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Supplying Critical Components to the Power Generation Sector

Posted on July 11th, 2013

QUEENSBURY, NY — Ed Leonard, shop supervisor, says that Seeley Machine is a small family owned business, which had its beginnings in the Seeley's garage. Barb, Charlie and Craig Seeley are the owners, and in 1986 they built a new split-level facility in Queensbury. They thought the building was plenty large enough for their needs, but they have added on several times. The newest addition is on the lower level where most large-part machining takes place; smaller parts and machines are on the upper level. Material often moves from one level to the other — roughing on one level, then finishing on the other. The company has 20-some employees. Manufacturing space today:
20,000 sq. ft.

“We are pretty much the definition of a job shop,” Leonard says. “We process a wide gamut of materials — exotics, Inconel, Hastalloy, Waspoloy, 300 to 400 series stainless and some aluminum. Over the past 10 years, the energy segment, specifically power generation, has been our bread-and-butter focus.

“For example, we produce several sizes of labyrinthine bearing seals, which redirect coolant or lubrication around a shaft, and many of these seals are larger than we technically should be doing on our new Hyundai WIA F-M Series vertical machining center. Many of the seals coming off the F750B are up to 32” in diameter and 3” to 8” thick. These typically are machined from aluminum, exotics and different grades of stainless and involve significant stock removal, tight tolerances and fine surface finishes.” The typical seal starts as rough aluminum stock, which is placed on a sub plate set up with locating pins. They run “OP1” and machine the part to a certain stage, hitting all the features on the part in one setup. If they have a batch of 40, they will run all 40 parts through OP1. Next, they set up OP2 where they flip the part and come back through and hit the remaining features. In OP1 they locate off rough surfaces and locating pins, and once OP1 is done they have machine-known surfaces for locating during OP2. They continue then with the same sub plate, locating against pins and known surfaces until they get through all the features on the seal.

Part programming is done off-line via solid modeling on SolidWorks. The program is loaded to a data card, which is then transferred to the Fanuc control, and it’s as simple as touching the part, locating it, and running. SolidWorks displays the sub plate, so they know where the material is at all times.

“The surface finishes on the bearing seals are very critical,” says Leonard. “On some we get to a 32 Ra, but the majority of our surface finishes are around 63 Ra. Tolerances are typically +/- 0.0001" — but we can hold much tighter with the Hyundai F750B. The seal is probably 3 ft. in diameter, and while in this case the part is aluminum and not very heavy, we run parts on the same machine that weigh in excess of 2000 lbs. The Hyundai WIA machines are able to handle, on the one hand, light and delicate materials and, on the other, very heavy, tough, rough cutting materials. You need only look at our machining of Stellite, which is as tough and rough cutting as you can get. We take heavy cuts in Stellite, and the Hyundai WIA machines are so rigid, the material doesn’t phase them at all.”

Stellite

“Stellite has been a big part of our business for probably 15 years,” Leonard says. “We got into it because of increasing demand for super-hard finishes. The power generation industry has always attracted the latest in material science. This is especially true today as there is more pressure on power plants to increase wear protection, service life and of course reduce safety risks. Confidence must be accomplished on critical components, which have to operate against simultaneous wearing mechanisms.

“Becoming a provider of Stellite coatings takes a significant investment up front in equipment and learning all the procedures and specifications. We made the equipment investment, sent personnel to Houston for Stellite training, and now we offer a wide range of coating materials — cobalt and nickel based alloys, superalloys and highly alloyed steels — that meet all requirements of the power generation industry for protection against heat, corrosion, erosion and wear. Our clients include most of the significant players in power generation, and we apply Stellite on all of their parts, specifically after the part has been roughed and prior to finish machining.

“The way we produce a Stellite coating,” Leonard continues, “is by taking a cobalt 6 powder, for example, and applying it to rough-machined round and/or flat metal surfaces using the plasma transferred arc (PTA) method of welding. This melts the powder and creates a slurry or plasma overlay on the surface. The Stellite surface overlay becomes very hard, and this is ideal for most power generation applications because it’s corrosive resistant, wear resistant and has high resistance to galling. Anytime you have an adhesive, abrasive or erosive atmosphere, that’s where you are going to want to use Stellite coatings.

“The process changes the material composition, making it harder and thus able to survive severe environments. It’s really a magic bullet for industries that require these hard surfaces, and we have a real competitive advantage being able to supply customers with the surface they need because there are so few shops willing to make the investment, learn the process and then supply it.”

Hyundai WIA…an easy decision

Seeley Machine has six Hyundai WIA machines — the aforementioned F750B, an F500, a VX950, a VX650-50 vertical machining center and two turning centers — all purchased over a three-year time frame. “To be perfectly honest,” Leonard says, “what drove us to the Hyundai WIA machines was value. We needed to expand capacity to create a niche where we were in between the big guys and the small guys. I started shopping around for machines, and Hyundai WIA kept catching my eye. The price-to-value ratio was so compelling, and when I compared them to competitive German and Japanese machines, some were nearly twice the price of the Hyundai WIA’s with seemingly no real advantage. I'm not taking anything away from Hyundai WIA’s competition, but why should I pay more to get the same capability?

“So, we bought our first VMC from Hyundai WIA and absolutely loved it. Then we bought another, then another, and then another. Bang for the buck, you can't beat them. Excel, which is the Hyundai WIA distributor in New York State, handles all of our service, and it's been fantastic. We're very happy. I call it a very good marriage.”

According to Leonard, what Hyundai WIA has done is match some of the best aspects of other manufacturers and marry these to their own unique designs and concepts. The result is a simple, straightforward, rugged, extremely accurate machine that you can put on the floor and be up and running in no time — and at a reasonable cost. When you compare Hyundai WIA to other comparable machines, Hyundai WIA wins hands down.

“Previously, we were running machines that were not quite as easy to use and weren’t as rigid,” Leonard says. “It was taking too long to produce the parts because the machines weren't able to take the heavy cuts, or they didn't have the right envelope size, or they didn't have the ease of use, or any number of other short-comings. This investment has really helped us in terms of productivity, throughput, and competitiveness. Our older machines are getting phased out, and now we only use them when we have to, but the weapon of choice are the Hyundai WIA’s. The Hyundai WIA’s were an addition to existing technology, but more so, they were a significant step up from the earlier technology. These machines match up with our needs and requirements perfectly. No one here would hesitate to buy more.”

Keeping ahead, quality up

Quality has always been an overriding focus for Seeley Machine. Leonard says, “We started out with five guys in the old shop, and we've always understood that first of all, your processes must be competitive, but more important your quality has to be good. If your quality is not top-notch, you're not going anywhere. You won't even get to second base with a customer — especially in the energy field. And the Hyundai WIA machines have played a key role in achieving quality, making it is easier to machine great finishes on certain materials, thus consuming less time. Runtimes have gone down because the machines are beefier and are able to handle bigger parts faster. So we have increased cycle time, throughput and quality. For the investment, these machines keep us a step or two ahead of the competition. Which is enormously important in today's marketplace.”

Dealing with skills dilemma

“It is extremely difficult to find qualified machinists in our area,” says Leonard. “It seems for a period of time counselors and advisors were urging high school students to pursue college educations, while ignoring vocational educations. However, lately this seems to have begun to turn around. We're seeing vocational schools today offering traditional machining, welding, tool and die and other metalworking subjects, so that vocational students might enter the real-world workplace equipped with what they and potential employers actually need.”

He explains that Seeley Machine, and in particular company president Craig Seeley, is working very closely with the local vocational school, explaining to them what Seeley Machine’s needs are. “They've been very proactive,” Leonard says. “The school understands that making things and manufacturing is the future. At the same time it's disheartening, the state schools find themselves in. They're working on shoestring budgets while trying to graduate students with credentials that will allow them to move directly into manufacturing jobs.”

Leonard explains Seeley Machine has made a commitment to bring two student interns into their shop every year for on-the-job training. This is an eight-week program, and the students are evaluated on a daily basis. Instead of going to school, they come to Seeley for hands-on experience. Seeley tries to gear the program so that when the students finally come out of school they are prepared to enter the manufacturing work force.

“And it’s working,” he says. “We have hired several of these interns, and some have turned out to be my best guys. We have been very lucky in that the ones we've hired had a combination of both skills and work ethic. This is really huge for us — feeding the pool that will feed us.

“It used to be more than honorable in this country to make things with your hands,” Leonard concludes. “Then, somewhere along in the 1980s that seemed to change, and the emphasis became going to college, getting the liberal arts degree, landing a six figure a year salary and not getting your hands dirty. Today, those six figure positions are few and far between, and those with a liberal arts degree are having a great deal of difficulty finding places to work — this, while there is a shortage of people with the skills and the work ethic to enter manufacturing, which is basic and the basis of this country’s future.”

See more at: Hyundai WIA Machine

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