Southern California Firm Offers Range of Manufacturing Processes
Along with metal fabrication, welding, machining, and assembly, the company provides engineering and design assistance and manufacturing troubleshooting.
By David Gaines
A small job shop with 20 employees is one of the rare shops in the country that offers a full range of general manufacturing processes at one location, including specialty machin- ing, welding, sheet metal fabrication and assembly. People at the company take pride in their ability to handle projects that some jobbers may not want to tackle.
The company manufactures rocket, missile, and satellite components for Northrop- Grumman, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, GE, and Raytheon, and medical components for Baxter-Arngen, Pfizer, and Alcon. It also builds booths for tradeshows, props and special effectsss for Disney, Toyota Racing Division, and pipe hangers for Arco refineries. While most of its high-end, precision work is for the aerospace and medical product manufacturers, the company also offers this level of quality for the transportation, environmental, entertainment, semiconductor, and other commercial industries. This diversified contract manufacturer is Dynamic Fabrication Inc. (DFI) of Santa Ana, California.
“Most of the work we do is short- run, custom work, usually from one to 50 pieces in a very fast turnaround,” says Mike Kartsonis, DynamicFabrication’s president.”Our customers often need several parts in one week, work that needs 100 hours to complete, so we stay as long as it takes to get the job done.”
“Each pass of the rod couldn’t be too hot or too cold; otherwise the material would crack. It has to do with knowing and using the right coeffi- cient of expansion for this particular metal. We reduced the turnaround time on the casing by 50% and saved them tens of thousands of dollars on the part.”
The next part attempted was an insulation housing that goes inside theTomahawk rocket. The OEM was having trouble finding someone that would attempt the work due to its complexity. “We helped them design and engineer the component, one that had some very complex radiuses and angles,” Kartsonis insisted.
Bends had to be formed left and right and then top to bottom, before the whole part was rolled into a 20 inch diameter. Fixtures were very complex because of the close tolerances on the thin sheet metal (310 stainless steel, 0.030-inch thick, for high-heat applications). “We reduced the cost of the part 200%, bringing it down to $400 per part for 22 pieces,” Kartsonis continued. “And we turned it around in five weeks, for a job they were previously told would take eight weeks, which is a 37% savings in time.”
Kartsonis brought the company into existence in 1981 with a variety of different types of manufacturing equipment. He insists that the key to his success is employing highly skilled craftspeople, most of whom have been with the company for a long time. “We have a profit-sharing plan, which is a good incentive for high productivity,” Kartsonis points out. “But what really helps is the fact that my guys understand the concept of customer service as much as I do.”
Dynamic Fabrication offers engineering and design assistance, as well as manufacturing troubleshooting, as value-added services. If the part’s application is known, says Kartsonis, DFI can help OEMs design for maximum cost efficiency and productivity. This heightened productivity was recognized recently when the company received the TRW Gold Supplier Award for 100% on-time work with high quality.
Dynamic Fabrication is also on the preferred supplier list for several aerospace companies, such as AdamsRite, Rockwell, and General Electric.
Diverse Southern California Metal Fabrication Ship
One unique job required Dynamic Fabrication to design and fabricate, within a very tight timeframe, a tradeshow booth for BMW Mini- Cooper. The two-story booth had to be strong enough to hold a Mini- Cooper on top of it, yet lightweight. It would also need to be durable and cost-effective at the same time. One section had steering wheels on it, so it had to be safe enough for children and strong enough to be handled roughly by adults.
“We designed it to be very light- weight, making it cheaper to ship, faster and easier to install, and easier to store after use,” Kartsonis recalled.”It also had to be very physically appealing, so we powder coated it in several designer colors to give it a real nice look.”
There was a little bit of machining and assembly, but a great deal of sheet metal forming and welding. The booth was made out of 5-inch, square aluminum tubing with sheeting attached. Dynamic Fabrication made the weld joints and splices extra strong to handle the added stress, and added some structural rolling where they were spliced together. The jobber completed the job in five weeks, in- stead of eight, another 37% reduction in time. In doing so, Dynamic Fabrication saved BMW $15,000 to $20,000 on shipping, installation, and storage costs when it was finally in operation.
Another component, a high-water-pressure digger, was constructed to enable an environmental firm to dig, safe holes for street lights or other large fIxtures. Dynamic Fabrication helped design the large tube-like structures, and then built the 6-inch diameter aluminum tube with a stainless steel manifold that houses 15 separate water nozzles faced at different angles. The water jets had to be designed in such a way as to make the blasting of the dirt very efficient. Some of the parts, such as handles, clips, and flanges, had to be welded to the tube; others, like the manifold, were machined and assembled later. The company had to machine hydraulic fittings for hose connections before assem- bling them. Half couplings had to be welded to the manifold, before screwing in the high-pressure nozzles. Dynamic Fabrication was able to promptly deliver 20 of the diggers for this customer on a very quick, one-week turnaround.
With everyone wanting everything better, cheaper, and faster, Kartsonis feels that Dynamic Fabri- cation is an asset to short-staffed OEMs. “I like to think of ourselves as a one-stop shop,” he says. “They can make one phone call, and we’ll handle the whole project. We can either do separate tasks, like machining, or we can do the whole part or component, no matter how big or how small it is.”
Diverse Equipment Necessary for Extensive Workload
Dynamic Fabrication utilizes con- ventional machining equipment, mills, lathes, and surface grinders, as well as CNC machining centers. For sheet metal fabrication, the company has a variety of press brakes, shears, CNC punching equipment, rollers, and tube benders.
In welding, about 70% of the work uses the gas tungsten arc pro- cess, and the remainder, gas metal arc welding. The company has several high-tech, precision machines capable of handling Mil-spec welding on many different types of metals, including stainless steel, aluminum, InconelTM, Hastelloys, titanium, nickel alloys, and brass and bronze. For fin- ishing, the company does its own sanding and polishing. However, electropolishing, powder coating, painting, passivation, honing, anod- izing, and heat treating are sent to outside vendors. Tolerances vary greatly, depending on the size and complexity of the part or component and the processes involved. The fIrm’s aerospace and medical workrequires the most precision and attention to quality.
Weld joints and splices were made extra strong for this durable, two-story tradeshow booth that Dynamic Fabrication fabricated for BMW Mini-Cooper. Photo courtesy of Dynamic Fabrication, Inc. Santa Ana, California
The firm’s delivery record, Kartsonis affirms unhesitatingly, is on-time deliveries 97% of the time, and DFI strives to deliver everything only once. The company has a very low reject rate, so that most of its parts go right into an OEM’s assembly line without any inspection process. “We get report cards from many of our customers monthly or quarterly that will attest to our claims,” says Kartsonis.
Tomahawk Rocket Components Create Challenges
A project that was completed on time for a large aerospace firm backs up their assertions. The client first came to DFI for the welding of a Tomahawk rocket’s outer casing. But when it found out that the contract manufacturer could perform other processes and do them on time and within budget, the OEM began sending other purchase orders.
The rocket’s outer casing came to DFI already formed with 94-25, a high-heat steel alloy. It only required welding of the extra machined parts, a seemingly simple task. But a pur- chasing agent advised the job shop not to take on the job because several other shops had attempted it and failed.
“I heard horror stories about welding this unforgiving alloy, but my welders were able to handle it fairly easily;” Kartsonis related proudly. “We had to do pre-heating and post-heating processes, using a special heater that we designed, due to potential stress cracking of the material. And we had to maintain the inter-pass temperature very carefully.
For example, DFI sometimes machines critical heart valve parts in plastic with very close tolerances for a customer that needs them quickly.
On large parts, the company usually holds machining tolerances to +/- 0.002 inch, and on smaller parts, to +/- .0002 inch. Many of the weldments have tolerances that are held to 0.005, 0.015, or 0.030 inch, depending on the application. In contrast, much of the work that the company does for the tradeshow and entertainment industry isn’t about perfection; it just has to look nice, fit together properly, be durable, and be delivered on time. “The diversity of work we do gives us an edge over job shops that are doing work in one area, because we know how to handle a variety of different engineering and manufacturing challenges,” Kartsonis explains.
Dynamic Fabrication once again showcased its tal- ents and skills when it built a large, 12-foot-by-12-foot support base to transport a $200 million defense satel- lite. The shop made it out of I-beams laced together for a large aerospace manufacturer. The fIxtures were not made properly by the first company that attempted the project, contributing to the poorly constructed housing. Consequently, the OEM was in a bind and needed a new base made very quickly.
Originally, the support base was quoted for 12 weeks, but the manufacturer now neede it in six weeks. Dynamic Fabrication said that it could do the job in nine weeks, which worked for the aerospace firm. Many Saturdays and Sundays, however, had to be worked in order to finish the project.
“The diversity of work we do gives us an edge over job shops that are doing work in one area, because we know how to handle a variety of different engineering and manufacturing challenges,” Kartsonis explains.
A great deal of welding and machining, assembly and inspection, and heat treating was necessary for the aluminum parts. “We had to go in to the tight areas and have someone hold a mirror to allow the welder to see what he was welding,” Kartsonis remembers. “Even the materials had to be certified by their engineers before we could use them. Stress on the welds was very critical because of the heavy weight of the satellite.”
The aerospace firm sent six of its engineers to supervise the close-tolerance work, to do x-ray inspections of the welds, and to perform pull tests and load tests. Even with all of the client’s tight scrutiny, close tolerances, and critical testing, DFI was able to deliver the frame in perfect shape on the delivery day decided upon. It was not an easy feat, but one that Dynamic Fabrication has become accustomed to handling efficiently, quickly, and cost-effectively.