By: Lester Lee, Re­gional Mar­ket­ing Man­ager, Hyper­therm Asia Pa­cific, Mary Allen, IP Pro­tec­tion Man­ager, Hyper­therm Inc., San­jay Ku­mar, Con­sum­ables Sales Man­ager, Hyper­therm In­dia.

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - NEWS - www.hyper­

Ask any orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer (OEM) to share their crit­i­cal busi­ness chal­lenges, and they are likely to raise com­mon is­sues such as qual­ity con­trol, ef­fi­ciency lev­els, bud­get­ing, and in­ven­tory man­age­ment. How­ever, with the ad­vent of tech­nol­ogy and glob­al­i­sa­tion, mod­ern OEMs are now faced with yet an­other area of con­cern – the pro­lif­er­a­tion of coun­ter­feit prod­ucts.

Coun­ter­feit­ing has evolved over the years, from be­ing largely lo­calised op­er­a­tions into highly prof­itable global busi­nesses with mass pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties, in­ter­na­tional sales, and com­plex global dis­tri­bu­tion net­works. Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Cham­ber of Com­merce (ICC), the value of global coun­ter­feit goods is ex­pected to ex­ceed USD 1.7 tril­lion by 2015.

In the past, coun­ter­feit­ing used to be more preva­lent in con­sumer goods, but coun­ter­feit­ers have started to tar­get highly so­phis­ti­cated and en­gi­neered prod­ucts in re­cent years, and B2B com­pa­nies are sim­i­larly at risk to prod­uct piracy. One such ex­am­ple is in the con­sum­ables of plasma cut­ting sys­tems, such as noz­zles, elec­trodes, and swirl rings.

Coun­ter­feit­ing in Plasma Cut­ting Con­sum­ables

Plasma cut­ting makes use of an elec­tri­cally con­duc­tive gas, such as ni­tro­gen and oxy­gen, to cut through con­duc­tive ma­te­ri­als. A typ­i­cal plasma cut­ting sys­tem con­sists of the power sup­ply, an arc start­ing cir­cuit, and a torch. The torch serves as the holder for the con­sum­able noz­zle and elec­trode, and pro­vides cool­ing (ei­ther gas or liq­uid coolant) to the con­sum­ables, while the noz­zle and elec­trode con­strict and main­tain the plasma arc.

To­day’s high pre­ci­sion plasma cut­ting sys­tems are ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing cut parts of higher qual­ity at faster speeds, with lit­tle or no post-pro­duc­tion pro­cesses. Yet, a plasma sys­tem is only as good as the con­sum­able parts in the torch. Even with the lat­est ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy and torch de­sign, a high per­for­mance plasma sys­tem can be­come medi­ocre when in­fe­rior con­sum­ables are used.

So what con­sti­tutes a coun­ter­feit? Coun­ter­feits are prod­ucts made in ex­act im­i­ta­tion of some­thing valu­able or im­por­tant, with the in­ten­tion to de­ceive or de­fraud a cus­tomer into think­ing that the prod­uct is an orig­i­nal. There are var­i­ous rea­sons as to why an end user would un­know­ingly pur­chase coun­ter­feit con­sum­ables. More of­ten than not, the rel­a­tively lower price is what at­tracts them, as coun­ter­feit con­sum­ables are known to sell for min­i­mally 30 per­cent lesser than the orig­i­nal. As coun­ter­feits are usu­ally close copies of the gen­uine prod­uct in ap­pear­ance, at times, end users may ac­tu­ally be un­aware of their coun­ter­feit pur­chase, and are mis­led to think that they are get­ting a good bar­gain in­stead.

Why Go Orig­i­nal?

Un­like the OEMs, most cus­tomers are prob­a­bly un­aware of the dan­gers and con­se­quences of us­ing coun­ter­feit con­sum­ables. It may also be a chal­lenge for them to iden­tify the coun­ter­feits. Poor equip­ment per­for­mance that is di­rectly due to the coun­ter­feit con­sum­able is mis­tak­enly at­trib­uted to the prod­uct’s brand in­stead. In turn, this creates the false im­pres­sion that the orig­i­nal equip­ment is un­re­li­able, which neg­a­tively im­pacts the com­pany’s brand­ing, cred­i­bil­ity, and rep­u­ta­tion.

Here, we high­light five rea­sons why the use of coun­ter­feit con­sum­ables can be more coun­ter­pro­duc­tive than ben­e­fi­cial.

#1 Qual­ity

Non-gen­uine con­sum­ables are man­u­fac­tured only with quick profit in mind. Of­ten times, they are man­u­fac­tured with tech­niques that fo­cus pri­mar­ily on rapid mass pro­duc­tion in­stead of qual­ity. Coun­ter­feit sup­pli­ers lack the strin­gent man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses found in orig­i­nal prod­ucts, and they sim­ply repli­cate the parts used in the most pop­u­lar man­u­fac­tur­ing equip­ment with no proper qual­ity con­trol and checks. They also tend to use the low­est cost ma­te­ri­als that are more prone to wear and tear. As a re­sult, the copies may look the same but they lack the qual­ity and dura­bil­ity that orig­i­nal con­sum­ables of­fer, of­ten re­sult­ing in poor cut­ting ca­pa­bil­i­ties. In most cases, the per­for­mance of the coun­ter­feit con­sum­able is in­con­sis­tent and un­re­li­able, which sig­nif­i­cantly in­creases down­time.

#2 Per­for­mance

Plasma torches are pre­ci­sion devices and the cor­re­spond­ing con­sum­ables are man­u­fac­tured to ex­tremely tight tol­er­ances with crit­i­cal di­men­sions. Any de­vi­a­tions from the orig­i­nal mea­sure­ments will have an im­pact on the over­all cut­ting per­for­mance of the plasma sys­tem. While th­ese coun­ter­feit con­sum­ables still al­low end users to cut metal, there are clear dif­fer­ences or in­con­sis­ten­cies in cut part qual­ity, cut­ting speed, and con­sum­able life when com­pared to the orig­i­nals. In­cor­rect man­u­fac­tur­ing of the con­sum­ables may cause in­ter­nal torch dam­age or fail­ure.

In ad­di­tion, OEMs of­ten utilise patented or pro­pri­etary tech­nolo­gies in the de­sign of their con­sum­ables. For in­stance,

Hyper­therm’s Cop­perPlus elec­trode that dou­bles the con­sum­able life of stan­dard elec­trodes, and CoolFlow noz­zle tech­nol­ogy that im­proves cool­ing to help main­tain the size and shape of the noz­zle ori­fice for longer life. Coun­ter­feit con­sum­ables lack the en­hanced per­for­mance and fea­tures as­so­ci­ated with th­ese pro­pri­etary tech­nolo­gies, which means that cus­tomers end up not en­joy­ing the ben­e­fits con­ferred by th­ese tech­nolo­gies, and not re­al­is­ing the full po­ten­tial of the plasma sys­tem. Hence, the use of coun­ter­feit con­sum­ables sig­nif­i­cantly im­pacts the over­all cut­ting per­for­mance of the sys­tem.

#3 Safety

Dur­ing cut­ting, a large amount of en­ergy is re­quired to gen­er­ate the plasma arc, and tem­per­a­tures can go up to 25,000 de­grees Cel­sius. To re­duce costs, coun­ter­feit­ers man­u­fac­ture their con­sum­ables with low qual­ity me­tals. Un­like the orig­i­nals, the coun­ter­feits may not be able to with­stand the high tem­per­a­tures emit­ted dur­ing plasma cut­ting, and the torch could pos­si­bly over­heat as a re­sult. Apart from the choice of ma­te­ri­als, con­sum­ables that are out of tol­er­ances may also be prone to over­heat­ing. Con­se­quently, this might cause the torch or plasma sys­tem to mal­func­tion or break­down, which will sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease down­time.

#4 Af­ter-sales sup­port

Most OEMs pro­vide post-sales tech­ni­cal sup­port for their prod­ucts. Un­for­tu­nately, trou­bleshoot­ing may not be pos­si­ble if un­known parts were used in the lead up to a dam­aged torch or plasma sys­tem. Some man­u­fac­tur­ers do not pro­vide war­ranty for torches if the dam­age was caused by the use of coun­ter­feit con­sum­ables, while some OEMs may even re­voke the war­ranty for the en­tire sys­tem. Com­pa­nies who choose to pur­chase coun­ter­feit prod­ucts will inevitably find them­selves at the los­ing end in such sit­u­a­tions.

#5 Over­all costs

Coun­ter­feit con­sum­ables may cost a frac­tion of the price, but they typ­i­cally also last only for a frac­tion of the cut­ting life­span

when com­pared to the gen­uine prod­ucts. As such, fre­quent re­place­ment be­comes a ne­ces­sity. Ad­di­tional post-cut­ting pro­cesses like edge reworking may also be nec­es­sary due to the poor and in­con­sis­tent cut qual­ity ren­dered by the cheap copies. Ir­rev­o­ca­ble dam­age may also oc­cur from the use of coun­ter­feit con­sum­ables, caus­ing im­pair­ment to a valu­able piece of equip­ment, which could re­sult in ir­re­place­able pro­duc­tion down­time and loss of busi­ness.

The true cost of cut­ting metal is mul­ti­fac­to­rial and it in­cludes: the quan­tity of con­sum­ables used over a pe­riod of time; the time and labour spent on chang­ing the con­sum­ables, and on fix­ing poor or in­con­sis­tent cuts; the cost of lost pro­duc­tion (dur­ing changeovers), low­ered pro­duc­tiv­ity, as well as busi­ness loss as­so­ci­ated with the use of coun­ter­feit prod­ucts. Fac­tor­ing in th­ese costs, the ini­tial sav­ings at the time of sale be­comes in­signif­i­cant when com­pared to the ad­di­tional ex­penses in the long run.


For all the per­ceived costs sav­ings, coun­ter­feit con­sum­ables are, in fact, a huge li­a­bil­ity to busi­nesses and are more trou­ble than what they’re worth. Us­ing gen­uine torches and con­sum­ables for your orig­i­nal plasma cut­ting sys­tem is the only way to en­sure op­ti­mal per­for­mance. Not only do the orig­i­nal prod­ucts last longer and per­form bet­ter, they are also ma­chined to the high­est qual­ity stan­dards and of­fer su­pe­rior re­sults with the lat­est per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing tech­nolo­gies. Pur­chas­ing a plasma cut­ting sys­tem is a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in it­self so why risk it for some­thing that of­fers so few ben­e­fits? The only way to pro­tect your in­vest­ment is to only use gen­uine con­sum­ables. 1. Es­ti­mat­ing the global eco­nomic and so­cial im­pacts of coun­ter­feit­ing and piracy. Busi­ness Al­liance to Stop Coun­ter­feit and Piracy, Fe­bru­ary 2011.

An orig­i­nal Hyper­therm con­sum­able (left) and a cor­re­spond­ing coun­ter­feit prod­uct (right). To the un­trained eye, the pack­ag­ing looks al­most iden­ti­cal.

Ac­tual pho­to­graphs of the man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity of an OEM (Hyper­therm). In com­par­i­son, the fac­tory is well or­gan­ised with clearly seg­mented work ar­eas, and well-main­tained equip­ment.

Pho­to­graphs taken at an ac­tual coun­ter­feit con­sum­able man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity that was shut down in 2014. The fac­tory is un­kempt and ap­pears to be poorly main­tained. There is a no­tice­able lack of qual­ity and safety test­ing equip­ment.

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