A piece of metal seems like the simplest, most straightforward of items, but when that single section of metal is combined with others by cutting, forming, welding and then heat treated, finished and tested, anything is possible. This approach is the guiding mantra for Alma, Michigan-based Merrill Fabricators.
Redefining Job Shop
When you hear the words job shop, images of a few fabricators working diligently in a couple of hundred square feet may first come to mind. As you stand on the floor of Merrill’s 400,000-square-foot facility, the term job shop takes on a whole new meaning.
The company serves nearly every industry where critical fabrication is essential. In the ever-expanding energy sector, including solar, wind, nuclear and fossil fuel, the company fabricates valve housings, pressure vessels, coolant tanks, processing chambers, and tower components. For its defense customers, armored vehicle components are the norm.
In mining and heavy equipment, employees – of which there are more than 300 companywide – work on large truck components, including suspension parts, booms, arms, gearboxes and frames. Additionally, the company’s products are used in aerospace, chemical processing, plastic injection, rail systems, food systems and robotics.
Precision from Start to Finish
From the day it opened its doors in 1974 Merrill has built uncompromising quality, precision and performance into every step of its manufacturing process.
This starts with the metal – selecting the right materials. Merrill Fabricators is experienced in working with nearly every type of metal imaginable, ranging from aluminum, A-36 and stainless, to nickel-based super-alloys like Hastelloy®, Waspaloy® and Inconel®, to specialty alloys such as Ferralium®. Every piece is thoroughly inspected upon its arrival, which helps the company to control the quality and integrity of finished pieces.
Merrill carries inventory of more common metals in square bars, square tubing, angle iron, channel, beam, ID/OD tube and solid diameters, allowing for quick fabrication of many pieces.
The next step in the process is cutting. The star of this step is a state-of-the-art multi-axis CNC gantry plasma and flame cutting machine, which has a 40 ft. x 120 ft. cutting area and cuts up to 10-inch thick plate to exacting tolerances in minutes.
“If there’s a way to weld metal, we do it,” says one of Merrill's welding engineers who is also a certified welding inspector (CWI). The company's capabilities include semiautomatic systems and multi-axis, programmable robotic welding installations that allow team members to guide welding directly from CAD/CAM data. These systems are partnered with weld positioners, welding manipulators or tank-turning rolls that can accommodate Merrill's wide range of projects. Welding processes run the full gamut – submerged arc (SAW), MIG (GMAW), TIG (GTAW), stick (SMAW) and flux-cored (FCAW).
The company has recently been testing a new Lincoln Electric Flextec™ 450, a multi-process welder that delivers up to 500 amps of welding power for construction and fabrication applications. It uses the latest inverter technology, which helps save on energy costs.
“We're looking at machines like the Flextec™ 450 that will allow us to increase our efficiency and cost savings, save on electricity and reduce our overall energy footprint,” the welding engineer says.