reputation – especially in the competitive HVAC business. And choosing the right equipment for the job goes a long way toward meeting those objectives.
Ask Jerry VanGrinsven, estimator and installation manager for Central Temperature Equipment Service Inc. of Neenah, Wis. "We're a small company working with customers in a 50-mile radius – so if our work is shoddy or if we're late on projects, we won't get repeat business," he says.
VanGrinsven says his shop and field welders increased productivity when they switched from power saws and electric cutters to a Spectrum® Thunder plasma cutter with built-in air compressor from Miller Electric Mfg. Co.
"We've increased production and labor 25 percent using the Spectrum Thunder plasma cutter. That's a substantial amount," VanGrinsven says. "Because our workers are more productive, we're adding job sites instead of overhead."
In addition, the Spectrum Thunder's built-in air compressor provides the portability for welders to operate just as efficiently when in the field.
Cut Anywhere Capabilities
Portability is important to Central Temperature because 50 percent of its business is service and repair as well as demolition on existing duct work. At 43-lb., the Spectrum Thunder with built-in air compressor allows welders to take it anywhere.
John LeBlanc, a welder at Central Temperature for 11 years, uses the Miller plasma cutter both in the shop and in the field. "The Spectrum Thunder goes anywhere. I can take it to the work when we can't bring the work to the shop," he says. "All we need is 115-volt power, and we're ready to tackle the job. When we go onsite, we don't worry about finding air or carrying a separate air compressor.
"We get jobs done faster with the Spectrum than with the other tools we were using to cut metal," LeBlanc continues. "Holding the gun doesn't even compare to holding a power tool. I just blast right through the metal and don't get as tired because I don't exert myself as much when cutting with a plasma torch as with electric shears."
The Spectrum's ICE-12C torch with patented trigger-safety guard is ergonomically built and includes a unique drag shield that lets the torch drag while cutting at full output. The patented Constant Pilot Arc Control helps the operator minimize tip burnout by eliminating the need to restart the arc at the beginning of each new cut.
In addition, the ICE torch comes with a 20-ft. cord, extra consumables, 15-ft. work cable with clamp and 10-ft. power cord.
"When I'm up a 12-ft. ladder, the 20-ft. cord makes it easy to work around the ducts without having to worry about an extension cord," LeBlanc says.
Clean Cuts in Less Time
Central Temperature designs, installs and maintains HVAC systems and offers maintenance and service contracts, refrigerant recovery, air balancing and sheet metal fabrication. The company employs between 32 and 40 workers, of which eight are welders who do fabrication, metal forming and cutting for duct openings, air flow tubings and saddling.
"We primarily work with 20-gauge stainless steel to 16-gauge mild steel, cutting sheet stock to length for air ducts and tubing. Our average cuts are about 16 in. long," VanGrinsven says. "Before obtaining the Spectrum Thunder, we cut metal with power saws, electric cutters and oxyfuel torches. They were noisy and messy and didn't provide good speed for our purposes. The Spectrum Thunder gives us a clean, quality cut of metal with no distortion. That's really important when fitting pipes together."
The Spectrum Thunder provides 12 amps at 110VDC of constant cutting output power, quality cuts 3/16 in. metal and is available in 115 and 230 volt models.
Plasma cutting advantages
Central Temperature's use of a plasma cutter is representative of the advancements that make plasma cutting a cost-effective way to cut metal. Plasma cutters have evolved greatly since World War II when the process was used on aircraft materials. Once expensive and restricted to use in factories and mills, the cutting machines have undergone wide-ranging technical improvements to make them lightweight, portable and cost effective for HVAC, sheet metal applications, auto body repair and home hobbyists.
Plasma cutters can be used on any type of electricity-conducting metal, including aluminum and stainless steel. It works by sending an electric arc through a gas, typically air, ionizing the gas and forcing it through a constricted opening. The high-velocity gas flow blows away the metal to produce a clean cut.
Plasma cutting provides numerous advantages over other cutting methods including the ability to cut any electrically conductive metals from thin-gauge aluminum to stainless and carbon steel. On the other hand, oxyfuel torches cannot cut stainless steel or aluminum. Plasma also cuts faster than oxyfuel, does not require a preheat cycle, the kerf width (the width of the cut) produces a smaller and more precise cut and a smaller heat-affected zone prevents warped or damaged paint on the surrounding area. In addition, it is cleaner, less expensive, safer and more convenient because it uses compressed air instead of combustible gases.
Commitment to Quality
Central Temperature has been in business for over 30 years and relies on word-of-mouth for its marketing. "We pride ourselves on quality work and service " from cutting ducts with a plasma cutter to designing and engineering entire ventilation systems. Our team is trained not only in-house but by our suppliers so that when we do a job, it's done the right way," VanGrinsven says.
"The company's goal is to make the customers' HVAC systems function efficiently and properly. We undertake the latest technology - like Spectrum plasma cutters - to bring the very best to our customers."