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Engineering Technology Corporation expands focus

News International-French

1 Sep 2015

Sponsored News - Engineering Technology Corporation’s expertise will soon be available to a wider market due to new machines.

Managing growth in a shifting landscape requires the ability to look ahead while simultaneously referring to historically proven expertise. It is precisely that blend of viewpoints that for 50 years has carried Engineering Technology Corporation through a maelstrom of technological and market change and led it to the point where this year it’s making a bold move into a new stage of growth.

Having built a long-standing reputation for precisely customized machine and process solutions backed by service and support that just won’t quit, the firm is translating its filament winding machine expertise into a new standardized line of products. Built on a modular platform that will allow users to expand from one spindle to five, change the axis of motion and use the machine for a variety of liner sizes, the standard series was developed in conjunction with the industrial design team at Swarm Design and Engineering.

This expandability is what will make these new standard machines into something not so standard, notes Bill Regan, vice president of Zoltek’s Engineering & Technology department and general manager of Engineering Technology Corporation. “It is relatively easy to design and build a machine that never allows changes that a customer may request” but it requires a depth of machine and systems building expertise and years of providing service in the field to inform a multi-faceted product.

“Accuracy and quality are key” he adds. “Our standard machines will have the same design tolerances, quality and machine performance that our custom machinery offers.”

It’s appropriate that “engineering” has been in the name of this company since it was founded 50 years ago with a focus on designing and building machines and systems to support a variety of customer needs. From its earliest days as a filament winding machine manufacturer, Engineering Technology Corporation was breaking new ground, notably producing the industry’s first computer-controlled filament winding machine. Later, following an acquisition by carbon-fiber maker Zoltek and a subsequent merger with CMC Machines in 1999, Engineering Technology Corporation, then known as Entec, expanded into composites research, production and prototyping for clients.

More evolution came in 2014, when the business, along with its parent company Zoltek, was acquired by the expansive Japan-based Toray Group, which operates chemical businesses in 26 countries worldwide. The subsequent infusion of resources enabled a company-wide revamp, starting with a return to its original name, Engineering Technology Corporation. New management has joined forces with the manufacturer’s dedicated team of engineers (many of whom have been with the company for more than 20 years) to streamline operations in newly remodeled facilities, and new processes have been put into place to boost quality control.

“We’re increasing our in-house capability and efficiencies to help with our expansion into new product lines, with a focus on getting our costs down” explains plant manager B Jay Larson, detailing improvements in the front office and in production, with safety and rigorous operations standards a primary emphasis across all Toray brands. In the shop, a new water-jet table and two new CNC machines that will round out the manufacturing capabilities provided by existing manual lathes and mills.

A tour through the company’s 80,000-square-foot headquarters reveals departments specializing in each step of the composites chain, from towpreg manufacturing through to prototype design and testing, liner manufacture and filament winding machinery, and even beyond to design and integration of large-scale automated systems that can weld liners, pick and place, wind and inspect filament-wound bottles. On the largest of scales, even a bridge crane can be added to the line for large-scale picking and placing.

Engineering Technology Corporation’s team of engineers, materials specialists and process technicians help to realize customer goals on a wide range of scales. An equipment portfolio that includes machines for pultrusion, tape and fiber placement, towpreg manufacturing and automation and a composites development lab make the firm a “one-stop shop” for customers that need a new prototype, product or manufacturing line.

Specifically with its composite solutions division, the company assists in product development with a particular emphasis on pressure vessels. “Our composite engineers assist customers with their structural composite design using Finite Element Analysis,” Regan explains. “With our ability to manufacture prototypes, we can test the prototype under various loading conditions and collect data using strain gauges to analyze high-stress areas and validate the design. Once this step is complete we can design and build equipment for a manufacturing process complete with full automation that will provide a cost-effective solution.”

Looking ahead to a future where the firm will also support the new line of standard machines, with a considered focus on maintaining its reputation for stellar service, Regan says, “We are increasing the number of technical service people that will include representation in Europe for quicker response. When it comes to servicing our equipment, it is our mindset that our customers’ problems are our problems as well. We will seek to solve problems quickly, regardless of where or how they originate.”

Making the commitment to provide the same high-level, dedicated service for its standard machines as it does with its custom technologies, Regan notes, “truly sets us apart from our competition.” The sales process at the company always begins with a needs analysis and a careful, engineering-driven approach to meeting customers’ needs. Clients who are used to working directly with Troy Maxfield, Kelly White, and Dan Pichan to develop custom solutions will find the same level of support, and new clients just diving into the business via standard machines will find a bevy of engineering resources available to them.

Supporting the manufacturing improvements across the company’s machine and composite lines are control initiatives implemented by Nick Runtsch, quality manager at Engineering Technology Corporation. Through the non-conformance reporting efforts he has initiated, and the subsequent engineering fixes that improve production down the line, “We’re going to save a lot of time through our process,” Runtsch says. “Every issue that’s found in manufacturing or inspection of parts from outside vendors is recorded, reported, and changes are made to solve the problem. By tracking what these inconsistencies are costing us, catching them the first time they happen, and fixing them, we’ve become a lot more efficient.”

This dedication to continued refinement evidently begins in operations and continues all the way through the line to the machines, composites and systems Engineering Technology Corporation designs and delivers. As a business, it has evolved through a great deal of change, enabling it to better serve clients who are also shifting and making additions to their lineup. After all, change is certainly available in abundance these days, and Engineering Technology Corporation is poised to help customers stay the course and capitalize on evolving business opportunities.

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