Tag Archives: OCTG

  • Workholding: We Rank the Best Chucks from 2018

    SMW chuck collageBetween IMTS and the way our business continues to grow, it seems like this past year has just flown by. Before we wrap things up for the holidays and start looking towards 2019, we thought it might be interesting to stop for a moment and reflect on the outstanding chucks of the past 12 months. So, here’s our ranking of the top 5 models of the year.

    #1: KNCS-N/ KNCS-NB/ KNCS-2G
    At the head of the list again is our best-selling chuck series. The top quick jaw change chuck on the market – with jaws that can be changed out in less than a minute. Robust, versatile and agile, it continues to sell well across all industry segments.

    #2: BB-N / BB-N-ES
    The BB-N-ES was the first chuck specifically developed for end machining of long pipe with a full spindle bore. Perfect for oil and gas applications. It was made possible by two principles invented by SMW Autoblok, air supply via distributor ring and SMW-profile seal rings.

    #3: SP
    Smaller versions of the BB-N style chucks with OCTG being the primary market, these chucks are also handy for use in static or near static applications because of their built-in air cylinder. They are ideal for rotary tables/indexers in milling applications as well.

    #4: NT Series
    The NT chuck is a completely sealed Proofline® product, making them ideal for dry machining of castings and forgings, as well as high pressure coolant applications. Very popular in the automotive industry, especially for wheel and brake component work.

    #5: TS Series
    Our premier pull down chuck, this style fits best in production environments with high parallelism and perpendicularity call outs. Their constant grip force ensures consistent quality of workpieces. Automotive and aerospace applications are common, but they are becoming a force in the medical segment as well.

    Too Good to Ignore
    Honorable mention goes to our Steady Rest products, our new APS Zero Point Clamping System and the Cylinder series. We’ve seen increased interest in each of these product lines this past year.

    Onward to 2019
    No one can tell what the future will bring, but it’s certain that our engineers and sales teams will never stop looking for ways to better meet your workholding needs. If you have a special requirement, give us a call.

  • Strong Connections in OCTG

    In the first two articles in this series, we related how SMW Autoblok revolutionized the OCTG industry with it’s innovative self-centering technology and how to align large diameter oil country pipe on center.

    photoedit-fullBut one serious problem remained. One section of pipe is about 40’ long and pipelines have to go on for miles. How do you join sections of tubing together with joints that have the strength and integrity of the pipe itself? As outlined in our last article, you could thread the pipe and link it end to end, but this is cost prohibitive and is best used for specialized applications. That’s why the most common way of joining pipe in oil fields today is coupling.

    Simply put, a coupler is a two-sided device that connects two pieces of pipe together. It is less expensive than Integral joint connection and just as strong; however, threads have to be timed perfectly to each other (equal on both sides) to prevent leaks or bursting. And by equal, we mean exact.

    The Old Way: Labor Extensive and Error-Prone
    Originally, machining a coupler took more than six steps. An operator would machine one side of the coupler on a lathe, open the door, take the workpiece out, index it by hand, put it back in the lathe, close the door and then machine the second side.

    Not only does this extend the cycle time, but critical workpiece positioning references (also called clocking) can be lost in the manual process. These need to remain constant throughout the machining process in order to make an accurate part. This potential for error could result in a faulty coupler, meaning leaks or broken pipes in the field.

    Breaches in an underground pipeline are unacceptable, both financially and environmentally. Our engineers set out to find a better way to machine couplers and mitigate that risk.

    SF RAZ2G chuck indexing_editedThe New Way: Clamp Once, Machine Twice
    The results of our R & D efforts was the SF-RAZ2G two position hydraulic ring indexing chuck – the first workholding specifically designed for the machining of couplings in one set up.

    The SF-RAZ2G clamps the coupling on the outside diameter so the thread can be machined on the first side, then it hydraulically rotates the coupling 180° on the centerline so the other side can be threaded. The coupling does not have to be reoriented for the second threading – the clocking is a perfect match.

    Accuracy and Speed 
    The SF-RAZ2G distributes the clamping forces over six jaws to prevent deviation from roundness or other distortion. The indexing process takes mere seconds and eliminates the time it takes to open the door, manually reorient the part, close the door and hit cycle start. If you do the math, it’s quite a time saver over the course of a year.

    In addition, since the workpiece is held so securely by the SF-RAZ2G, the cutting tool speeds and feeds can be increased, taking even more time out of the process. If you want to take another step and add machine tending robotics, the SF-RAZ2G comes automation-ready.

    The Pipeline is a Lifeline
    Our contributions to OCTG, as outlined in this series of articles, have a direct impact on the average consumer. Every drop of oil that makes it safely from the pump to the refining plant helps keep oil prices down. That is good for the oil companies, our economy and our planet.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Heads Up and Hands On: Gary Holland Takes Care of Customers

    IMG_0791When we decided to open a dedicated service center in Conroe, Texas to service our oil country customers, it didn’t take us long to select Gary Holland as our OCTG (Oil Country Tubular Goods) Service Manager. Gary had been servicing our workholding as a service representative for Concept Tool & Gauge out of Arkansas for 17 years, so he was well acquainted with SMW Autoblok, our products and the needs of oil country customers. 

    “I thought the service center was a wonderful idea,” Gary said. “It was a way to help my customers reduce service times and the chance for me to join a great company that I was already quite close to.”

    A dedicated service center was a new concept for SMW Autoblok, so Gary spent a year overseeing the design and build of the facility and pulling all the details together. The center went operational in 2015, and customers are delighted with the fast service being provided.

    IMG_0299Every Day Unique

    There’s no such thing as a typical day for Gary. Along with taking customer calls, scheduling service and ordering parts, he is out in the field making repairs as part of the technical team. A “hands on” kind of guy, Gary thinks that is one of the best things about his job. He enjoys the opportunity to stretch his skills and apply solutions that aren’t covered in any book or training, no matter how thorough. “I pretty much know when I get to work, I’ll be challenged before the sun goes down,” he said.

    Sometimes customers can’t wait for sunrise. “We’re on call 24/7, so I’ve opened up the shop at midnight to pull a part,” he recalled. “That’s just part of the service we provide.”

    A Company Man

    Gary is proud to be part of a company he has known and admired for many years. He enjoys the family atmosphere and the fact that every member of the company will do anything to help out a customer. “I’ve known most of the people I work with for more than 20 years, so I already felt like part of the team even before I drew my first paycheck.”

    Off the Clock

    Since he’s on call 24/7, “off the clock” is a relative term. In fact, Gary just got back from his first full vacation since the service center opened. He and his wife spent a week on a tour of Sacramento, Reno, Lake Tahoe and San Francisco.

    Back at home, Gary’s grandkids (four and one on the way) keep the couple busy. They live nearby and love going out on Gary’s boat to fish for catfish and bass. Gary also loves motorcycles. He has never been far from a bike for most of his adult life. His last ride was a Honda VTX 1800. He sold it when he moved to Houston to open the service center. It seems for some reason he just couldn’t find time to ride it!

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