By Bruce Renfro
It has been said that shop floor bevel cutting is as much an art as it is a science. To cutting machine programmers new to
beveling, the process can seem like an attempt to
re-create a Picasso masterpiece, regardless of how
much traditional cutting experience they might
have. In most cases, the path to a quality beveled
part evolves from hours, sometimes days, of trial
Beveling spans varying levels of sophistication,
cutting tools, industries, and applications—each
with unique sets of challenges. Furthermore, the
process can fluctuate greatly within any given industry. For example, in metal fabrication alone, thermal
cutting (see Figure 1), abrasive cutting, and machining all take completely di;erent approaches to
perform bevel cuts on plate, tube, or pipe.
Make no mistake, all fabricators go through a
learning curve when trying to perfect the beveling
process. It is not simple high school geometry, but
neither is it neurosurgery or a random act of fate.
Beveling is most prevalent in industries where
heavy-duty equipment is made for o;-highway,
construction, agricultural, forestry, mining, oil and
gas, and shipbuilding applications. Here manufac-
turers rely on beveling as a part of the weld prepa-
ration process. Beveled edges produce a sturdier
type of weld needed to support the massive weight
and loads on such machines and structures.
Another, albeit less common application is that
of countersinking. Material processing equipment,
such as size-reduction machinery (for example,
crushers and pulverizers), generally contain re-placeable steel inner liners designed to absorb
shocks and extend longevity. ;ese liners often are
a;xed to interior side walls using a bolted beveled
metal plug or screw. ;e piece is countersunk into
the liner, ensuring a fit that is both secure and flush.
From structural integrity all the way down to
aesthetics, beveled edges are required for many
applications. Regardless how simple or complex
the cut, beveling requires three equally important
components for predictable and repeatable success: capable hardware, sophisticated software, and
The Best Bevel Cutting Machine?
Bevel cutting machines have made great strides
from the early track torches, and now advanced ma-
chinery such as high-end 5-axis cutting machines
excel in delivering increasing levels of automation
and performance. ;e results have been faster cut-
ting with increased part quality. Today a range of
bevel cutting laser, plasma, oxyfuel, and waterjet
equipment (see Figure 2) is available from many
of the industry’s leading cutting machine manu-
facturers. ;ese companies continue to introduce
new features and next-generation machines to ad-
vance the industry even further.
So with all of these options, what is the best machine for bevel cutting? It could be the one on your
shop floor. Most of today’s machines are capable
of high-quality bevel cuts—assuming the software
and human expertise are adequate.
Focus on the Software
Because nesting software often comes preloaded
on a new cutting machine, it may not receive the
level of attention it deserves. When you consider
the direct impact on machine performance, it becomes clear that software is much more than simply an item on a check list.
Software that may be straightforward in terms of
functionality also may be limited in its functionality. In these instances, nesting software is capable
of only basic part nesting and little more. More sophisticated software, however, contains advanced
algorithms written to maximize throughput, part
quality, and machine performance with the flexibility to drive a variety of fabrication machines. Boosting productivity while reducing material waste allows manufacturers to more quickly recoup costly
These nesting tips and best
practices can help deliver a
quality beveled edge
The art of
Plasma cutting bevels into plate for weld preparation is
a common occurrence in the fabrication of heavy-duty
equipment and vehicles. Photo courtesy of Messer Cutting Systems.