Taber Extrusions, headquartered in Russellville, AR, expanded its capabilities through the acquisition of the Exact Manufacturing division of Lou-Rich, Inc. With this acquisition, Taber will continue to offer Ultra Precision Extrusions®. These micro-extrusions (Figure 1) — produced with circle sizes of 3 inches or less and weights of 1 lb or less—are used in a number of industries, such as electronics, aerospace, medical, industrial, and military.
“As computers get smaller and smaller, the heat sinks used in those computers need to likewise get smaller,” said Jason Weber, vice president of Sales and Marketing, Taber Extrusions. “They can also be used in industrial applications, with housings for sensors, and in military applications, as components for drones. So there’s a lot of market potential for micro-extrusions.”
Founded in 1973, Taber Extrusions, LLC is a full-service provider of aluminum extrusions to a range of industries, with the U.S. defense market as its primary focus. The company also serves the aerospace, transportation, and industrial markets. “Most of what we do goes into some kind of defense product—from Naval ships to armored personnel carriers, to armament,” said Weber. “Although we have a few customers in Canada, Mexico, and Europe, around 90% of what we produce stays within the U.S., because there are a number of business requirements when you’re producing defense-related products.”
The specialized nature of working for the defense industry requires the company to be adaptable to a wide range of needs within that market. The company works with a wide range of alloys, including hard and soft alloys, which include both marine and ballistic grade, as well as offering a range of standard-sized profile sizes from its extrusion presses in Gulfport, MS, and Russellville, AR.
The Gulfport facility houses two presses—an 1,800 ton and a 3,000 ton with 8, 9, and 11 inch container sizes—that provide the bulk of standard-sized profiles the company offers. The site primarily extrudes 6000 and 5000 series alloys in a range of tempers. Gulfport also has a casthouse, capable of providing Taber with 8, 9, 11, 16, and 20 inch billet, as well as rectangular billet. The casthouse has been upgraded in recent years with an Almex Liquid Aluminum Refining System (LARS) for purification of the metal prior to casting. In addition to producing billet for internal purposes, Taber also supplies billet to other extruders as well.
Taber’s largest press is located at the Russellville facility. This 8,600 ton press has the only rectangular container in North America. The rectangular container enables uniform metal flow in width and thickness, with superior dimensional control and consistency throughout the length of the extruded profile. This allows the company to provide wider bars and profiles than what is possible with traditional round containers. This container can produce profiles up to 31 inches in width. In addition, the Russellville press has two round containers, a 16 inch and a 20 inch. The site works with a wide range of alloys (1000, 2000, 5000, 6000, and 7000 series). In addition to the extrusion capabilities in its Russellville location, Taber offers a full complement of machining, cutting, punching, and coating services, provided through internal capabilities and outside services.
Moving into Micro-Extrusions
The Exact Manufacturing division started as a stand-alone company prior to being acquired by Lou-Rich, Inc. in 1998. However, as Lou-Rich continued to acquire various businesses, their focus changed. “As the micro-extrusion business no longer fit within the core business of the previous owners, Taber saw an opportunity to strengthen its manufacturing portfolio,” said Weber. “Overall, this is an opportunity to re-task these assets and offer the markets Taber serves with additional capabilities and capacities.”
Through the acquisition of the micro-extrusion business, Taber will be better able to serve its customers. “A lot of the defense contractors that we deal with are also in the commercial aerospace and electronics sectors where small precision profiles are used,” said Weber. “We really saw a need to get into the production of the kind of micro-extrusions used in those industries. It would be a chance to expand our production capabilities and contribute to the overall success of Taber as a business.”
The acquisition of the micro-extrusion business involves the transfer of two extrusion presses and ancillary equipment from their prior location in Albert Lee, MN, to a renovated building at Taber’s Russellville facility. The micro-extrusion manufacturing lines have a production envelope with a circle size of 3 inches or less and a weight per foot of 1 lb or less. For comparison, the 8,600 ton press in Russellville produces profiles with a minimum weight of 4 lbs per foot. Unlike traditional extrusion presses, these micro-extrusion presses are built in such a way to allow for the production of extrusions with wall thicknesses of 0.010 inches and tolerance capabilities of +/- 0.001 inches. These Ultra Precision Extrusion production centers allow designers and engineers the freedom to engineer profiles that are unextrudable through conventional presses.
Matt Larson, regional sales manager for Taber, was an integral part of the initial development of the Ultra Precision Extrusion process. His experience is a benefit for Taber as the company transitions to working with the smaller scale profiles. “Overall the basic process is the same,” explained Weber. “However, the level of detail in both extrusion and downstream processing is what enables the production of Ultra Precision Extrusions. Before the equipment transfer, we sent a team of managers and operators to review and train on the production process at the prior location before moving the existing production centers.”
Weber noted, “One of the benefits of Taber acquiring these assets is the opportunity to integrate with our existing quality certifications. At this point Taber is focused on maintaining the continuity of the micro-extrusions business and will also look to add additional enhancements to the control and automation systems.”
With the acquisition of the micro-extrusion assets Taber also has the opportunity to vertically integrate the raw material supply chain for the micro-extrusions. Weber noted, “Because of the press size ranges at Taber we have the capability to produce our own billet internally in alloys and quantities that allow our customers more flexibility with faster delivery.”
With the acquisition of Ultra Precision Extrusions and the ability to produce micro-extrusions, Taber has enhanced its business to provide a wider range of profile sizes and capabilities, which dovetail with the products it is already serving to the defense, aerospace, and industrial markets. In addition, this allows the company to explore new applications as the medical, defense, and electronics sectors continue to be miniaturized. “It’s about having all the different capabilities we can,” said Weber. “One of the taglines we use is ‘Shaping Endless Possibilities.’ With the extensive variety of things we can do—from micro-extrusions to wide profiles and everything in between—Taber embodies that message.”