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It all started in 1968, when Dick Couch and Bob Dean found a way to create a thinner plasma arc that can cut through metal faster. That was when Hypertherm began, a beginning that also became part of the history of plasma cutting. After more than 50 years, the company still remains an agent of innovation not just in metal fabrication (1).
We’re talking about a company whose product development is driven by its key founding principle: customer-focused innovation. That is why Hypertherm continues to develop its plasma, laser, and waterjet systems, as well as its software, motion controls, and consumables. The goal isn’t necessarily to outperform the competition. Instead, the primary goal is always to improve cut quality, productivity, and cost-efficiency.
Hypertherm has been committed to providing excellent industrial cutting solutions, which has been part of its history for 50 years.
Hypertherm Powermax 45
Hypertherm’s Humble Beginnings
The history of Hypertherm dates way back to 1968 with its humble beginnings when Dick Couch and Bob Dean invented water-injection plasma arc cutting in a garage. This was the inception of the world class manufacturer that would give birth to advanced cutting solutions. This modest invention did not just give birth to Hypertherm. It also became a defining moment in the history of plasma cutting. The founding of Hypertherm meant that Thermal Dynamics, which had been in the industry for 10 years at that time, would then have its competitor.
Anyway, Dick Couch and Bob Dean would receive a patent for the PAC500 Water Injection Plasma Torch. This cleverly designed torch allowed water to be injected into the plasma arc to constrict the column of nitrogen plasma arc. A more focused arc means more focused heat and more precise cuts. The injected water also created a barrier between the plasma arc and the internal surface of the torch nozzle, thereby prolonging the life of the nozzle. This development was revolutionary in the metal cutting industry. However, it took another two years before Hypertherm sold their first automated plasma system. This plasma cutting system included the PAC500 torch and was sold to the Mixing Equipment Company in Rochester, New York.
In 1985, Hypertherm launched a single gas air plasma system called the MAX 40, a 40A plasma system with a 3/8” cut capacity. This is the company’s first handheld plasma cutter. Handheld plasma cutting changed the way we cut metals. This handheld plasma system used nitrogen plasma with oxygen injected into the arc column. By the end of 1985, one thousand units had been sold.
By 1990, Hypertherm had launched the MAX200, which was a 200-amp dual gas plasma cutter. This was equipped with a hand and a machine torch. The company patented the LongLife Oxygen process, which was a mechanism that prolonged the life of the consumables by starting a stream of nitrogen gas when the arc is initiated and then switching to oxygen when the cutting begins.
Throughout the 2000s, various product developments ensured the relevance of the company. The goal seemed to be creating more powerful plasma cutting systems, such as the HT4400, a 400-amp plasma cutter that uses oxygen plasma. However, Hypertherm was making innovations in different technological aspects of plasma cutting. For instance, the ARC WRITER, which allows low amperage metal cutting (4-19 amps) using air or H5 plasma gas, was also released.
Hypertherm remains in competition with other manufacturers, such as Thermal Dynamics, InnerLogic, and Kjellberg. In 2000, for instance, InnerLogic released the FineLine 200 PC, a 200-amp high definition plasma system that featured an automatic process control. Kjellberg also launched HiFocus plasma cutting tech. But Hypertherm was no slouch by introducing its own innovative technology, called the HySpeed, which sped up the cutting speed of their HT plasma cutters by 50%. When Thermal Dynamics released its ULTRA-CUT series in 2005, Hypertherm also released its high definition plasma power supply (HPR260) and its automatic gas console. One of the recent additions to Hypertherm’s products is the XPR300, a 300A system that includes a vented water injection and OptiMix gas consoles. The XPR170, a less powerful version, was released in 2018.
Are Hypertherm Plasma Cutters Reliable?
Despite all the historical exposition, the more important question is whether Hypertherm plasma cutters are good? The first thing you’ll notice with Hypertherm plasma systems is they are smaller than those of the competition, and yet these are some of the most powerful machines. Hence, they really appeal to people who travel or do metal cutting outdoors.
The first product that comes to mind when discussing Hypertherm plasma cutters is the Powermax 45, a user-friendly device that appeals to seasoned technicians and metal fabricators as well. Its Powercool feature automatically detects internal heat and keeps heat from building up. However, the dual-angle design, which extends the life of the nozzle, appeals mainly to professionals. The Powermax 45 XP is often pitted against the Miller Spectrum 625. Both are durable plasma cutters with solid build quality and amazing performances. Both are versatile tools that can slice through thick materials and make clean, precise cuts on thin sheets. Both are practically similar, but the Powermax 45 is just a little less expensive and has cheaper consumables.
Hypertherm was built by people with pure vision. Dick Couch and Bob Dean weren’t having fun. They were serious, and their passion for innovation influenced developments in the plasma cutting industry that would’ve been unattainable otherwise. Today, Hypertherm remains a big name that everyone in the metal fabrication industry knows. Hence, there’s no reason for anyone to doubt the quality and power of Hypertherm plasma cutters.