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  • Alex Jurney: Metal Man, Metal Bands and…Teletubbies?

    Alex_Jurney_DSC_3570Alex Jurney is Set Up Operator for the CNC machines in our Prototype Shop. He’s been with us for seven months…or is that how long he’s been growing his beard? It’s actually about the same for both, since his last job was for a private ambulance service. You don’t usually see facial hair like that on an EMT for a reason.

    Career Course Correction
    After concluding that the health service industry was not engaging his creative side, Alex began to think about a career in Engineering and Design. He had interned in our shop after high school and had been intrigued by the progression from design to the finished product.

    As he thought more about it and discussed his plan with others, it was suggested that a thorough understanding of the machining process would make him a better designer in the future. Alex took this advice and joined us full time to build a solid foundation of workholding fundamentals.

    Learning More Each Day
    The CNC Prototype Shop turns out a variety of jaws, grippers, part stops, locating and positioning components for our customers’ chucks. Alex finds the work interesting because every part is a “run of one,” with its own unique challenges. He admits it has been quite a learning curve, but knowing most of the guys in the shop from his internship, they are always willing to give him the benefit of their years of experience. He is learning so fast that when a new machine was brought in, he was the first to be taught how to use it, and is now training others on its capabilities.

    His favorite part of the job is taking a program or print and turning it into a functional object. Alex says the only thing better would be to design the part himself and then see it machined into reality. With that objective in mind, Alex is already attending classes for programming at a local college, and will soon take some courses in engineering. His hope is to gain enough knowledge and experience to eventually take a place in our Engineering department.

    file-1Alex’s Wide World of Free Time
    Out of the shop, Alex’s recreational activities are varied to say the least. A Blackhawks fan since high school, Alex recently began playing Left Wing in a hockey league, with games once or twice a week early in the morning or late at night. Just like machining, the learning curve has been steep, but he is learning to let his instincts take over. The team made it to the championship last year, but lost in the final game.

    When he’s not involved in a power play on the ice, Alex recently hung out with 13 ft. long sharks in Hawaii. He can’t wait to get back for more. Despite his free time activities, we are pleased to announce that Alex still has all his teeth and fingers (for now).

    About the Teletubbies… Alex has been going to metal concerts for over 12 years. One night after Halloween, he and his buddies wore their costumes to a concert as a gag and got pulled up on stage. Now, it’s become a thing. Alex is the purple one (Tinky Winky). You might laugh, but the costume has enabled him to meet a lot of bands and do things he might not otherwise have experienced. He acknowledges any ridicule he may endure is just the price of admission.

  • Team Up Chucks to Thread Large Diameter OCTG

    In the first article in this series, we related the story of how SMW Autoblok revolutionized the oil drilling industry with its Big Bore® chucks and self-centering technology for pipe of 14.8” or less in diameter (see SMW Autoblok Innovates Oil Country Workholding). The next challenge in our sights was how to address the problem of auto-centering larger diameter pipe afflicted with end hooks and sags.

    Direct threading is one method of joining two pieces of pipe together to achieve greater length. An inner diameter (box) connection is matched with an outer diameter (pin) connection. Needless to say, it is vital these match up perfectly. The big question is: How do you clamp on a larger diameter piece of bent pipe to hold it steady while maintaining an accurate center line for machining the thread?

    image002Chuck Team Up
    As you can imagine, manhandling a 40-foot section of large diameter pipe so it aligns to center is a daunting task. One chuck by itself is just not up to the job. For any pipe over a 15” diameter, we recommend a combination of three chucks in three different positions on the pipe: the BB-AZ2G in the front, the BB-AS 1000 on the rear and the IN-D 500 on the tailstock.

    Centering the Tube
    When you load your pipe you need a centering mechanism, which in this case, comes off the tailstock of the machine. We mount the IN-D 500, which is a very rigid, solid hydraulic chuck. The chuck rides on the tailstock which moves into the centering position via the tailstocks servomotor and ball screw and is then actuated with a hydraulic cylinder mounted to the back side of the tailstock. The front chuck then compensate clamps, and the tailstock and chuck are retracted out of the way so that the pipe can be threaded.

    image004_croppedCompensating For the Bend
    Putting pneumatic chucks on both the front and rear of the pipe keep it on center throughout the process. The BB-AS 1000 is a compensating chuck that is mounted on the rear. Its jaws can move equally or, by shifting air through a different port in the chuck, individually. The individual movement (unequal force exerted by each jaw) is what compensates for the bend in the pipe and keeps it on centerline. The BB-AS 1000 is able to clamp off center up to one inch.

    The BB-AZ2G is mounted in the front of the lathe. It also has air-adjustable jaws. When the pipe is loaded, the chucks are able to compensate and put the pipe on center fast. It is important that both compensating chucks have an extra long jaw stroke for safe loading of pipe without hitting the jaws and safe unloading of the machined pipe with no damage to the finished thread.

    Acting in combination, the three chucks enable premium threading on big diameter pipe that is leakproof and will withstand the pressures of oil field use. But sometimes threading is not the best option. Our next post in this series will discuss joining sections through the use of couplers.

    If you would like to discuss your service requirements in oil country or anywhere in the United States, please contact us.

  • Larry Robbins: A Salesman to the Core

    Larry RobbinsLarry Robbins, our Vice President of Sales, wouldn’t change a thing about his job or the path that brought him here. He’s been in sales for 30 years out of a 37-year career, all of which has been in manufacturing. His dad opened a machine tool distributorship after World War II, and when he was old enough (or maybe even a bit before), Larry used to hang around, fiddle with the machines and ask a lot of questions. This was back when state-of-the-art machine tools were NC (numeric control), programmed by a series of switches and punched-paper tape. Larry tried his hand at it and was hooked.

    Following His Heart
    After high school, Larry went to school to study Criminal Justice, but decided he’d rather talk shop than arrest bad guys. A self-proclaimed bleeding heart, he knew he was too apt to give people second and third chances. He worked with his dad for a while then accepted a position as sales rep for a modular workholding company. He soon discovered that his personality perfectly suited him for this line of work. When the company was sold, he started his own business as a manufacturer's rep (for SMW Autoblok among others). His new enterprise also created customized tooling. Success came quickly and the organization grew to the point where it employed 19 people. When Larry realized that he had done such a good job in hiring top talent that the company literally ran itself, he sold it and looked for a new challenge.

    Finding a Home
    He accepted a position as VP of Sales for an international cutting tool company and spent two and a half years constantly traveling around the world. He moved around the country 19 times as his base of operations changed, but the traveling soon grew old. In May of 2007, he joined SMW Autoblok as a Regional Sales Manager. It didn’t take long for him to work his way up to Vice President of Sales in 2010. In this role, he is responsible for our sales strategy and the people who make it happen. This includes hiring sales managers, training them for the long run and making sure they are placed in positions that best fit their talents.

    Honesty SellsIMG_2565 2
    Larry’s philosophy of sales success is to always be honest, even if it means talking about what the competition can do. He knows our product will come out on top, more often than not. “Anyone can sell a product to someone once,” he remarked. “But it takes a special salesman to create a relationship and sell to them year after year.” This talent enabled Larry to take one customer who had had a bad experience, win them over, and turn them into an $8 million account within 5 years.

    Free Time
    Larry admits to being a Yankee fan at heart, but he has moved so often he usually adopts the local team. He used to work on hot rods and his motorcycle, but finds at this point in his life he’d rather just buy what wants rather than work on something. On weekends, you can find him riding his fully purchased bike and enjoying the sights.

    What does Larry really like to do when he’s not on the clock? He talks to his friends about machining and workholding! “I can’t help it,” he said. “Everyone I know is in the business and that’s what we like to talk about.” He has been best friends with some of our customers for over 35 years, so it’s no wonder he says his career is his passion.

    The simple fact is Larry loves to sell. Even if you have a casual discussion with him, he will have his facts and figures lined up. He loves to research and pick up knowledge he can use in the future. He believes there is no such thing as a stupid question, but he does say that the question you don’t ask can keep you in the dark. “There's nothing wrong with admitting you don’t know about something,” he said. “You just need to know who to ask.” It seems like a safe bet that to find the answers, you should start with Larry.

  • SMW Autoblok Innovates Oil Country Workholding

    oil-pump-jack-sunset-clouds-silhouette-162568There is no real problem with threading a pipe. Most DIY types can do it in their workshop with hand tools. But when the pipe is 40 feet long and ordered by the ton, you’re in oil country. And that is another whole proposition.

    Pumping crude oil out of the ground requires drill pipe, casing, tool joints, tees, crosses, flanges, couplings…well, you get the idea. The thing is, all those items need to be machined. And that takes specialized workholding developed by SMW Autoblok. But how did we come to have such a big footprint in oil country in the first place? Well, it’s not an exaggeration to say that we revolutionized the entire OCTG workholding methodology.

    OCTG Challenges
    Oil country tubulars are big, heavy and very hard to handle. Underground, they are subjected to extreme pressure, torque, internal expansion and contraction, and side loads. The trick is to thread the pipe within API tolerances for a continuous drill string that can gradually curve over half a mile without breaking the seal and creating leaks. But there are a lot of variables to be considered. Oil companies purchase their pipe from different mills and use different thread types for each unique subsurface condition. Threading companies are contracted to thread each pipe end. Many of these have their own proprietary thread profile geometry that must be machined to exacting tolerances.

    OCTG pipe manufacturing process
    Currently seamless OCTG drill pipe, casing and tubing diameters are formed by forcing a steel billet over High-Toe-Angle Piercer rollers with extreme force. This technology dynamically sizes the pipe to the desired diameter. All products are quality controlled to meet stringent API (American Petroleum Industry) standards. Ultimately, the pipe is then shipped to threading companies all over the world.

    How It Used to Be Done
    When you think of OCTG, you probably visualize the pipe being straight as an arrow. In reality, it can droop on the ends (end hook) or sag in the middle. Any material run-out exceeding the combined pipe wall thickness and thread form geometry is a problem. If the run-out is not corrected to rotate concentric within the machine spindle centerline, the thread geometry will not fully form due to the lack of material (these are known as “black threads”). Aligning the pipe to the machine centerline is essential and used to be done manually.

    A pipe rack load handling system would present 40’ long sections of pipe to a lathe, passing it through the rear of the lathe spindle to manually actuated front and rear chucks. Once clamped at both ends, the operator would manually align the pipe to the lathe spindle centerline by turning the master jaw pinion with a massive wrench. The process required plenty of muscle and could take up to 20 minutes to perform. 

    bbes_mainEnter the Big Bore®
    Things changed considerably for most pipe diameters (14.8” or less at first, now up to 22”!) with the release of the Big Bore BB-N ES front-end pneumatic power chuck. The BB-N ES was the first chuck specifically developed for end machining of long pipe with a full spindle bore. It was made possible by two principles invented by SMW Autoblok, air supply via distributor ring and SMW-profile seal rings. Built in non-return valves maintain the air pressure during machining and the clamping pressure level is constantly checked by a safety control system. Pipe is loaded on a table, goes through a lathe and is threaded and clamped with less effort.

    This was a great improvement over the manual method, but aligning the center could still take 5 minutes or more. In addition, a shim was needed between one jaw and the pipe to push the pipe into alignment with the spindle centerline of the lathe.

    Auto Centering Becomes a Reality
    The introduction of the BB-FZA in the 90s introduced the oil industry to auto centering. For the first time, repeatable, accurate auto centering of OCTG pipe was possible without human intervention (and the risk of error). Shims were no longer needed, which alone was a great safety feature.

    BB-FZA2G mit RohrA True Workholding Revolution
    Things were better, but we still weren’t satisfied. Our engineering teams in the USA and Germany set out to reinvent the centering process. In 2012, a new generation of chuck, the BB-FZA2G, was introduced. It uses three integrated centering jaws that moves forward angularly and axially to center the pipe exactly at the area to be threaded. The three compensating jaws then grip the pipe in the eccentric position, and the centering jaws retract axially into the chuck body. The whole alignment process only takes 11 seconds!

    Needless to say, with timesavings like that, the BB-FZA2G took the oil industry by storm. Today it is the standard for high efficiency machining of OCTG. But there were more innovations to come from our engineers. Our next article in this series will look at the difficulties in achieving accurate machining for larger diameter (14.8” or larger) pipes that are bent or sagging.

    If you would like to discuss your service requirements in oil country or anywhere in the United States, please contact us.

  • Indexing Chucks: Clamp Once and Run ‘til You’re Done

    axn_mainWant to save time and money machining complex parts? If you run components like universal joints, couplings, valve bodies and fittings that require machining on more than one face, indexing chucks are the way to go. These time savers allow you to work all sides of a workpiece without removing the part from the lathe.

    Faster Production Plus
    It stands to reason that machining on multiple sides of a part with one clamp would increase overall efficiency. And every machinist knows that there is a risk of reduced accuracy every time a workpiece is unclamped and re-clamped back into the lathe. Indexing chucks are the best of both worlds. Automated indexing of parts reduces cycle times, increases accuracy and enhances quality.

    How It Works
    The clamping system of indexing chucks consists of a stationary jaw (indexing jaw) and clamping jaw. The weight of these jaws is kept to a minimum to reduce the effect of centrifugal force. SMW Autoblok clamping systems utilize a special centrifugal force compensation system on the clamping jaw. During rotation of the chuck, centrifugal forces acting on a counterweight inside the chuck increase the pressure to the clamping cylinder to minimize loss of grip force. 

    Automatic indexing is regulated by a hydraulic plunger system controlled by CNC electrical signals. Proximity sensors identify each index angle to verify the index position. In fact, our chucks won’t operate if the part is not in the proper position.

    Tips For Best Performance
    Most parts are not balanced, so vibration during spindle rotation while machining will affect overall quality. We design custom jaws to fit specific part configurations, adding or removing weight to the jaws/chuck to achieve balance. Attention to detail such as the sequence in which the sides of the part are machined can also help reduce the tremors.

    Another suggestion is to allow for quick changing between the multiple working axes by indexing during spindle rotation. Just be sure to keep the RPMs low.

    Value-Added Indexing Chucks
    At SMW Autoblok, we offer a variety of indexing combinations: 4 x 90 degrees, 8 x 45 degrees, 3 x 120 degrees, 6 x 60 degrees and other custom angles as requested. Internal components of our chucks are hardened and ground to insure long life, rigidity and accuracy. Indexing/clamping components are constantly lubricated and the use of roller bearings reduces friction during the indexing process.

    If you’re tired of clamping and unclamping the same part over and over, consider indexing chucks. If you would like to discuss your particular needs, please contact us.

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