Use the energy industry downturn as an opportunity to improve CAM proficiencies and become an even more robust supplier.
- Mastercam is easy to learn and use.
- Libraries allow for accurate matching of tools and operating conditions for hundreds of unique materials.
- CAD integration allows efficient reverse engineering and collaborative design to build projects.
- Advanced toolpaths make both programming and machining more efficient.
The company’s rudimentary CAM programming software will not allow Howard’s son, Frank, and a recently hired programmer to generate programs fast enough to keep pace with the demand for machined plastic components, particularly for the growing oil field customer base.
Together, they survey the CAD/CAM market, closely evaluate three products, and choose Mastercam. They have two seats of Mastercam Mill, two Mastercam Lathe seats, and Mastercam Solids which supports a sophisticated manufacturing operation involving nearly 50 employees working two shifts and 26 CNC machines—lathes and 3-, 4-, and 5-axis CNC mills.
The energy industry takes a severe downturn and PFI gets to work exploring other markets including medical (e.g. molds for breast implants), components for pharmaceutical equipment, semi-conductor manufacturing equipment, pumps, valves, etc. Although the oil-field business has dipped from nearly 100% to about 20% of the company’s revenue, PFI perseveres and grows because of its unique non-metallic manufacturing expertise.
PFI is using Mastercam as a tool not only for improving programming productivity, but also obtaining the highest reasonable machine cycles, while balancing the difficulties presented by thermal effects, internal stresses, and tool wear along with the frequent requirement to achieve high surface finishes. Over the years, PFI captures its manufacturing experience into its tool libraries, making it possible to select the right tools and optimal feeds and speeds on part geometry and material formulation (of which there are hundreds.)
When the energy business essentially went away, PFI takes its expertise in machining difficult non-metallic parts to other markets. The pump industry provides a logical extension of the company’s capabilities. PFI soon begins custom machining a variety of engineered plastic components for them, a business which continues to this day. PFI is also developing a presence in the medical and other demanding markets, machining a variety of critical non-metallic components, including molds for breast implants and wafer carriers for semiconductor manufacturing equipment.
Now the energy market is rebounding substantially, and all of the technology and expertise PFI develops is key to its being awarded some substantial projects. Some of these involve precision machining of PEEK (PolyEtherEtherKetone) electric connectors that assure deep downhole signal reliability, even under extremes of temperature and pressure.
The energy market now represents more than half of PFI’s business. The recent growth has necessitated a third expansion of their facility. In the near future, ground breaking will commence on an expansion that will increase the facility from the current 38,000 sq. ft. to over 50,000 sq. ft. However, the company continues to explore currently under-utilized capabilities of Mastercam, along with new technologies that will allow it to more efficiently machine non-metallic components regardless of the industry.