Hypertherm

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Hypertherm Inc.
Type Private
Industry Manufacturer of plasma, laser, and waterjet cutting systems
Headquarters Hanover, NH, United States
Area served Worldwide
Products Powermax Air Plasma
HyPerformance Plasma HPRXD
HyIntensity Fiber Laser
HyPrecision Waterjet
Nesting and Process Optimization Software
Revenue Undisclosed
Employees Approx. 1,400
Website Hypertherm.com

Hypertherm is a American corporation which designs and manufactures cutting systems for use in a variety of industries such as shipbuilding, manufacturing, and automotive repair. It makes handheld and mechanized plasma cutters, fiber laser, and waterjet cutting systems, along with consumables, CNC (Computer Numerical Control) motion and height controls, and nesting and process optimization software. The company employs around 1,400 people: approximately 1,100 people at its main headquarters in New Hampshire, and another 300 at its regional offices in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

History of Hypertherm and plasma cutting[edit]

A Hypertherm HyPerformance plasma torch at work.

Plasma cutting was accidentally discovered in the 1950s by scientists working for the U.S. defense industry. The scientists learned that increasing the gas flow and reducing the opening in the gas nozzle used in TIG welding would result in the formation of a plasma jet. However the technique wasn’t widely used because a phenomenon called double arcing (in which one arc forms between the plasma electrode and nozzle and a second arc forms between the electrode and nozzle), damaging both the electrode and cutting nozzle. Eight years later, in an attempt to control double arcing, a dual flow technique was introduced. The technique involved adding a second gas shield around the plasma nozzle. Although lessened, double arcing was still a problem. It wasn't until 1968, when Dick Couch, who went on to found Hypertherm, invented Water Injection Cutting, a process that involved radially injecting water into the nozzle. The end result was a faster and better cut, as well as less dross and the virtual elimination of double arcing. It is this invention, that made plasma cutting a viable option for companies needing to cut metal. The initial discovery of Water Injection Cutting was followed four years later by Hypertherm's introduction of a water muffler and water table that lessened the noise, smoke, and light that traditionally occurred during the cutting process.

First commercial plasma[edit]

Hypertherm’s very first plasma cutter, the PAC400, used techniques patented by the company. It brought an alternative way to cut through metal. The PAC400 was followed by a number of other inventions including the invention in 1990 of a plasma system that could successfully cut up to 4 ½ inches of metal under 15 feet of water. This breakthrough was embraced by the atomic power industry as it helped in the dismantling of old power plants.[citation needed]

Metal cutting innovations: 1989-Present[edit]

Since those early years, Hypertherm has introduced several patented technologies to make the cutting of metal faster, easier, and better. Technology unveiled since 1989 alone includes the introduction of Hypertherm’s floating shield technology in which a thin, electrically insulated copper shield makes it possible to drag cut. The end result for customers is better work piece piercing with less wear on the nozzle.

A mechanized plasma cut from 1980 (left) looks nothing like the highly precise cut quality today's plasma systems can deliver (right).

In 1990, Hypertherm came out with its HyDefinition technology . A major advancement in mechanized plasma cut quality, HyDefinition cutting resulted in a squared-off cut edge, reduced angle variation and reduced kerf width for a new level of cut quality. In 1999, Hypertherm’s coaxial-assist jet technology hit the market. The technology worked to direct shield gas flow parallel to the plasma arc using a common axis. This made it possible for people to cut faster on thicker plate. Cut speed improvements of up to 50 percent, improved thick plate piercing capabilities, and dross-free performance also resulted. One year later, Hypertherm introduced its CoolCore technology in which a ring-shaped, rather than solid, piece of hafnium is inserted into the electrode. This ring-shape provided additional cooling in the center of the electrode quadrupling its life in high-current applications.

The 2003 introduction of HyPerformance plasma took HyDefinition cutting to the next level by delivering HyDefinition cut quality at faster speeds using half the power. Cut edge angularity using HyPerformance plasma is so good, it is often considered a worthy alternative to laser in many cutting applications.

The 2006 unveiling of the powerful Powermax30 was notable for its small size, light weight, and ability to plug in to regular 120 volt household power, making it a good option for do it yourselfers and home hobbyists. The 20-pound system came with a recommended 1/4" cut and 1/2" severance capacity and a redesigned torch with a tapered front that made it easier for operators to see and move the torch in hard to reach areas. 2008 brought two new major introductions: the unveiling of Hypertherm’s Powermax45, a more powerful yet still lightweight system suited for both handheld and mechanized applications, and the HyPerformance HPR400XD.

During the summer of 2010, the company introduced a new set of systems (the Powermax65 and Powermax85) with an all new torch design. The torches, marketed under the Duramax name, were designed to be more durable and rugged. Another benefit of the Duramax torch line was the introduction of the first 15 degree (nearly straight) hand torch. Up until that time, all plasma torches had a curve of about 90 degrees.

In November of 2010, Hypertherm introduced its first non-plasma cutting system, a 1.5 kilowatt fiber laser system called the HyIntensity HFL015. The company said the system was the first fiber laser specifically optimized for metal cutting.

Acquisitions[edit]

  • AccuStream Waterjet Systems (New Brighton, Minnesota; 2013)
  • MTC CAD/CAM Software (Lockport, New York; 2009)
  • ESSE A (Sasso Marconi, Italy; 2008)
  • Centricut consumables and motion controllers (Lebanon, New Hampshire; 1999)

Patent protection[edit]

Hypertherm holds more than 115 patents which it actively protects. In 2005, Hypertherm filed suit against the American Torch Tip Corporation for infringing four patented technologies proven to deliver faster cut speeds, longer consumable life, improved cut quality, better torch cooling, and dross-free performance. In March 2009, the company announced a favorable settlement in that suit which included a cash payment from ATTC to Hypertherm, and an agreement that ATTC would stop producing the parts at issue in the lawsuit. ATTC also said it would destroy key parts in its inventory for Hypertherm’s HyPerformance HPR systems. In a press release, Hypertherm's general manager was quoted as saying:

“Hypertherm devotes an enormous amount of resources to the development of technologically advanced plasma cutting systems and consumables. We believe that our innovations deliver unique advantages and superior productivity and profitability for Hypertherm’s customers. As such, we are very protective of our inventions and will use whatever legal means necessary to ensure that our patents are not violated.”[citation needed]

Corporate Structure[edit]

In January 2014, Hypertherm announced the transfer of all common stock into an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), making the company 100 percent employee owned under an S-Corporation structure.

Previously, Hypertherm’s ESOP, known internally as the Hypertherm Stock Ownership Plan or HSOP, held approximately one-third of the company’s stock. Controlling shareholders Dick and Barbara Couch created the plan in 2001, followed by a Global Stock Value Program (GSVP) for international associates in 2004.

Awards and accolades[edit]

Hypertherm is routinely named a "Best Company to Work For" on both the state and national level. In addition, the company has received several more awards honoring its work in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

  • 100 Best Companies to Work For in America, Fortune Magazine; 2002
  • America’s Top 25 Most Successful Small Manufacturers, Industry Week
  • Corporation for National and Community Service Corporate Spirit of Service Award; 2006
  • New Hampshire High Technology Product of the Year Judge’s Award Winner; 2007
  • 50 Best Small and Medium Companies to Work For, Great Place to Work Foundation; 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008
  • Best Company to Work For in New Hampshire, Business New Hampshire Magazine; numerous years
  • Top 100 Private Companies; 2007 and 2008
  • NAM Trowbridge Award for Excellence in Community Service, 2008
  • Dave Thomas Foundation’s Adoption Friendly Workplace, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
  • NHBSR Cornerstone Award for Leadership in Corporate Social Responsibility; 2009
  • Named #1 Cutting Brand by Steel Service Center Executives, Metal Center News; 2011
  • Business of the Year, Manufacturing and Technology Category, Business New Hampshire Magazine; 2011

Sources[edit]

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