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Techserv has delivered four HS 4000 precision plasma cutters, which employ four-axis motion control systems based on Baldor digital servomotors and drives, to the UK’s Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA).

Each advanced fully synchronised four-axis motion control system is designed to provide the precision of movement needed for tight-tolerance, large-scale profile cutting.

The plasma cutters are being used to help fabricate the steel plate bow sections of two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, the first of which is due to enter service with the Royal Navy by 2016, with the second to follow by 2018.

The plasma cutters are installed at the Appledore shipyard of Babcock Marine Division, one of the principal members of the ACA.

The Appledore shipyard in Devon, UK, is involved in building the steel bow sections of the warships, which are then transferred to Babcock’s Rosyth shipyard in Fife for integration and final ship assembly.

The first of some 20 consignments from Appledore, comprising 11 fabricated units weighing between 20 and 36 tonnes each, were shipped by barge to Rosyth in August.

Techserv’s HS 4000 plasma cutters are very high-performance machines that are capable of producing high-quality cut parts from steel-plate sheets up to 5m wide and up to 35mm thick.

They employ precision extruded aluminium for the chassis and main beam to ensure rigidity and low mass and use a machined track – with racks to both rails – which can be mounted on mid-level pedestals or on a customer-supplied beam.

Depending on the thickness of steel plate being processed and the type of plasma unit fitted, HS 4000 machines offer cutting speeds of 50mm to 16,000mm per minute.

HS 4000 plasma cutters are four-axis systems with rack and pinion drives to both the transverse axes and the synchronised longitudinal axis.

The fourth axis controls the height of the cutting torch above the steel plate.

Each of the four axes is powered by a Baldor BSM-series AC brushless servomotor, driven by a Baldor Microflex 500W digital servo drive.

The servo drives are controlled by a four-axis version of Baldor’s Nextmove ESB-2 machine controller.

Mike Cowley, Techserv’s technical director, said: ’We elected to use exclusively Baldor motion control products for the HS 4000 primarily because the combination works so well at providing the extremely high level of positioning accuracy that we require.

’In this particular case, the servomotors are fitted with Biss encoders, which provide completely unambiguous absolute position data whenever they are polled by the controller,’ he added.

According to Cowley, Baldor’s multitasking Mint programming language has been easy to use.

He said: ’This helped speed the development of our motion control programs and the fact that the language uses the same API [application programming interface] naming conventions as ActiveX commands further simplified integration with the front-end control PC.

’We found the HTA [hold-to-analogue] command to be especially useful, because it allows us to handle the plasma height sense function entirely within the Nextmove controller in real time,’ added Cowley.

Overall control of each plasma cutter is handled by an onboard industrial-grade PC.

Designed specifically for shape-cutting machines, this PC features a 15in (38cm) touch-sensitive full-colour human-machine interface and employs graphical shape representation to ensure ease of use.

The software runs under Windows XP and provides the real-time control of all the cutting machine’s advanced motion functions, including contouring, as well as its Kaliburn Proline 2200 plasma unit.

The software also controls the torch height system on the HS 4000, monitoring the arc voltage and automatically adjusting the torch-to-work distance to provide optimum cutting performance and to ensure machine safety.


Baldor Electric Company, a member of the ABB Group, designs, manufactures, and markets the broadest line of industrial energy-efficient electric motors, power transmission products, adjustable speed drives, linear motors, motion control products, gear products, industrial grinders and generators. The Baldor range provides a complete motion solution for machine automation and utilizes our acclaimed MINT motion language.

Range includes:.

* Rotary and linear servo motors.

* Intelligent Servo drives.

* Inverter and vector drives.

* Multi-axis motion controllers: Boxed and board level solutions.

Baldor is the largest motor and mechanical power transmission company in North America and the second largest worldwide.

Baldor-Reliance motor products now range from 15 watts to 11,000 kW and includes:.

* ‘Super-E’ motors that exceed the new IEC 60034-30, IE3 efficiency level.

* NEMA Premium Efficiency rated motors, meeting the new EISA legislation covering motors supplied into the USA.

* Custom motors to meet client specific requirements.

Dodge power transmission products offer a wide variety of engineered mounted bearings including Grip Tight Adapter range and enclosed gear products including the Quantis modular, High Efficiency range. Baldor operates plants in the USA, United Kingdom, China and Canada with products available from our worldwide network

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