An Arnold Publication- Serving the Western Metalworking Industry Since 1981
Tungsten Trim Works
Forging ahead while cast in tradition
Story & Photos by Sean Buur
Tungsten Trim Works is celebrating 31 years of making bushings, sleeves, liners, balls and seats out of very hard alloys for a variety of industries. TTW (Tungsten Trim Works) has two manufacturing facilities located in Houston, Texas and Grants Pass, Oregon. They do machining, grinding, lapping, polishing, and both locations have their own foundries. Specializing in Cobalt Nickel based alloys, also known by the trademark names of Stellite or Stoody alloy TTW is one of only a handful of companies in the USA doing what they do. “Stellite is very hard and corrosion and wear resistant,” explains Ron Crume, owner and head of manufacturing at the Grants Pass facility. “The severe service valve industry is a huge market for us, and the alloy works well in those harsh conditions.” Stellite is a material used widely in oil and gas, sewer water treatment, pulp and paper processing, medical hip and knee joint replacement and food processing, pretty much anywhere where corrosion and wear are an issue. “One example is food processing,” continues Ron. “Most seaming rolls are made from a coated 440 stainless, but the upgrade to that is using a much harder metal like our Cobalt Nickel based alloys to gain longevity.”
Ron Crume of Tungsten Trim Works comes from a long line of machinists.
He still has machines that were from his grandfather’s shop.
Tungsten Trim Works was started by Marty Hopkins and Mark Freeman outside Houston, Texas in 1982. Their primary focus was balls and ball seats for down hole oil well pumps. Ron’s Oregon based company, Northwest Alloys, was machining similar parts in the valve component industry, and five years ago they merged the two into one, Tungsten Trim Works USA Inc. “Our partnership has been a great marriage,” describes Ron. “Marty and Mark have been partners for more than 30 years. To me that says something when two people can work together that long. It speaks volumes, and I’m happy and honored to be a partner with them now.” The merger lit a fire in the foundry and in their bellies. The company has expanded to twenty-five employees spread between the two locations with a handful of buildings totaling more than 20,000 sq.ft. Most of the manufacturing is done in Oregon with Texas handling distribution to the oil companies and some lapping and polishing.
Fernando has a lifetime of experience working with the Cobalt Nickle alloys. He heats it up to 3100 degrees
before pouring it into a centrifugal casting center that spins up to 2000 RPM.
Tungsten Trim Works is a centrifugal and static cast foundry for a very niche market. They make thousands and thousands of these hard (in the 60 Rockwell range) Stellite balls. Surprisingly the balls used in the medical field have less rigid tolerances than their counterparts being used in the oil industry. When the ball and seat are placed down hole, thousands of feet underground, the last thing you want is a failure because a ball or seat is not up to spec. The Stellite balls sit on a Stellite seat and when the pump goes up the ball floats. When it comes back down it forms a metal to metal seal. “As you can imagine the tolerances for something like that are very tight and require a high quality finish. We reject anything that is more than .00005 out of round,” describes Ron. “Only a couple other companies in the United States do what we do.”
Ron is a huge supporter of Ganesh machines. They do a great job on the hard material because
of their rigidity. All the big cuts and high speed work go on the Ganeshs.
What they do requires a certain skill set and specific machines to do the job. Ron got his start in the industry when he was only five or six years old. Ron’s uncle and grandpa owned a machining and grinding shop in Santa Fe Springs, Ca. called Macco Grinding. He would accompany them on deliveries down the street to a company called Stoody Corporation. “Stoody Corp was kind of the mother company of this alloy,” tells Ron. “It was invented in the late 40’s or early 50’s but it was difficult to machine. The cutting tools needed to do the job were nonexistent so it was more openly used in areas that you could grind. My grandpa (being a precision grinder) worked a lot with this material and I remember going on deliveries with him and seeing the foundry and all machines.” Stoody Corp eventually relocated and Ron’s family opened up their own foundry. Ron went off and did his own thing in construction, but always knew that his heritage would bring him back. It did when he opened Northwest Alloys in 2007.
The Grants Pass facility is strewn with machines ranging from manual mills, CNC mills and lathes to proprietary items not shown to cameras. Ron has designed and built seven different machines specific to his industry. Each machine has evolved and has multiple models. “All the machines are for internal use only and help us do the best job possible.” TTW works in a very specific industry and you can’t just order a 4 spindle centrifugal casting machine from a catalog, so they make their own.
The centrifugal casting machines spin up to 2000 RPM depending on the size of the part and offer a tighter grain structure, more dense part with less chance of inclusion and porosity. Ron equates the process to panning for gold. “As you pan for gold you are sifting out the lighter impurities and the heavier gold is going to the bottom of the pan. When we pour this alloy at 3100 degrees into a spinning mold that heavy pure dense alloy gets forced to the outside. Any impurities or slag get overtaken by the weight of the pure metal and get forced to the ID of the part. We can then bore out the ID and the result is a very dense structural casting that meets the strict standards the government has for certified nuclear U.S. Naval jobs. If any imperfections do exist it requires the use of an X-Ray to find them.
To get the machining work done TTW relies on its numerous CNC mills and lathes at the Oregon manufacturing facility. TTW has purchased a few different brands of CNC machines, but those that stand out most dominantly are the Ganesh machines. “Early in my business I bought a Ganesh mill,” tells Ron. “I heard good things about Ganesh Machinery. They had a strong reputation for customer service and a solid price point, but what really drew me to them was the rigidity of the machines. You have to understand that this alloy is so hard it is very difficult to machine. It is not like machining aluminum or steel. We have to build a lot of our own tooling and tool holders. The Ganesh machines are a box way machine with a very heavy and rigid casting. So I bought one.” Ron was pleased and purchased a couple more. Now all their big cuts and high speed parts go on the Ganeshs. TTW has built a solid relationship with Ravjeet and Harvindir of Ganesh Machinery and are very impressed with their training and tech support. Admittedly TTW has only needed service twice since installing the machines, but each time the service techs were out in a day or two. “They bend over backwards for us” praises Ron. “I can’t say enough about the quality of their machines and their service is miles ahead of any competition. When the time comes TTW will definitely purchase more Ganesh machines. My wish list is growing.”
Companies upgrade from 440 Stainless to Stellite adding longevity to their seaming rolls
Anyone who has ever heard the term brass balls will reconsider that statement after seeing the Cobalt Nickel ones from Tungsten Trim Works. Not too many shops have their own foundries and even fewer will drop their pants to show you their scars during an interview. “There was something different about me,” concludes Ron. “Anyone can put on a nail apron and get a contractor’s license, but there is something about this business that never leaves you, it burns hot and sets you apart from the crowd.” Ron’s grandfather had a saying that “life is like a grindstone. It will either grind you down or polish you up. It depends on what you’re made of.” Ron and Tungsten Trim Works certainly chose polish, and no doubt will have another 30 years of partnership ahead of them.
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