Climax Portable Machine Tools is expanding the scope of portability in manufacturing technology with five new automated welding and cladding systems — a product line it introduced following its recent acquisition of Bortech Corp. Climax, which has headquarters in Newberg, Ore., and Düren, Germany, specializes at supplying custom-built boring and machining systems, calling itself the company it “pioneered the portable machine tools concept 45 years ago.”
Late last year it bought Bortech, a company that had one of its suppliers of automated welding and cladding process technology for about 15 years. The terms of that acquisition were not announced.
“The opportunity came for us to acquire Bortech, and we looked at the overall market and saw that there really was not one company that was able to provide customers with portable machining and portable welding capabilities,” Climax’s v.p. of Business Development Andy Becker explained in an interview recently. “And, we feel that this is going help us to create and enter into new markets.”
Now, Climax is rebranding itself as Climax Portable Machining and Welding Systems. It explained that the new name is a better description its products and services, and an indication of its strategy to grow its business by offering portable machine tools and automated welding products for in-situ repair and maintenance of heavy equipment.
Most designers and builders of machine tools specialize in branded series and product families. Instead, according to Becker, Climax sees customization as its advantage, in part because that approach has never been pursued to the extent that it now offers with machining and welding technologies.
“There’s a risk involved in making a machine that’s never been made before; you have to quote it up-front to the customer, you then have to build it, and test it, and sometimes the first version cannot be shipped if it’s not right. So, there’s always a risk on the profit side. But, we’ve made over 2,000 one-of-a-kind special machines,” according to Becker, “and one thing I’m proud of is that the company has never had a failure. There are times when we’ve lost money on a machine because we had to keep working on it ‘til it did the job, but that’s the risk.”
Becker listed construction, mining, power generation, utilities, pipelines, and shipbuilding sectors as critical customer markets for Climax — all markets where large-scale installations require specialty fabrications and repairs, but without the opportunity for relocating the components or scheduling system downtime.
And, in addition to developing technical capabilities for repair operations, Becker revealed that Climax is beginning to provide systems used for original equipment manufacturing, especially for systems and components that are large enough to require mobility or portability in the fabricating method.
“The interesting thing is that a lot of our existing customers – before we’ve even promoted this acquisition – have asked us if we have various welding and cladding capabilities that Bortech provides,” Becker observed. “For example, we make a variety of portable CNC boring machines that can be used to machine curved surfaces on turbines, for power generation markets.
“For one of our customers we just completed a very large boring machine to repair hydropower turbines,” he continued. “When they heard about our (Bortech) acquisition they asked us to manufacture a welding head, so they can take the cutting head off the boring machine and install the welding head,” Becker said.
The new automated welding systems are designed to attach directly to several of Climax' boring machine mounting fixtures, so the unit is able to perform welding and machining with a single setup. These automated welders can be used for boring and flange / valve repair, and will decrease welding time significantly when used to weld or clad those components in place of hand welding efforts. The Climax integrated cladding systems apply clad overlay alloy (Inconel, Hastelloy, Monel, or stainless steel) to equipment including pipes, pressure vessels, mud pumps and other systems that require protection against corrosion.
“Recognizing that customers regularly use both welding and portable machine technologies in their repair and maintenance projects, we have a significant opportunity to help them be more productive and greatly expand the kinds of projects they can do in situ with the right combination of technologies and techniques,” explained Climax president and CEO Geoff Gilmore. “By joining forces with Bortech, we are poised to help customers re-imagine how these tools can be used separately and in combination to save time and costs on the job and to grow their business.”