Farm aid

Whether farming or fabricating, plasma cutting fills farmers’ diverse needs


The end of the yearly harvest is nearly here, and Charles Hammer and Nancy Kavazanjian, owners of Hammer & Kavazanjian Farms in Beaver Dam, Wis., are preparing to take on the toughest job of the growing season – reaping the harvest. With a limited amount of time to collect all the corn, soybeans and wheat that has grown since the spring planting, the couple brings in seasonal workers and relies on industry equipment, including their five tractors, combine harvester and strip-tillage system to plow the 2,000-acre farm after everything’s been harvested.

Most of today’s crop-specific equipment is designed for performance, such as the combine’s header that can be raised or lowered so stalks and stems are snipped at the ideal height. However, that doesn’t eliminate the strain that farmers and their equipment experience. Equipment malfunctions are bound to happen.

Because farmers perform a lot of their own maintenance on-site, a portable plasma system can be an incredibly helpful tool.

Winter warriors

The team at Hammer & Kavazanjian Farms does its best to repair all of the equipment on-site, but certain endeavors are held up until winter when conditions call for bringing the farm work inside. The cold months are the perfect time to prepare for the next planting season and spend time working on equipment repairs.

At the farm, the team uses a Hypertherm Powermax1000 that was purchased eight years ago. Hammer chose the device because he felt plasma cutting equipment was “faster and more efficient than oxyacetylene.”

The team uses the Powermax1000 every day when the farm’s shop is busiest – in the winter. In addition to general maintenance, Hammer likes to use the Powermax system to custom build farm equipment and to modify industrial farm technology as well as for routine repairs. He’s retrofitted sprayers, booms and a corn planter and has built subassemblies for the grain elevator. He’s even fabricated strip-tillage attachments using the equipment.

This past autumn, however, Hammer decided to reinvigorate his eight-year-old system by changing the original torch. Though the torch was still performing efficiently, upgrading to Hypertherm’s newer Duramax torch style allowed him to increase cutting performance comparable to that of a newer Powermax65.

Farmer’s preference

With the Duramax torch comes improved consumable life leading to cash savings. The new torch also gives Hammer access to Hypertherm’s lineup of specialty consumables for applications like extended reach and flush cutting.

Duramax torches maximize the flexibility of portable plasma systems because they can perform a variety of applications, including gouging, fine feature cutting, extended reach cutting and flush cutting.

“It’s a great torch,” he says. “It has been very helpful with metal repairs, retrofits, builds and rebuilds. The Duramax is so efficient; it’s like a short cut to getting work done.”

Hammer isn’t the only one using plasma on the farm. Because it’s exceptionally versatile and can cut almost all metals, it’s a go-to tool for many of the staff at the farm.

It’s particularly well suited for painted, rusted and dirty metals, which are fairly common at Hammer & Kavazanjian Farms and essentially every other farm on the planet. When equipment, fencing, gates, silos and other outbuildings are exposed to the elements, rust and dirt are inevitable.

In regard to the silos at Hammer & Kavazanjian Farms, the Duramax torch is even capable of cutting through glass-lined silo panels. Plasma, in general, cuts cleanly and efficiently through metal and glass as opposed to an oxyfuel flame, which makes a mess of both.

The Powermax45 XP works with a handheld or a machine torch and has gouging and cutting capabilities. When it comes to rivet heads or old welds, farmers say they prefer plasma gouging over oxyfuel or carbon arc gouging because it is a safer, cleaner and faster process because plasma conjures up less debris.

The portability of modern systems is another factor that makes farmers so amenable to using plasma. Hypertherm produces plasma systems that weigh as little as 20 lbs., which makes them easy to carry wherever a farmer needs to go – and that’s especially important for Hammer on his 2,000-acre land. The creation of single-handle designs and shoulder straps has also helped improve portability.

Hypertherm’s Powermax systems are lightweight and durable, making them an invaluable tool on any farm.

When it comes to the plasma system’s power supply, there are more choices than ever before. Generator power, regular 110-V household power and stronger industrial power options are all available, making routine maintenance on the perimeter of a large property like Hammer & Kavazanjian Farms smooth and easy.

Farm to art

While Hammer uses his plasma system for a variety of repair and fabrication tasks, some farmers use plasma as a supplementary revenue stream in addition to serving their agricultural needs. As one example, January Spencer of Thor’s Forge Farms in Orofino, Idaho, monetizes her Hypertherm plasma systems by making ornate artwork and signage. With two original Powermax45 systems, two Powermax45 XPs and a Powermax1000, Spencer powers multiple CNC tables to process sheets of mild steel from 18-gauge to 1/8 in. thick.

When she’s not designing a new piece, Spencer and her partner Thor work a 25-acre farm. Unlike Hammer & Kavazanjian Farms that grows a variety of crops, Thor’s Forge Farms raises livestock – from sheep to turkeys to pigs – for commercial distribution. But, just like Hammer, Spencer uses her Powermax systems to mend and refurbish farm equipment, trucks and tractors.

While some farmers raise livestock and others grow grain, the need for efficiency and productivity is universal. The current crop of versatile, portable and powerful plasma systems allows farmers to get more gouging and cutting work completed quicker and cheaper than previous generations. It’s no wonder that plasma is quickly becoming a farmer’s productivity tool of choice.

Hypertherm Inc.

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