Bringing the machine to the mountain
When Sonny Baytaluke's crew was hired to repair corroded flange faces on some large pressure vessels for potato processing, it brought in portable machine tools to do the job. The alternative would have been to embark on a huge logistical...
June 1, 2011 | By Carroll McCormick
When Sonny Baytaluke’s crew was hired to repair corroded flange faces on some large pressure vessels for potato processing, it brought in portable machine tools to do the job. The alternative would have been to embark on a huge logistical exercise, starting with peeling back the plant roof in order to remove the pressure vessels and transport them to a repair centre.
“In the time we repaired the two vessels, the customer would have barely been able to remove one of the pressure vessels and ship it to a service centre,” recalls Baytaluke, the field service manager for Weir Minerals Canada in Calgary, AB. The Calgary service centre specializes mainly in rotating equipment, refurbishment and engineering solutions, hydroelectric equipment refurbishment, vibration analysis and balancing. It also provides millwrights and machinists for plant shutdowns.
Weir uses portable machine tools manufactured by Climax Portable Machine Tools Inc., headquartered in Newberg, OR. Founded in 1966, Climax has 50 different models of standard portable machine tools, including autobore welding systems, boring machines, lathes and valve grinding and lapping machines.
Its smaller portable tools include boring machines that make holes as small as 1.5-in. (38.1 mm) and key mills that can cut keyways 1.25 in. (31.8 mm) wide. The big tools include flange facers capable of machining flanges with facing diameters of 120 in. (3 048 mm) and circular mills that can handle milling diameters up to 197 in. (5 003.8 mm).
Climax also makes customized and one-of-a kind machine tools, which account for about 50% of its business. Customers have used them for projects such as line boring bushings on hydro dam wicket gates, and repairing valves and pipes by remote control in radioactive zones in nuclear power plants. “Power generation is one of our key markets,” says Andy Becker, vice-president, strategic business development and marketing for Climax.
Weir’s Calgary service centre recently refaced the seat on a 12-ft dia (3.66 m) valve in the penstock at the Glenmore Dam in Calgary. As for smaller projects, Baytaluke says, “One example that keeps us fairly busy is companies that do gas compression packages. They manufacture skid units that are sent to remote locations. They will weld flanges on the preheaters, etc. As the final [step] in hooking the pipes up, we come in with flange facers: 2-in., 6-in., etc. I did a couple of 20-in. flanges the other day.”
The Climax website includes a variety of videos that show its portable tools in action. In one example, machinists are setting up a CM6000 circular mill to machine wind turbine tower flanges. They lift the mill into place with an overhead winch, but because of its modular design, it is still portable.
“We always attempt to have the ability to have one person set up a machine (although in this case it takes two). We try to make the machines so they can be broken down into parts that weigh 50 lb (22.7 kg) or less,” Becker says.
The Calgary service centre was already using Climax portable machine tools when Baytaluke joined the company in 1988. It stocks a variety of them in its Fort St. John’s, Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal offices. “We use the Climax machine tools on a national basis. If I need a line boring machine and, say, it is in Montreal, I make a call and Montreal ships it to Calgary,” Baytaluke explains. “If the job is beyond the capacity of the tools we own, we rent what we need from Climax.”
All rental requests are handled through the Climax dispatch centre in Newberg and the equipment is dispatched from the nearest rental depot. Canadian orders, for example, are electronically transmitted to a rental centre in Edmonton that also serves as a Climax rental depot. The rental centre is also responsible for storing, shipping and refurbishing the rental machines. Climax also is exploring opportunities to open a rental depot in Eastern Canada.
There are many advantages of bringing the tools to the machining project, beyond the obvious one that some, like hydro dams, do not transport well. However, says Becker, “Our basic value proposition is still not that well understood. The concept of bringing the tool on site and doing the work there is one we continually have to reinforce. It makes sense to move the portable machine tool to the project site, rather than moving the big part to the tool.”
Baytaluke agrees. “Consider, for example, the cost of cranes, insurance and transportation. The portable machine tools mitigate a lot of risk and liability.”
Speed is also a big factor. One Climax case study describes how Hitachi Canadian Industries Ltd. in Saskatoon, SK, uses one of the portable machine tools to speed production: Hitachi was finding that moving wind turbine tower sections into its machine shop and mounting them on to stationary vertical boring mills to machine out-of-spec flanges was interfering with tight delivery schedules. It decided to purchase a Climax CM6000 circular mill, which it could bring to the tower sections indoors and outdoors. The mill can machine flanges from 6 ft to 16 ft (1.8-4.9 m) in diameter, to a surface flatness tolerance of 0.0004 in./ft (0.0333 mm/m), according to specifications provided by Climax.
Despite its size, the mill can be disassembled for efficient storage and then reassembled in about 60 minutes.
In this case, the CM6000 is braced inside the wind turbine tower section with jack screws, but other Climax tools are tack welded onto the project and then finely adjusted. “Rigidity of the equipment is important,” says Becker; the tools routinely machine to extremely fine tolerances. The Climax portable tools deliver the same quality as that of stationary tools, Becker says. “It is hard for people to realize this, but these are very sophisticated machines.”
Climax supports its product line with a regular schedule for training its customers. “The training facility is always busy. The most popular course is for bore welding and boring,” Becker says. Climax also holds a twice-yearly program in which it gives an overview of all five of its machine types in five days.
Climax uses feedback from companies like Weir to improve its tools. Baytaluke, who considers his machinists to be among the most innovative in the country, reports, “We have come up with some wild and wacky applications. We go well beyond published tolerances. Climax likes to keep in touch to find out what works and does not, and how to make their machines better.”
In the past three years, Climax has been focusing on making components more interchangeable among its tools. Otherwise, says Becker, the company is always on the lookout for new tools and applications. “There is not a day that a new idea for a portable machine does not cross my desk.” MRO
Carroll McCormick, senior contributing editor, is based in Montreal. He is the recipient of several awards for his writing in Machinery & Equipment MRO.
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