25 January 2024

The Essen Welding and Cutting show in Germany made a remarkable return in 2023 after a six-year hiatus, showcasing significant change in the industry, says Ian McCrystal, CEO of First Cut and Peter Rohlssen, MD of Gas Safety International (GSI). McCrystal and Rohlssen were in attendance, representing First Cut and subsidiary GSI at Messer Cutting Systems’ extensive exhibition stand. Rohlssen also had the opportunity to demonstrate the patented oxyfuel S.A.T. system to delegates.

“I was truly impressed by the overwhelming interest sparked by the oxyfuel S.A.T. system. In a matter of minutes after commencing the demonstration, the number of attendees at the stand increased from just three or four delegates to an audience of fifty or more,” says Rohlssen.

First Cut and GSI first launched the new S.A.T. system at the Safety Unites Compressed Gas Safety conference in Johannesburg last year.

The system represents a significant advancement in the field of compressed gas safety, thanks to the three patented Safety Advanced Technology (S.A.T.) components: the process, valve, and cutting torch. By incorporating advanced safety measures and technologies, the system significantly reduces the risks associated with working with compressed gases, including the risk of leaks due to improper handling, external damage, and normal wear and tear.

“The prevalence of severe accidents within the mining and industrial sectors can largely be attributed to human errors,” explains McCrystal. “These errors often result from inadequate training, and this is not confined to a local issue – we have observed the repercussions of sub-standard training on a global scale.”

Both McCrystal and Rohlssen say that the international exposure at the Essen show was critically important: not just for the advancement of First Cut, GSI and the oxyfuel system – but also to raise awareness about compressed gas safety at a global level.

“Two significant and real barriers still obstruct the path to substantive transformation in compressed gas safety throughout industry. The first challenge pertains to insufficient training and awareness, as previously highlighted. The second hurdle is the continued resistance to change. Take, for instance, the positioning of the cutting lever on European welding torches, which is typically at the top. In South Africa, they are often found at the bottom,” Rohlssen explains.

McCrystal and Rohlssen say that they had also made significant strides in terms of industry compliance ahead of the Essen exhibition.

“Compliance to international accreditation standards is a significant consideration when engaging with European clients. We therefore subjected the oxyfuel system to the rigorous technical criteria of the ISO 5175-2 standard.

The independent testing also subjected the valve to an internal leakage test using helium (a thin and non-flammable gas, ideal for testing even the slightest leaks), an external leakage test and a reverse-flow test measuring its performance when subjected to reverse gas flow. This is crucial for preventing gas flow in the wrong direction, as it ensures that gases only flow in the intended direction. The S.A.T. system successfully met the required criteria, showing its conformance to compressed gas safety requirements.

“The exceptional performance of the S.A.T. system during testing unequivocally underscores its readiness for adoption by international companies – and its capability to meet the most demanding standards and specifications,” Rohlssen adds.

South Africa can lead the way in cutting technology safety

“While engaging with conference delegates, I had a renewed perspective on the relatively modest size of the South African market. One of our major clients here produces around 10 000 appliances each month. In contrast, during our discussions in Germany, we encountered manufacturers with monthly production figures in the millions. Yet, despite the size of the local market, we are confident that we are at the forefront of driving welding and compressed gas safety development.

We expect that the oxyfuel system will soon receive ISO 9001 accreditation, and First Cut and GSI intend to reveal a further new innovation in the coming months. All I can say is – watch this space!” says Rohlssen.

“The Essen show provided a unique opportunity to connect with high-level executives and technical experts, paving the way for future collaborations,” says McCrystal. “What was particularly inspiring too, was witnessing innovation – such as our S.A.T. system – emanating from South Africa and influencing Europe, rather than the reverse. We find ourselves at the vanguard of this race!” he concludes.

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