Many factors can impact the overall cost of operating a cutting system: consumables, power, gas, maintenance, etc.
Labor cost is also an important contributor to operating cost in most parts of the world; rising labor rates and the lack of skilled labor continues to drive demand for automated cutting solutions. To further improve operational costs, consider a fully automated solution that can reduce or eliminate:
- the need for programming and setup at the CNC
- secondary operations such as grinding for weld preparation
- the need for more than one machine to perform multiple process operations such as cutting, marking and beveling
Material utilization is another important contributor to operating cost. While in many cases it is possible to recoup some cost by selling unused or scrap material, it is far more beneficial to increase the utilization of that material so that there is less waste in the first place. A variety of factors contribute to material utilization; most notably, the CAD/CAM software that determines the part nest and directs the cutting motion.
When calculating operating cost, it is important to steer away from calculating just the cost per hour and instead focus on the cost per part or the cost per foot. Why? A system that costs ~$17.96 EUR ($20) per hour to operate but only produces two parts per hour is not nearly as efficient as one that costs ~$17.96 EUR ($20) per hour but produces 100 parts.
An even deeper assessment of operating cost requires understanding the total cost to produce a completed part, including downstream processes to prepare the part for welding or painting, or simply finishing the part for aesthetic purposes. When downstream processes – and the machine time and labor costs they require – can be reduced via improvements to the cutting process, total cost per completed part may be reduced.
One area often overlooked in a cutting system is Torch Height Control (THC) performance. A high-performance height control has the ability for automated process setup through the CNC or the Part Program to:
- reduce or elimate common setup errors
- compensate for electrode wear to maximize consumable life
- maintain proper height for optimal cut angularity
- detect torch collisions protecting the torch from damage