Power to the People

Overcoming the Power Shortage

The recent collapse of energy giant Enron has given the power industry a black eye. Despite this, behind the scenes, companies such as DuHadaway Tool and Die Shop, Inc., of Newark, Delaware, continue providing support for those working to overcome the ongoing electricity shortage.

For more than 12 years, DuHadaway has manufactured components for power generation units, and their future looks bright. As new power plants are built to quench the public’s insatiable thirst for electricity, the company continues to thrive and prosper.

DuHadaway Tool and Die was founded in 1957 by Robert DuHadaway with just seven people. Today, the company has 120 employees working in three different buildings totaling 85,000 square feet. As the name implies, DuHadaway began as a tool & die shop, mainly producing dies for the automotive wheel industry and parts for the oil industry. But the ups and downs of these industries led DuHadaway to look for a more stable market. The power generation industry was the answer.

Most of the electricity used by homes and businesses today is produced by steam turbines: Water is heated to produce steam, which in turn drives the turbine to generate electricity. When additional electricity must be produced quickly to meet peak demand, however, power companies often fire up fuel-powered combustion turbines. These turbines work much like jet engines. Air is heated by burning fuel, such as natural gas or oil. As the temperature increases, the air builds up pressure. This super-hot, high-pressure air is forced into the turbine section, where it expands and applies pressure across the blades, causing the turbine to rotate and produce electricity.

v7-i25-Power-to-the-P2

This simple process has been golden for DuHadaway, as they manufacture components for a variety of combustion turbines. John O’Donnell, the company’s VP and general manager, explains: “With the growing need for electricity in the U.S. and abroad, most of the turbine manufacturers, such as Siemens Westinghouse, have increased their production of turbines for delivery to the power companies. In the past, they were building 12 to 18 turbines a year; now they’re probably building 40 to 65 turbines a year, if not more.”

One of the key components of a combustion turbine is the fuel nozzle, which controls the flow of fuel into the combustion chamber. Each nozzle consists of a fuel cap and several – 8 or 12 – gas tips. The increased production of combustion turbines has led to a corresponding increase in demand for these components. To keep up with the demand, DuHadaway had to find a way to increase their production of gas tips and fuel nozzles.

“The way it was set up before, we had to manually index the gas tip for machining,” says O’Donnell. “We had to mill it across the top four times, then we had to use a separate fixture to set it at 30 degrees, and then mill it one slot at a time. We are now able to turn the gas tip around with our rotary tables and position it, index it and mill the eight slots.”

DuHadaway machines the gas tips out of 310 stainless steel using a Haas VF-2 vertical machining center with an HRT 210 rotary table. “After the eight slots are milled, the inside of the gas tip is then milled in the same type of setup. The internal part is at a 30-degree angle, and we can counterbore to depth, then drill and ream the gas ports – holding a five tenths (0.0005") tolerance – after which a small radius is formed for flow. All four of these operations can be performed in one setup,” O’Donnell reports. “The piece would have taken us about 60 minutes to produce before, but now we can make it in 15 minutes with the rotary table.

“The Haas 4th- and 5th-axis rotary tables also make a big difference for us in the manufacture of fuel caps,” O’Donnell continues. “Traditionally, we had to rotate many of the parts manually. Now we can write the program to do all 8 holes or 12 holes in one setup. It will counterbore, drill, ream and then form the radius for the gas ports.”

The finished gas tips and fuel caps are fabricated into fuel nozzles, and the entire nozzle goes into the combustion chamber of a turbine. DuHadaway tests the nozzles with a water/air mixture to ensure that flow rates are correct. The consistent test results are proof of “the great accuracy and repeatability we get with the Haas machines and indexers,” says O’Donnell.

DuHadaway acquired its first Haas vertical machining center in 1995, and has added 11 more Haas machines since then. Besides the VF-2 used for the gas tips, the company has recently added six horizontal machining centers to mill other parts from stainless steel, Hastelloy ‘X’, and Inconel 625.

One part that keeps the HMCs busy is a circular base of 304 stainless steel, in which holes are milled to attach the nozzles and gas tips. “We saw the demand increasing for power generation parts,” says O’Donnell. “We just turned around at that point and stepped up our production. The only way we could do that, obviously, was to add more equipment.”

The choice for new equipment was an easy one. After the success of the first Haas machine, the company kept adding more machines to keep up with production. The key was the ability of Haas to deliver machines that would start cutting immediately. “Having reliable machines means a lot in a production environment like this,” O’Donnell explains. “That’s the difference between making a job or eventually losing a customer.

“Once a Haas machine is set up, we don’t have any problems with it. That’s something you look for in this age when you talk about quality, whether you’re talking about buying an automobile or anything,” O’Donnell adds. “You want to be able to take it home, plug it in and it works. And then you live happily ever after. Years ago that wasn’t the case with most machine tools.”

The Haas line of machining centers has helped the company keep up with demand and keep customers happy. “From our manufacturing standpoint, we have reduced the number of setups, and that’s a big cost savings,” explains Bob DuHadaway, president and son of the founder. “The Haas machines give us greater ability to increase our workload. The uptime – being able to run the machine – has been great.”

While other companies have seen business fluctuate, DuHadaway has continued to prosper, with steady work on power generation components. “Our business has been pretty constant, because not only are we involved in new manufacturing, we are also refurbishing components,” says DuHadaway.

With peak generators sometimes running 24 hours a day to keep up with demand, DuHadaway is looking to the future when repairs will start coming in. Power generation components are subjected to severe temperatures, but instead of being replaced with new parts, they can be effectively overhauled. “Fifteen percent of our work is repair. But we are going to see that change in the next couple of years as parts wear out,” DuHadaway says. ”We’re busy right now with the new production, but we’re also seeing an influx of parts coming back for repairs.”

While the energy crisis may have negatively affected some organizations in the power industry, DuHadaway’s use of Haas equipment has enabled them to thrive. Recognizing the changing needs of their customers, the company successfully modified their processes and enhanced their equipment in order to build quality power generation components in a timely, cost-effective manner.