Complete Welded Assemblies Are Specialty of Full-Service Fabricator

Mandrel Tube Bending and Tubular Weldments Are Key Capabilities

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MIG Welding

DETROIT LAKES, Minn.--A growing metal parts fabricator with strong ties to the agricultural and construction equipment industries is BTD Manufacturing, a Detroit Lakes, Minnesota-based company that offers stamping, fabricating, tubing, welding, machining, and tooling services. A subsidiary of Otter Tail Corporation and reportedly one of the largest non-automotive metal parts fabrication shops in the United States, BTD makes various parts and welded assemblies, such as roll bars for tractors, as well as ladders, platforms, hand rails, and cab mounts for combines. Companies such as John Deere, CNH, and AGCO are among the firm's customers.

"We want to be perceived as a one-stop shop, from small stamped parts to very, very large parts, like huge welded frames," says Shawn Peichel, estimating manager at BTD Manufacturing. "We're really trying to cover a big gamut when it comes to contract manufacturing."

According to BTD Sales Manager Jared Lotzer, the company provides OEMs with complete welded assemblies that may incorporate stampings and other fabricated parts; machined parts; tubular weldments; and painting operations, for example. Lotzer says that OEMs in the agricultural equipment market have "orders out for two years" and are looking to their contract manufacturers to increase throughput. "We can increase their throughput and their numbers out the door by giving them a complete product to the line, where they don't have to dabble with machining holes, painting, and various other operations," he said.

BTD earlier this year acquired Miller Welding & Iron Works, a custom job shop fabricator and finisher that reportedly generated revenues of approximately $26 million in 2007. Based in Washington, Illinois, near Peoria, Miller Welding & Iron Works is known for its ability to produce larger, heavier metal parts and fabrications for construction equipment OEMs, such as Caterpillar and Komatsu. The company serves industries ranging from off-road equipment and mining machinery, to oil fields and offshore oil rigs, wind energy equipment, broadcast antennas, and farm equipment.

"I think the acquisition has made us cross the boundary, from either you're a big guy that does the big parts, or a small guy who does the small parts," said Lotzer. "It really helps our customers. They can cut a purchase order at one place and start a relationship with one supplier. You can get a lot more done here instead of having five suppliers." The acquisition also opens the possibility for Miller to expand significantly into the wind energy sector by capitalizing on synergies with BTD and other Otter Tail companies, such as DMI Industries, a manufacturer of wind energy towers.

One area that's been extremely busy for BTD during the last five years is the production of tubular weldments. The company uses tube lasers to help remove the costs of fixturing for the weldments, says Peichel. "You can actually take the laser and make the parts fit together--cut them and notch them so that they actually slide together on themselves, whereas before, you had a fixture that held them all together. You can do creative things like that."

One application, involving a heavy-gauge tube part for a rollover canopy on a small tractor, required BTD to bend a radius without collapsing the side wall of the part. The customer needed an aesthetically pleasing, structurally superior, rectangular tube part that would support a substantial amount of dynamic weight. To meet these criteria, BTD Manufacturing used ASTM A500 grade B carbon steel structural tubing, measuring 0.188-inch thick. The company produced the tooling, including the mandrel tubing for its ADIGE Dynamic 8 tube bender, which it used to bend the radius without any collapse of the side wall.

"We have it contained with a mandrel on the inside of it when we're forming it," says Peichel. "We force it to hold its shape as we're performing that 90-degree bend on it. Overall, you have a lot stronger part. It's more expensive to make, but it has more integrity."

"Not everybody has the capabilities to do a mandrel bend that way," says Lotzer. "It requires a pretty large bender with a lot of horsepower."

BTD's full-service capabilities also include engineering, prototyping, and short-run manufacturing, as well as robotic and hand welding, spot welding, riveting, assembly, plating, heat treating, and special packaging. One of BTD's strengths is its buying power, whether the company needs to purchase steel or new equipment. "Our parent company, Otter Tail, is always pushing us to grow and they're willing to spend money on capital equipment so that we can grow with our customers," says Lotzer. Recently, BTD Manufacturing bought two new Trumpf 500 W lasers that will be connected to a load/unload system, forming a lights-out laser cell that's scheduled to be online in the fourth quarter of this year.

For more on BTD Manufacturing, visit www.btdmfg.com.

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