OEM manufacturers are demanding faster turnaround time from their suppliers in order to bring their products to market faster. To meet this need, A.R. Machining, Inc. recently installed a new zinc phosphate finishing line from Birchwood Technologies. Improved product quality with capacity to finish parts up to six feet long by two feet in diameter at a fast turnaround time were several benefits derived from this new installation.
A.R. Machining is a contract manufacturer specializing in precision machining work for the aerospace, oil, gas, and semiconductor industries. The company has built a solid reputation based on excellence, quality, precision and accuracy serving its customers. With over 50 highly trained employees and a modern 38,000 square foot manufacturing facility, it provides a full spectrum of services with over 24 CNC mills and lathes with 4-axis capability. The company's fast-turn prototype products include turnkey CNC production, part finishing and mechanical assembly.
"Time and distance to outside finishers was a big factor in our decision to add the in house zinc phosphate system from Birchwood Technologies," reported Matthew Dobias, president of A. R. Machining. "Using outside finishers took several days and made it difficult to meet customer delivery requirements."
Improving on its processes and delivering its products to customers in a timely manner has been key to A. R. Machining's success for over 37 years. By being responsive to the changing needs of customers with the latest technology and exceptional service, A. R. Machining has grown into a world-class precision machining part supplier. It is AS9100 Rev. C and API compliant as well as ISO 9001:2008 certified. Its products serve the most advanced and technically demanding industries. As part of its continuous improvement mission, the company decided to investigate in-house finishing options.
"Our oil and gas customers required corrosion protected parts and just-in-time delivery," Mr. Dobias stated. "These are large, down-hole steel components that are often stored outdoors before installation so they are subject to corrosion. In our area, outside finishers are several hours away. Turnaround time was a real problem. Also, their finishing tank sizes were limited for our larger parts. We needed large capacity and ferrous metal corrosion protection. We knew about Birchwood Technologies and asked for their metal finishing input. Birchwood Technologies chemists performed several no obligation, no cost test finishes on our sample parts in their lab. They recommended their zinc phosphate process and showed us how their MicroLok MZN and Dri-Touch Plus IRP3 process combination would answer our needs, so we went with a new system."
The MicroLok® MZN process is a fine-grained zinc phosphating solution for iron and steel components. These materials make up the majority of A.R. Machining's present work. Applied at 120°-160° F, the finish complies with MIL-DTL-16232G, Type Z Classes 1, 2 and 3. This was an important advantage for A. R. Machining because the company is expanding its work in the military industry. When sealed with a rust preventive, the MicroLok MZN finish has excellent corrosion resistance and also provides anti-galling protection and break-in lubricity to critical working surfaces--important advantages in certain military applications.
Birchwood Technologies proved to A. R. Machine that the MicroLok and Dri-Touch Plus IRP3 process is ideal for these kinds of work. That included not only oil field equipment, but also any steel components that require robust corrosion protection, anti-galling properties and break-in lubricity without a significant dimensional change.
For the needed extra corrosion protection, A. R. Machine utilizes Birchwood Technologies' Dri-Touch® Plus IRP3. As a heavy-duty protective coating, it produces a robust film that is suitable for use on parts for limited outside storage, into warehouses and for certain battlefield conditions. The product is an effective water displacer, with a self-healing, soft waxy film with noticeably thick consistency and high moisture resistance. "The combination process really improves the appearance of finished goods," reported Mr. Dobias, "with parts coming out a nice, uniform dark gray or black depending on the material."
The Birchwood Technologies system consists of seven 220-gallon capacity tanks with a 48 x 30 x 35 footprint. An overhead crane is positioned above the system to handle large individual parts and baskets of smaller parts. The tank line setup is equipped with an adjacent Ion Exchange system. This Ion Exchange technology purifies and recycles the system's rinse waters resulting in a "closed-loop" zero-discharge installation. Water is conserved and no discharge is made into the sewer system. Making the Ion Exchange process integral to the finishing line was an added important consideration in A. R. Machining's decision to go with the system.
"System startup with training from Birchwood Technologies went quickly and smoothly," reported Mr. Dobias. "No additional workers were required to operate the system, and tank cleaning, changing solutions and preparation for new part finishing takes less than a half day."
"With our new in-house system, we get same day finishing. The cost is less than half compared to outside finishing and is improving as more work is added. Just as important, we eliminated many hidden costs using outside finishing vendors such as the extra part moves, packing and repacking parts, inventorying and inspecting parts when received, and unexpected delays on different part projects," Mr. Dobias added. "Having in-house control of quality was a key consideration that led us to going with the new system."
"One of the pleasant surprises we've had is that prospects for new work know of the Birchwood Technologies process when they see the name on the tank system," stated Mr. Dobias. "They know that it's not just a bluing or blackening process but a high quality, patented zinc phosphate process. Birchwood Technologies has a successful history with its zinc phosphate finish with the firearms industry. Another benefit is the fact that the process meets military specifications. Both are helping us acquire new work. Overall, adding the system was good decision, and as new work is added, it's proving to be a good investment," Mr. Dobias concluded.