Plasma Technology

In-house advantage

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Valco installed the Ajan line in house to avoid being at the mercy of another shop's production schedule.

Switching cutting methods opens up new realms of possibility

September 2017 - Leo Valerio finds himself combing through the rows of vendors at trade shows year after year to keep on top of plasma cutting and other metal fabricating technology to maintain Huntington Park, California-based Valco Precision Works’ edge in the marketplace. “Our customers have a wide range of needs, including quick turnarounds on prototypes or varying order sizes,” Valerio says. “We cut to size and keep plate in stock so we can do that cutting ourselves instead of shopping it out and losing days.”

From among all the vendors and machinery he researched, Valerio decided on an Ajan Plasmasonic 2500x6000 plasma cutter. In addition to plasma-cutting capabilities, Valerio liked that the Ajan allowed Valco to cut with oxy-fuel as well. “We have a 5-in.-thick blade with oxy-fuel and switching out takes only two minutes,” he says.

Valco cuts windows into round tube as well as hot-rolled steel plate, serving the aerospace industry as well as job shops in material as thick as 5 in. For example, “We do a lot of cutting of 12-in.-diameter square tube,” Valerio says.

FFJ 0917 plasma image2

Saguaro’s Dave Terrell says the plasma-cut material exceeds his accuracy expectations and readily handles intricate designs.

Valco also welds together different sized boxes and structures using its plasma. This model also allows Valco to use the side 4th axis zone to cut pockets in round and square tubing. Since acquiring the Plasmasonic, Valerio says customers come to his shop with structural parts to cut as well as intricate designs on plate.

In business since 1984, Valco operates its shop one eight-hour shift a day, five days per week.

Valco fabricates all sizes and types of weldments. “By having the Ajan plasma, we are able to cut what we need when we need it,” Valerio says. “We no longer lose time waiting for material delivery.”

One-stop shop

Producing plasma machines since 1973, Ajan builds every component of its machinery from the plasma sources, tables and drives, to the fume extraction systems. Building everything in house provides the company with three distinct advantages. “One, it gives us much better control over the entire system, allowing us to maximize cut rates, cut quality, and consumable lifespans,” says Angus ajanCatterson, president of Kaast Machine Tools Inc., importer of Ajan USA equipment. “Secondly, it gives us significant cost savings versus our competitors. Finally, if a machine needs service, our technicians are able to troubleshoot every single part of the machine. We never have to refer a customer to the plasma source or controls vendors, or to the software supplier,” he explains.

“There is never any finger pointing. We built it, so we can fix it.”

One of Valco’s customers recently tasked Valco to cut detailed designs from plate to use on machinery control boxes. “We cut it up and gave it to them and they were surprised by how quickly we were able to turn it around,” he recalls. “They later put in a larger order and we cut out the design for all their control boxes.”

Ajan and Valco stay in contact, with Ajan offering refreshers or timely recalibrations of the Plasmasonic when needed. “If an Ajan technician is in the area, they make it a point to stop by to see how things are running with our machine here,” Valerio says. “The tech will dedicate a day to us and during that time, our operators can bring up any questions where they are walked through it.”

Valerio still performs due diligence. “I continue to visit trade shows,” Valerio says. “Every year I check out what Ajan has going on as well as their competitors—and I continue with them because the machine itself and the people are fantastic. “

FFJ 0917 plasma image3

Saguaro Steel is supplying this four-story building project with bars processed on its Ajan plasma cutter.

FFJ 0917 plasma image1

Ironworker ire

For 31 years, Saguaro Steel Industries LLC in Phoenix used a hydraulic shear/punch to cut flat bar and manually lay out to punch holes. “We used an ironworker,” recalls Dave Terrell, general manager/principal. “Instead of cutting from plate, we would have our detailers change the plate into flat bar sizes: 2 in. wide to 12 in. wide.” When fabricating large structural steel jobs, Saguaro would often have beams cut and waiting for plates to begin fabrication.

After three years of research, leadership at Saguaro Steel decided it was time to change the way it processed plate. “We began searching for a plasma table and Ajan came highly recommended,” Terrell says.

Bringing plate cutting work in house has proven to cut costs and save time. “I found that when I tallied up how much I spent in handling flat bar stock and the cost of outsourcing all of our larger plates, it was time to expand our facility and make room for the plasma table,” Terrell says.

In October 2016, Terrell ordered the Ajan 3000x6000 10 ft. by 20 ft. plasma table to serve its customers in the construction industry. Projects include industrial building construction, multi-story office buildings and residential contracts like custom homes and multi-unit apartments.

“We recently had a job with eight weeks to fabricate the steel before erection was scheduled to start,” Terrell says. “One morning the contractor came to us and said it needed to happen in four weeks—and we did it, but there was no way that would have been possible without the plasma table. For the first time in 31 years, we had plates waiting on beams.”

Saguaro has used the plasma to split I-beams, work that otherwise had to be outsourced. “Our accuracy has improved as well,” he adds. “We are able to cut out graphic designs and the quality is even better than I expected.”

Using the optional 5-axis head, Saguaro is able to cut bevels on radius. “We’re able to make parts for the mining industry that were beyond our capabilities before,” Terrell says. “If we need to cut 4-in.-thick plate using the optional oxy-acetylene attachment, it’s a quick change-out.”

Since switching to a plasma cutter, Saguaro’s rate of plate processing jumped by 75 percent, says Terrell. “We probably get through about 500 tons of steel plate per year,” he adds. “The nice thing is that now all of that is controlled in house. We can control each step of the process.” FFJ



Company Profiles





Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters



Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC. Messer Cutting Systems Inc.



Mazak Optonics Corp.


Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. MC Machinery Systems Inc. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC Murata Machinery, USA, Inc.




TRUMPF Inc. Davi Inc. SigmaTEK Systems LLC
Steelmax Tools LLC


Trilogy Machinery Inc. Striker Systems


MTS Sensors



Bradbury Group


Mate Precision Tooling AIDA-America Corp.
Burghardt + Schmidt Group EMH Crane Rolleri USA Nidec Press & Automation
Butech Bliss Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc.



Red Bud Industries UFP Industrial AMADA AMERICA, INC. Alliance Steel


Automec Inc.



Advanced Gauging Technologies MC Machinery Systems Inc. BLM Group
Mayfran International


SafanDarley HGG Profiling Equipment Inc.


Cincinnati Inc.


Prudential Stainless & Alloys
ATI Industrial Automation LVD Strippit Hougen Manufacturing


Lissmac Corp. Scotchman Industries Inc.


Barton International
Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. Behringer Saws Inc. Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
SuperMax Tools


Cosen Saws Omax Corp.
Timesavers FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. DoALL Sawing



MetalForming Inc. HE&M Saw American Weldquip
Beckwood Press Co.


Savage Saws Strong Hand Tools
Triform Titan Tool Supply Inc.


T. J. Snow Company

TPMG2022 Brands