How State Line helps pump manufacturers
When failure isn’t an option:
Pump manufacturers know how much is at stake when their products are at work in the field. Pumps support underground mining and tunneling operations, firefighting, commercial sprinkling systems, wastewater, the oil and gas industries and other critical, high-performance applications.
Pump manufacturers looking for casting partners need to be certain that their foundry will hold up its end of the bargain. A pump failure can be extremely costly – and sometimes even put lives in danger.
State Line Foundries’ business remains strong because of its ability to produce castings that meet pump OEMs’ high standards. What makes State Line such a good fit for its pump-producing customers?
It’s easy to spot poor quality in a pump casting: Just look for the leak or the idled equipment in the field. “These pumps move a variety of liquids, oil, water, gas, slurry – just about anything you can think of,” says Jesse Milks, president of State Line Foundries.
In the pump industry, quality means excellence in all aspects of construction. “They need to be pressure-tight, leak-free, porosity-free and defect-free,” Milks elaborates.
The applications can be demanding, too, so castings need to withstand the test of time. As an example, Milks points to pumped slurries and the sand and grit associated with them. These are abrasive substances that can damage lower-quality pumps.
Sometimes, quality means a clean appearance; pumps are frequently visible to the end user and the OEM’s want their pumps to be visually appealing as well as perform to the highest standards.
“The manufacturer wants the outside of the casting to be clean and promote their brand,” Milks explains. “Achieving this means being diligent in the casting process.”
Decades of experience
Experience can be defined by the length of time a business has been in operation. At 53 years, State Line stacks up well.
But that’s only part of the story. Experience also means routinely handling difficult tasks. “We make cores and molds in varying complexities and sizes for these applications every day,” Milks states. “We have the know-how and technical expertise needed.”
A fair share of State Line’s customers are in the pump business. They are also in very different industry segments within that category, giving the foundry a broad knowledge base. For example, the well water and waste water pump segments are holding their own during these tough times, meanwhile State Line has seen a slight slowdown in the pump components it sells to the oil and gas industries.
This expertise is particularly important when making the cores. “They have to be very high quality, of course, but there can be other challenges,” Milks reveals. “These pumps require some very unique core geometries.”
Creating castings for the intricacies of volute pumps is one example. Impellers are another. “The core geometry is challenging, and the impellers are very core-intensive,” Milks points out. “The impeller usually has a blade configuration. We use a variety of core making machines and core sand media to help us successfully produce cores that will yield the best castings.”
The geometries aren’t the only complex situation where State Line’s expertise differentiates it as a foundry partner.
“Another strength of ours is the ability to pour a variety of alloys on any day,” Milks details. “With pumps, some manufacturers like high nickel content or different alloys that you don’t see every day. They have a broad range of chemistry requirements depending on the application.”
The alloy can make all the difference in the final product. For example, pumps might handle wastewater and slurry materials and the alloy must withstand these abrasive materials.
Responsiveness is a must
It’s not unusual for a State Line customer to make an emergency request. “We pride ourselves on jumping at an opportunity to help, regardless of the lead time or complexity,” Milks declares.
The company’s long history once again comes into play. “We have a ton of experience working with a broad range of OEMs. If we haven’t seen that exact problem before, chances are we’ve seen one similar to it.”
Pump manufacturers also appreciate State Line’s ability to make castings that range from a few pounds to 2,500 pounds. “That big range of casting sizes is something that most other foundries don’t offer,” Milks indicates.
With State Line, customers have a knowledgeable source that can prove to be invaluable when an emergency arises – and that can also tackle one-off projects as needed. “For example, we can accommodate unique alloys in small batch sizes,” Milks says.
A lot can be on the line for the OEM: “If a pump in a mine goes down, the whole operation can come to a halt,” Milks explains. “We’ll do whatever we can to make the replacement part in a matter of days. We’re glad to take on those challenges.”
New part development
“We love helping to develop prototypes,” Milks declares. “Our technical expertise is a big help upfront. We work closely with design engineers. We go through the design and offer suggestions that might make it more manufacturable. We help them catch design issues.”
Utilizing 3D printing is a cost-effective prototyping strategy for some OEMs. The cost of permanent pattern tooling for volute and impeller castings can be high compared to traditional geometries. If only a few casting samples are needed, State Line can print 3D sand molds. It has also had success with stereolithography (SLA), a method of 3D printing that can be used to produce plastic impressions that can be used for a short-term pattern.
The 3D approach can eliminate costly steps of the prototyping process. “It’s a pattern-less option for getting real iron castings. It can be a big cost-saver,” Milks says.
Tool transfers made easier
Pump manufacturers have praised State Line for its tool transferring ability.
Some of the tools can be very old, yet still essential. Milks sees tools arrive at State Line in “all conditions, but we sort them out.”
Sometimes, the tool may have to be dismantled – carefully, of course. Other times, State Line may have a suggestion for improving it. Yet the directive to the foundry is often to work with what’s provided – which can sometimes be a tool that’s 70 or 80 years old.
“These are typically pretty complex patterns because the geometries can be so unique,” he explains.
Sometimes old tools are the best way to create replacement parts. “There is a huge replacement parts industry that we’re glad to assist with,” Milks declares. “There might be a pump that’s been in the field 50 years and they need a part for it. We help with those applications, too.”
The best way for an OEM to learn more about any facet of the process – and any opportunities for improved quality and cost savings – is to contact State Line. “We look forward to talking to you about quality, costs, transferring tools or creating new ones,” Milks says.
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