Cti Helps Go-Ahead Pump Manufacturer Cast Its Net

Cti helps go-aheadCti has enabled a safety critical pump manufacturer to overcome quality problems with its suppliers by opening its own castings facility.

Bristol-based Apex Pumps started designing and manufacturing centrifugal pumps in the 1980s and went on to supply high quality, tailor-made pumps to companies in the offshore oil and gas, chemical processing and power generation sectors.

The company turned to Cti, part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, when it became difficult to find suppliers capable of meeting quality and delivery requirements, after it moved into safety critical markets.

“We were struggling to get the levels of support and delivery times we needed,” says Andrew Simpson, who runs Apex Pumps’ foundry, Precision Alloys (PAL).

Cti helps go-ahead“We needed a higher specification product, delivery times were going up and we faced quality issues which led to further delays if castings had to be remade. Suppliers also couldn’t provide the certification our customers were starting to request.”

Cti, based at South Yorkshire’s Advanced Manufacturing Park, provided Apex with the technical support it needed to set up its own ‘Micro Foundry,’ while the Manufacturing Advisory Service provided support for a feasibility study.

Bristol-based Apex Pumps started designing and manufacturing centrifugal pumps in the 1980s and went on to supply high quality, tailor-made pumps to companies in the offshore oil and gas, chemical processing and power generation sectors.

The company turned to Cti, part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, when it became difficult to find suppliers capable of meeting quality and delivery requirements, after it moved into safety critical markets.

“We were struggling to get the levels of support and delivery times we needed,” says Andrew Simpson, who runs Apex Pumps’ foundry, Precision Alloys (PAL).

“We needed a higher specification product, delivery times were going up and we faced quality issues which led to further delays if castings had to be remade. Suppliers also couldn’t provide the certification our customers were starting to request.”

Cti, based at South Yorkshire’s Advanced Manufacturing Park, provided Apex with the technical support it needed to set up its own ‘Micro Foundry,’ while the Manufacturing Advisory Service provided support for a feasibility study.

Cti’s support spanned everything from a license to use its Replicast® process technology to advice on equipment and environmental consultancy services that enabled APEX to secure planning permission for the foundry on a small industrial estate, surrounded by new homes.

Cti’s staff provided a range of other assistance, including training PAL’s workforce, none of whom had worked in a foundry before, and were on hand when the company made its first castings.

“This is a real SME success story and shows the depth of support we can offer,” says Cti’s Will Jeffs.

“PAL has doubled output since it started and is now able to make castings from metals including super duplex alloys, which a number of foundries that have been going for 50 years or more would struggle to do.”

Cti’s Replicast® technology allows companies to replace expensive wooden patterns with dimensionally precise replicas cut from solid blocks of polystyrene foam by a CNC machine, using data from Apex’s CAD system.

That means Apex can easily modify pumps in its range to meet customers’ specific requirements without incurring the significant cost involved in modifying or remaking wooden patterns

Each polystyrene replica is dipped in a tank full of a special slurry to create a ceramic shell which is significantly thinner than a traditional investment casting shell but with the same excellent internal surface finish.

Shells are fired, removing the foam, put in casting boxes and surrounded with refractory sand. The boxes are shaken on a vibrating table before air is drawn out of the sand to create a firm support for the shell, after which molten metal is poured in.

Replicast® allows companies like PAL to make castings with a vast range of sizes and complexities, including the smallest pump impellers, large pump castings and bearing housings.

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