Airtight accuracy

By Gretchen Salois

Avoiding rupture failures in tanks requires strict quality monitoring

September 2014 - Invented in 1897 by chemist John T. Dorrance with the Campbell Soup Co., condensed soup has come a long way from such staple recipes as chicken noodle and cream of mushroom. Canning soup goes beyond flavor as the process requires strict adherence to quality controls—much like pressure vessels, which, instead of food, may store hazardous liquids and gases.

Pressure vessels contain and transport a vast array of chemicals and hazardous liquids or gases at pressures above 15 psi. The slightest crack can lead to serious rupture failures resulting in poisonings, suffocations, fires or explosions. Fabrication Associates Inc., Charlotte, North Carolina, is entrusted to provide pristinely fabricated tanks that can withstand the daily wear and tear of the chemical and petrochemical industries. 

An ASME code-compliant job shop, Fabrication Associates recently purchased a Roundo plate roller from Trilogy Machinery Inc., Belcamp, Maryland. This is the second Roundo plate roller the company bought because “it can put up with the tough conditions we put it through,” says Matt Little, forming estimator. 

“The Roundo handles a heavy workload rolling thick plate,” he continues. “Some of the autoclaves we make are for tire meltdowns (old tires are recycled to make other products). We also use Roundo angle rollers to make flanges and stiffener rings for autoclaves,” in addition to chemical pressure tanks.


While all processes performed in the shop result in products for completely different applications, they are all completed using the Roundo equipment. Fabrication Associates manufactures the skid package used when producing condensed cans of soup, taking the soup through the cooking and canning processes. “The product we’re fabricating looks like a framed-out box with a cylinder and cone and straight piping lines running through it,” explains Little. “Pressure results and the cylinder’s mechanisms hold the regulated pressure that runs the soup through the condensing cycle.” The company also places the electrical function in those skid packages.

Fabrication Associates works with several metals, including aluminum, Inconel, Hastalloy, carbon and stainless steels in sizes ranging from 1.5 in. to 3⁄16 in. “We can roll 1⁄8-in.-thick up to 3 in. thick, varying on the width,” Little adds. 

Production lead times vary from two to three months “but any individual can come into our shop and order something to be completed two weeks out,” Little says, adding what makes Fabrication Associates stand out is the range of tools it employs, including waterjet cutting, forming, machining, rolling, punching, pressing and welding to match stringent industry qualification codes. “We can do a lot of things in-house without having to job out the work.”

Hardening helps

Fabrication Associates used to have to shrink wrap and tape the rollers before it began bending material.

“We used to have to tape and shrink wrap rolls if we wanted to prevent any scarring or pitting during the bending process,” FFJ-0914-bending-image2Little explains. “Otherwise, the stainless steel will get rust spots in the scratched areas.”

Fred Gebhardt, sales manager at Trilogy Machinery, notes that Roundo “starts with very high quality roll forgings from Germany and then employs a seven-step hardening process that is more resistant to pitting and chipping, The rolls are hardened to a tight tolerance range between 56 and 58 Rc. The crowning of the rolls is very precise according to each machine’s capacity and individual customer requirements.”

Having equipment with hardened rollers that creates a smoother finish comes in handy when considering how much shrink wrap and tape Fabrication Associates previously consumed. “Roundo’s hardened rollers don’t let the metal slip so we don’t have to worry about it,” says Little. 

Now, Fabrication Associates uses packaging merely for final shipment. “We only have to wrap the finished product when transporting, so we don’t have dirt or moisture in the finished part.” Not having to prepare the rollers represents “three hours of labor the customer doesn’t have to pay for,” he adds. 

Hardened rolls from Roundo are easier to maintain when faced with contamination from mill scale inherent on various types of materials, says Gebhardt. “They are also more resistant to wear, which ensures a long, useable life. Rolls that are not hardened or minimally hardened will show wear in the form of deep scratches and dings in a short period of time, which can then transfer onto the rolled part—especially aluminum or thinner material,” he adds.

Roundo offers variable speeds on all functions of its plate rolling and bending equipment up to 23 seconds per minute rotation speed. “This requires larger capacity hydraulic systems, including electric pumps and motors in order to provide full torque throughout the entire speed range,” Gebhardt says. 

Beyond the bend

Trilogy has sold Roundo angle bending rolls to customers ranging from one-man operations up to large manufacturers rollingFFJ-0914-bending-image3 sections for furniture, roller coasters, green houses, aerospace components, bridge components and heat exchangers, among other industrial and commercial products. 

Because Fabrication Associates’ jobs vary in size and quantity, any unexpected downtime can “be a killer,” Little says. The shop relies on Trilogy’s service department, which is less than 45 minutes away. “They have common stock parts for Roundo machines when one has broken down,” Little says. “We don’t have to order from Sweden. Trilogy answers the phone and comes over and brings whatever part we need instead of making us wait for a technician to fly in, or leave us waiting weeks for replacement parts.”

Roundo custom-engineers and manufactures its equipment in Sweden. Trilogy is Roundo’s agent in North America, supporting and servicing nearly 4,000 installed machines, some dating to the 1970s. In addition to plate processing lines, Trilogy also offers Roundo flanging machines, roll levelers, joggling machines and welding positioners.

Roundo and the team at Trilogy Machinery have partnered on sales and service for 30 years. 

“As the first in the market with CNC controls for bending rolls, Roundo CNC controls are a culmination of 30 years of development,” says Gebhardt. “It is capable of controlling as many axes as required by the customer to ensure the most efficient production system possible. Controls are made specifically for either Roundo section bending or plate bending machines and software was written in-house by Roundo software developers.”

The outlook for plate fabrication demand is bright, according to Gebhardt. Toward the end of 2013, Trilogy experienced “tremendous sales activity.” The harsh winter got things off to a slower start during the first half of 2014, but business is steady and “we anticipate increased sales in the second half.” FFJ



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