As construction nears completion, Tungsten Heavy Powder & Parts started one of its three manufacturing processes Feb. 15 in Laramie with the other two slated to begin soon.
The tungsten parts manufacturer fired up its Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) section, a process in which the equipment manufacturing the parts is controlled by a computer.
“In a few weeks time, we hope to start up the powder metallurgy section,” Tungsten Heavy Powder & Parts CEO and owner Joseph Sery said. “In a few months, we’ll have the general machine shop up and running.”
In the CNC section, penetrating tips are machined for military grade ammunition, Tungsten Heavy Powder & Parts: Tungsten Parts Wyoming General Manager Eric Riley said.
“Tungsten is nice in this application because it’s armor piercing,” Riley said. “Our customers are the big defense contractors.”
Based out of San Diego, Tungsten Heavy Powder & Parts produces tungsten components used in munitions, medical supplies and industrial equipment. In 2016, the company broke ground on its new manufacturing plant located at 1665 Venture Drive. By building a tungsten factory in Laramie, Sery said the company was moving its manufacturing business from China to the U.S. He said he previously misspoke in saying he was moving his factories stateside.
“I used a figure of speech,” Sery said. “We never had factories in China.”
With the first of three processes now underway, Riley said the company can now focus on getting their powder metallurgy process up and running.
“When the (powder metallurgy) starts, it will produce 2,750 parts per minute,” Sery said. “When manufacturing at that rate, quality is a major part. Because when you make a bent part at that rate, you’ve made 100 bent parts before you’ve sneezed.”
Quality control is a large part of their business.
Riley said the penetrators produced in the CNC process must be identical within a micron, a unit of length equal to one millionth of a meter.
“You definitely need to make sure you got product right, your equipment right, your operators trained and everything goes according to plan,” Sery said. “It’s very nice to make a lot of parts, but it’s a big headache to make sure everything goes according to what you expected.”
After production in the powder metallurgy process, the tungsten components are sintered, compacting and forming a solid mass of material by heating it without liquefying it, in two furnaces kept at about 2,732 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It takes about a month for the furnaces to heat up,” Riley said. “And about a month for them to cool down.”
Once sintered, the components are ground down and shipped out to be used in various applications including parts for warheads.
“The warhead is the actual bomb itself and that gets attached to a rocket to deliver the warhead,” Sery said. “In many cases, our customers consider us the expert, and they call us to help them design the warhead.”
The tungsten components created at the factory are used in various sizes of warheads, Sery said.
“Tungsten is a very dense product,” Riley said. “You get a lot more mass for volume.”
As Tungsten Heavy Powder & Parts starts more applications at its Laramie branch, Sery said it will move all of its manufacturing stateside. The San Diego, California, branch will remain open as a center for administrative and sales purposes, Riley said.