CNC machine tools and sheet metal machinery
Investment in its fabrication facilities makes Bartlett Engineering a force to be reckoned with in South Wales

'Steaming' ahead

Investment in its fabrication facilities makes Bartlett Engineering a force to be reckoned with in South Wales

From an early age, traction engines have played a major role in Richard Scourfield's life. Indeed, his admiration of the craftsmanship from the age of steam influenced his decision to take an apprenticeship in engineering. Today, restoring examples of this alternative to the heavy draught horse occupies much of his time, although he stresses that it is strictly' a hobby and separate from his role of managing Bartlett Engineering Co (Machines).

Mr Scourfield's father started the firm in 1966 as a vehicle body builder, but his ill health resulted in Richard and his wife Kay buying the family business some 27 years ago, at which time it was operating primarily as a fabrication shop offering ring rolling, section bending and plate rolling. Precision machining was subsequently added to broaden the company's appeal, and now the business has an approximate 50:50 split between machining and fabrication the latter based in two workshops covering a total of 4,800ft2 and served by cranes of three- and 10-tonne capacity.

In light of Mr Scourfield's hobby, it comes as no surprise to find that Bartlett also runs a specialist workshop that builds and repairs steam boilers and engines (ranging from half-scale models to full-size locos and traction engines). That said, the main focus of the company based in Sageston, Pembrokeshire is undertaking a wide variety of work for the powergenerating, petrochemical and nuclear industries in the south west part of Wales. Much of its work derives from providing emergency cover 24hr a day, seven days a week for local refineries and gas-processing plants.

Mr Scourfield says: When a gas plant breaks down because of a leak, it needs to be sorted immediately. We can provide plate-rolled replacement parts virtually on demand to ensure a minimum of down-time. If our customer was sourcing from the Midlands, the transport time alone would be 5hr each way. Having a facility like ours on the doorstep' is vital for the major energy companies; and being a first-line critical supplier, we need machines that are capable, reliable and have back-up service to match.

Bartlett had been a long-term user of Pearson machinery, but when it came to increasing the company's press braking capacity and capability towards the end of 2011, Mr Scourfield consulted David Brierley of Sheffield-based Phoenix Machinery. He recommend a Durma machine from Axe & Status, Milton Keynes (

Early in 2012, Bartlett installed a Durma AD-E 37-300 a three-axis hydraulic downstroking press brake with a bending length of 3,700mm and a bending force of 300 tonnes. The machine has material-handling total ram control', which allows the operator to program very slow pressing and return speeds when handling large sheets. This greatly improves sheet handling, as the material is pushed into the lower die and virtually eliminates sheet whip up', which can make it difficult for the operator to handle the part. We can also program to return very slowly for a short distance and then pause while the operator takes the sheet back under his control. These features not only improve material handling but also quality by minimising deformation around the bend area. Furthermore, the ability to program a delay at the end of the stroke is useful when setting a bend in stainless steel.

The benefits provided by this first Durma installation from Axe & Status prompted Bartlett to upgrade its guillotining capability with another Durma machine an SB3010. This swing-beam guillotine has a maximum cutting length of 3,100mm and features a low rake angle that achieves optimum cut quality. The company uses this machine mainly for cutting mild steel for pressure vessels and stainless steel.

The success of these two Durma installations led Mr Scourfield to consider replacing the company's 26-year-old roll-type plate-bending machine with one that would be more capable and productive, as well as easier to set. His initial investigations showed that while there were several international companies that had the type of equipment he wanted, they did not necessarily have the UK presence and support that he deemed essential. The company again turned to Axe & Status and Durma for the solution, and late last year bought an HRB-4 2020 four-roll hydraulic bending machine the first Durma machine of its type in the UK and the largest that Axe & Status has supplied. This investment was made possible with the assistance of a Welsh Assembly grant in recognition of the new technology and its important role in the local manufacturing economy'.

The machine has a maximum bending length of 2,050mm (with a 20mm bending capacity) and was supplied to Bartlett's specification, along with the optional CNC system. This provides the benefits of ease of set-up and the ability to repeat jobs quickly and accurately across a variety of materials. This was our first venture with CNC rolling, and naturally we had quite a steep learning curve, says Mr Scourfield. That said, the support we had from Durma was excellent, as are the results we are getting from the new machine.

Building a head of steam'

The most recent traction engine project completed by Bartlett Engineering was Engine Burrell 3166 known as Joe Chamberlain. It was built in 1909 and delivered on Christmas Eve to the Swindon- based timber merchants EJ Barnes.

The engine is a 6hp double-crank, compound, three-speeder with a five-tonne crane. In 1947, the vehicle was converted with the addition of a petrol engine, thus discarding the cylinder block and motion work. As it happens, this conversion was somewhat of a work-of-art' and probably secured the traction engine's future.

In the 1960s it passed into the hands of the scrap metal merchants Edwards of Swindon, who used it in their yard as an A frame with the motive power and crane rope from a Scammell Show Track.

The engine was then sold in the Midlands area, then bought by a Mr DA Prout of Ross-on-Wye, who salvaged major parts for the rebuilding of his Showman's Engine Nancy. The remains of 3166 passed through various hands until reaching Bartlett Engineering some three years ago. The parts that were purchased comprised a worn-out smoke-box (of which only the crane brackets could be salvaged), the flywheel crane drive gears, and parts of the engine. We were extremely lucky in tracing the original crankshaft and perch bracket, which the owner agreed to sell to me. The rest of the engine is made up of new castings and new fabrications manufactured by ourselves plus a lot of time and work!

Also in Wales

The design and manufacture of aircraft groundsupport equipment has seen TBDUK a member of Aerospace Wales flourish since it was started in 2003 by managing director and founding shareholder Steve Merideth. Employing some 100 people in Bridgend and with annual sales of around £6 million, the company's commercial- aviation access platforms, stairs, dollies and other ground support equipment help maintenance and get cargo and passengers on and off aircraft. The company also makes military ground support equipment, supplying customers that include the Ministry of Defence, Rolls- Royce and General Electric.

Moreover, it has been one of the fastest-growing companies in Wales for several years, with rapid expansion following its acquisition of Owen Holland in August 2009. That company had traded successfully since 1965, manufacturing a broad range of standard dollies, trailers, static stands and storage racks, and the acquisition made TBDUK one of the largest providers of ground support equipment solutions to a broad range of domestic and international markets especially growth areas in the Gulf region and the Far East.

In March last year, TBDUK was a regional winner in the HSBC Business Thinking initiative, which gave the company access to loans worth up to £6 million plus a cash prize of £120,000. After being declared the winner, Mr Meredith said: We are developing a lean manufacturing process, with resource planning. It is key for us at the moment because, competing world-wide, we need to get our costs right down without compromising quality. We are looking at some high-cost engineering equipment, such as a laser and a press brake to cut and fold metal.

The company was out-sourcing these operations at the time, and this was adding significantly to its costs. We knew that we could become significantly leaner by doing this work ourselves, saving much of the hundreds of thousands of pounds spent buying in components and assemblies. Moreover, we would have complete control of quality and lead times. TBDUK subsequently bought a profiling machine from Esprit Automation and a Durma press brake an AD-R 40-220 from Axe & Status. This has a bending length of 4,050mm and a bending force of 220 tonnes. Technical director Phil Summers says: After extensive evaluation of several manufacturers and machines, we identified the Durma press brake as offering the best performance for the budget we had available. We also bought an extensive suite of tooling from Axe & Status. This is used primarily for bending mild-steel plate 6-8mm thick, although we can bend material up to 15mm when required. Our investment in the Durma press brake and the Esprit plasma profiler has been more than justified, and they are already on the way to paying for themselves many times over.

Article reproduced with kind permission from Machinery Market - September 2013

Other news articles