The challenge faced by this customer is common across many industry sectors. Systems of all kinds have components which have to be replaced or removed for servicing and because it has been such a long time since those parts were originally installed there aren’t any records to identify where they were made or what their specifications are…nor are any spare parts available.
Archer’s Operations Director Russel Byrne explains, “When systems have been in operation for many years you often find that the original engineers and purchasing managers have moved on. The companies which manufactured those parts have shifted into different markets and don’t hold any more stock, or they have gone out of business. Another common challenge is that operational and safety standards or regulations have changed since the system was installed meaning that any replacement part has to be re-designed to conform. This is a specialty area in which Archer excels – researching, designing, testing and manufacturing complex parts for very specific functions.”
The product in question was a fire suppression system nozzle in an ammunition bunker. In order for the nozzle to instantly supply fire retardant foam after being activated it had to have the fluid sitting right behind the nozzle under pressure. To prevent the liquid dropping on to the explosives it needed a quick-release cap. The cap had to be strong enough to prevent droplets ruining the explosives whilst capable of being blown off in a milli-second when the system is activated.
“The project required that we integrate a new nozzle into a system which was compliant to operating standards which no longer existed. New standards had been brought in over time. That meant we would have to research the old and new standards, interpret the differences and find the middle ground where there was an overlap of old and new. This narrow window of time would give us the starting point for our design.”
Adding to the challenge was a tight deadline for delivery.
Archer began by researching the history of the suppression system components, changes to operating standards and codes, foam delivery performance requirements and other engineering details. Because Archer has been involved in this type of project for more than 35 years (Russell and brother Brad are the third generation of Byrnes running the company) we have extensive libraries of OEM part specifications, international standards for threads, O-rings and other sub-assembly components, as well as the latest industry codes and regulations. From this extensive knowledge base Archer was able to not only replicate the nozzle design but improve on it.
“We always ask a lot of questions so that we understand all stakeholder requirements. Some of these questions are outside the initial brief because we want to take the customer on a journey beyond what their expectations are. It’s all about having a big perspective. We don’t just look at the part we look at the functionality of the entire system – now and in to the future.”
The design and engineering teams at Archer set themselves the objective of designing a new-generation nozzle with improved functionality over the current model, which would be compliant to the latest operating standards and still able to fit the existing interface. Sophisticated 3D CAD/CAM software was used to design the replacement nozzle. Not only did it allow for rapid design development and precise dimensional accuracy it also meant that the customer was able to review the prototype ideas through a series of photo-realistic 3D colour renders.
Once the product was approved the components were machined from billet steel in Archer’s Manufacturing Centre of Excellence on a world-class multi-axis machine centre. They were taken to the assembly area and test lab’. Archer simulated the cap being blown off and foam being sprayed on to the target area (there is a strict requirement regarding the nature of the spray pattern).
“The Archer design features a tapered nozzle with threading that matches the existing interface. It’s an advancement over the outgoing design. As a result, our client is the only site in Australia with this type of suppression system.”