Future Looking Bright for Aluminum Extrusion Fabricator
Fab Masters Co. Inc., of Marcellus, Michigan, provides a variety of machining and welding services for diverse markets, ranging from the military and medical industries to support parts for commercial vehicles, telecommunications, and the alternative energy industry. During the past year, the manufacturer of custom CNC-machined and fabricated parts upgraded standards and processes throughout its shop, which makes use of machinery tailor-made for processing aluminum extrusions.
According to Fab Masters, its specialty aluminum saws can cut "from one to 49 pieces at a time, holding precision tolerance and offering specialty angles." The company has also added four new Brother CNC tapping centers, which are reported to have boosted efficiency rates in its CNC machining department "by 25 percent to 40 percent." In 2008, the company completed a major expansion to its facility, adding 12 welding bays, two robotic welders, and 31,000 square feet to its welding shop, where it offers robotic welding of steel and aluminum.
"We are currently back to a seven-day work week with approximately 80 employees, and the future appears to be brightening," says Jim Troxell, the company's vice president. "We have 22 CNC machining centers, with six of these having 'X' travels of 100 inches or longer, and all of the larger machines are buried with customer projects that need to be machined. We have picked up a larger amount of machining from our customers in the transportation industry, as they are always looking for ways to lighten up their products, and aluminum is a great solution for that problem."
The company recently developed a line of tactical parts and accessories for small arms. Its two-piece, drop-in quad rail system for rifle rails, made of 6061-T6 aluminum, meets Picatinny rail specifications (MIL-STD-1913) and MIL standards for hard coat anodizing (MIL-A-8625) and DupontTM Teflon® impregnation (MIL-A-63576-A). The rail system, a complex part that requires extensive hole drilling, allows for the addition of various mounting accessories--such as scopes, lights, or tripods--to M-4 rifles. By first producing the part on its 3D printer to test for fit and function, Fab Masters was able to save a significant amount of time and product cost.
Although it has some commercial applications, the quad rail system is used primarily by the military and law enforcement. Today, however, the market for the quad rails is saturated, according to Troxell. "We have switched gears over the last nine months and redirected our focus back to private business, versus pursuing military contracts, due to the uncertainty of the federal budget cuts, and all the red tape involved," he said.
With green technology in the forefront these days, the manufacturer has built solar racking that holds solar panels. The work consists mostly of CNC machining with drilling and tapping, and welding to connect the racking parts. The company has also made LED instrument housings for the radar guns used by law enforcement, and housings for radar detectors. Fab Masters often holds tolerances from +/- 0.005-inch to +/-0.002-inch for most fabricated sheet metal parts.
"Another thing we are very good at is assisting our customers with emergency JIT (Just in Time) situations," remarks Troxell. "We are a mid-sized to large job shop at 98,000 square feet; however, our staff is very versatile and we are willing to alter our schedule to help a customer that may call on a Thursday or Friday afternoon and need something for Monday. Our customers are very important to us, so when they call, we try to assist in any way we can."
Fab Masters (www.fabmasters.net) also recently completed samples for UL testing of a glow-in-the dark exit sign. "The exit sign project is a 'go,'" Troxell said. "We are very excited about this project as it is a green product."
In its welding department, the company has also seen some success with a project for the marine industry. "We have prototyped some antenna bases for use on sailing vessels that will allow the traveling public to have easier internet access while they are on the high seas," Troxell said. "This project appears to be going to ramp up to production status in the near future and it includes the assembly of the units."
A stairway system for the construction / rental industry has also been prototyped and UL tested, according to Troxell. The system will be fabricated, welded, and packaged at Fab Masters for a new customer on the East Coast.
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