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AFAC have a hack for that!

As we are sure you already know, AFAC’s range of products are used throughout the finishing industry to mask areas where coating would be detrimental to the finished product. However, what isn’t generally known are the more unusual uses we’ve been contacted for over the years.

Back in the 1980’s, a range of precision made silicone rubber tubes were developed specifically to fit snugly over metric studs, to prevent the threads becoming contaminated by electro-static powder coating.  Usually these tubes were supplied in cut lengths, to suit the maximum length of thread found on weld and self-clinching studs. An increasing number of customers began to request the tube supplied in long lengths, for them to cut to lengths that suited them.

It turns out that our M4 tube was also ideal for aquarium air supplies and aquarists couldn’t get enough of it. Our standard green colour blended in with the fish tanks’ underwater vegetation and, unlike the natural rubber tubes used at the time, AFAC’s BAKEWELL silicone rubber didn’t deteriorate with time, was unaffected by the exposure to warm water and was easy to wipe clean.

And in keeping with the aquatic theme…

If you have one of those nice plastic or rubber pond liners, we all know how easy they are to fit. Dig a pond shaped hole, line it with some sand and just throw in the liner. Trim and add slabs or rocks around the edges and fill with water. Add the odd water plants, gnomes and possibly some fish.

Perfect way to relax…until one day you notice the majority of the water originally in the pond, seems to have evaporated! So, out with the hose and top it up again. Repeat until you grudgingly admit there may be a leak. However, on close examination you discover it’s not a leak, but instead it’s multiple leaks. Some head scratching later the answer is discovered.

It’s your friendly local heron.

When you are not sitting in you deckchair, the blighter drops in for a snack. It spots a fish and stabs at it, but it doesn’t always succeed in impaling the prey, but instead impales your pond liner. The more, or possibly less, fish available to him, the more or less holes in the liner.

I suffered from this phenomenon and it took me a while to twig it was all the work of the heron, but not to worry, you just need to patch the holes. Easier said than done, as I discovered.

There must be an AFAC hack for that!

Walking through the warehouse, I saw some of our BAKEWELL PLUGS being packed up to ship to a customer and I suddenly realised that these could be the solution to the leaky liner!

Back home, with a selection of sizes of the silicone rubber BAKEWELL PLUGS, I soon found one of the several alternative sizes could be pushed into the heron created holes, until the head butted up against the liner. When the pond was topped up again, the leaks were gone and the weight of the water pushing down on the head of the BAKEWELL PLUG, prevented them from coming out, while the tapered opposite end made for an easy seal.

As a by-product of the properties of the silicone rubber they are manufactured from, the plugs won’t deteriorate with time, heat or cold, even at temperatures well below zero degrees.

Quick, simple, effective, but not at all what they were originally designed to do.

Have you any interesting alternative uses for AFAC products?  We’d love to hear your stories.

The best one will be published!  (Suitability to family viewing taken into account)

 

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AFAC are growing and it’s good news for customers!

AFAC has undergone some changes over the past 12 months, starting with the retirement of Director Lee Mullins. Son Ryan has stepped into his shoes after 25 years of supporting his father and learning the ropes.  AFAC is the end to end silicone rubber specialist and specialist rubber manufacturing.

Ryan brings a fresh approach and the enthusiasm to build further on his father’s years at the forefront.

So what does this mean to you?

On March the 1st, the full operation comes under 1 roof with a brand new custom built warehouse facility with additional staff to help support the growing and changing needs of our customers.

This means even more flexibility in service, product and provision with:-

  • Extended last order hours for next day delivery*
  • Collections available 6 days a week
  • Lower minimum order quantities
  • Reseller starter boxes
  • Selection packs
  • Over 1 million products in stock
  • Convenient location between the M1 and A1

Our bespoke facility enables us to customise orders, big and small whilst also speeding up turnaround times. Product ranges are already developing and expanding to meet the growing needs of the individuals. Be this health & safety officers, schools, researchers or specialist manufacturers.

Possibly our most exciting development is the addition of an in-house product designer who brings with him years of experience along with a 21st century approach to design and technology. The benefits of a custom design include:

  • Increased lifespan due to fit for purpose design and decreased wear and tear
  • Lower end product wastage
  • Improved labour efficiency and speed
  • Reduction in bottom line costs

In fact it’s something we do for customers all over the world already.

With over 35 years experience AFAC is the owner managed business you can rely on.

I’m sure you will agree it’s a very exciting time here at AFAC! With great strides however comes the inevitable disruption and we ask all our customers to bear with us through the move. Service continues as normal but there may be a bit of a delay in response times as we take extra care to make sure everything is in place and working efficiently.

And in the run up? Our biggest sale in history! See our promotion for details.

You will find out new facility at Unit 2 Caxton Road, Bedford MK41 0HT

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Director Lee Mullins reflects on 35 years

AFAC Director Lee Mullins retires after 35 years at the top.

Lee Mullins had worked in the industrial fastener industry, both in spring and plastic clips, before entering the world of weldable fasteners. It seemed that most companies in that industry had restrictive practices regarding sizes of fasteners stock and minimum quantities. Lee decided he could address some of these shortcomings by forming his own company.

It was 35 years ago that Lee Mullins launched Applied Fastenings and Components as a supplier of captive fasteners for manufacturers. The company did however deviate shortly after into the supply of masking products to protect the threads of its captive fasteners as powder coating took over from wet paint spraying, the business focus moved and silicone rubber became the material of choice. Designs were developed and the masking products division launched. AFAC was born, using the initials from the original company.

We caught up with Lee to hear about the highs, lows and what the future holds.

 

What will you miss most about working for AFAC?

The relationships I have developed over the years, with both customers and suppliers. I’ll also miss the daily challenges presented by different industries. We have solved masking problems from the masking of tractor wheels, oil well electrical enclosures, motor yachts, automotive structures and even aircraft undercarriages and railway rolling stock.

How have you seen the engineering and metal finishing industry change over the past 35 years?

As most of AFAC’s customers are manufacturing products from metal, it has become apparent that many of the smaller companies have been absorbed into larger organizations, with many establishing overseas divisions, to take advantage of lowers costs. With the advent of the container ships, transport is no longer a major cost consideration. AFAC now exports a significant proportion of its products to Europe and the Middle East as a result.

What is your proudest working moment?

Designing and developing a practical masking system for powder coaters in the mid 1980’s that is still used extensively today. Proving that my ideas to give customers what they wanted, rather than dictate what they could or couldn’t have. We tried, and usually succeeded in giving the customer exactly what they needed and in the quantity they wanted. My original designs are still popular and effective over 30 years after stepping into the unknown and developing a practical masking system for powder coaters. At the time there were no products to fulfill the needs of the embryo powder coating users. Now you see so many products in day to day life and I can say “That was made cheaper and quicker, thanks to my ideas.”

Where do you see AFAC moving in the future?

Under the wing of my son Ryan, I can foresee increased sales into overseas markets, particularly in custom designed parts. This will be largely as a result of Ryan’s expertise in maximizing our internet presence, which now attracts far higher traffic levels than I would have thought possible. I will remain available to AFAC as Chairman, though I think this means I may be consulted if experience is needed!

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Specialist bespoke metal fabrication requires specialist bespoke silicone rubber mouldings

Bespoke rubber mouldings for masking and other applications in low volume  fabrications.

There are thousands of companies producing low volume metal fabrications for specialist applications in vehicles. This isn’t just specific to motor vehicles either. The UK is not only a leading exported of motor vehicles but also aerospace, defence, shipping and other modes of transport. Trains are also produced in the UK.

The UK has always been famous for pioneering design and bespoke solutions. Whether its military conversions on vehicles, emergency vehicles or any other short production run such as motorsport, the UK is world renowned for design and bespoke manufacturing.

For manufacturers and sub contractors, the processes on short production runs can be very similar to large volume production. The main difference being that the big robotic production lines aren’t often used in low volume manufacturing, but that in its self is why the UK is so different. There are thousands of small engineering firms across the UK producing bespoke assemblies for defence, aerospace, motorsport and specialist vehicles.

By the very nature of bespoke and limited run, masking can also take on a need for bespoke applications. AFAC has over the years produced a wide variety of custom silicone rubber mouldings for these niche industries.

Case study of bespoke silicone rubber mouldings for low volume metal fabrication work

For one customer, when the military were still using Land Rovers as a principle vehicle, they were installing a radio rack into the rear of the vehicle. It was a simple design of a plate with oval holes reamed out of it to allow adjustment of the radio.

The problem was that the bolts and washers used to fix the radio to the plate were also the earthing points. As a result, an area around each oval hole needed masking to allow for the movement that had been built into the design.

Using the BAKEWELL Silicone Rubber TUGPLUG as a basis for the design, we created an oval section and then added a “washer” into the design with a sealing lip around the edge for quality of finish. The first design was prototyped and worked perfectly.

Tooling is relatively inexpensive and the production run was only a matter of a few hundred items.

The Outcome

Satisfied customer and problem solved.

Working on limited volume fabrications and have a need for custom rubber mouldings or extrusions? Get in touch right now on 0845 094 0522

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Precision masking metal castings during finishing processes.

Rubber mouldings used in the production of metal castings.

Metal castings are central parts of engines and transmission that require precision masking. At the very least there will often be threaded holes, bores or spade connectors that need to be kept free from contamination. There are thousands of stock parts already available to cater for most requirements. Parts requiring greater precision may have more bespoke masking needs.

Preventing metal coatings from entering threaded holes, bores and contaminating spade connecters is an essential part of producing quality metal castings. Failure to mask effectively causes unnecessary rework costing time and money. Using silicone rubber masking devices to improve production quality and reduce costs is a sensible option.

The same silicone rubber devices are perfect for masking in anodising processes. Anodising applications are commonly machined parts requiring surfaces to be process free.

It’s also common to use gaskets when connecting castings to each other or other metal ancilliaries where there is fuel, lubricant or gas flow to maintain efficiency. Depending on the application, it may be a different type of rubber more suited to this kind of task and AFAC has found that Viton has the necessary qualities to resist oils and petrochemicals that can cause other rubbers to degrade.

AFAC has been supplying masking devices for castings in all kinds of applications including automotive, aerospace, rail and defence for years and in more recent years, AFAC has supplied viton mouldings to a wide range of engine and generator manufacturers.

Should you need rubber mouldings, standard or bespoke, silicone rubber or viton, get in touch right away on 0845 094 0993

 

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Masking metal fabricated sub assemblies for rail during finishing processes

Rail industries sub contractor manufacturers keeping surfaces free of contaminants in the UK

Keeping metal surfaces free from contaminants is just as important in the manufacture of trains as any other industry.

The UK is known for pioneering and has been for centuries. One example of pioneering Britain is the railway system which is the oldest in the World. Before the railway networks became linked up they were mainly private networks but in around 1840 there was a surge in development that over the next few years saw the country’s railways become united. Mergers and acquisitions turned these small private networks into the national network we are familiar with today.

So what’s all that got to do with AFAC and silicone rubber products you may ask. Trains are manufactured and more importantly finished using the same and very similar coatings on the metalwork to protect it from corrosion. In actual fact, the underneath of trains is coated in much heavier “underseal” type coatings due to the speed of travel, metal against metal surfaces and the greater gaps between maintenance compared with things like consumer cars.

Train fabrication consists of many of the same processes as cars, trucks, planes, ships and the like. Welding, bending, degreasing, plating, coating and many other processes are small parts of what appears to users as a shiny new train.

There are hundreds if not thousands of holes, studs and areas to be left clear of coating on every single carriage that is produced and that’s where AFAC supports the rail industry in the UK. Plugs, Caps, Tapes and custom shapes are all part of the tools used by subcontractors in the manufacture of trains. AFAC’s Silicone Rubber BAKEWELL range has been leading the field in the supply of masking solutions for the Rail manufacturing industry for over 20 years.

Need help with keeping surfaces, holes or studs clear of contaminants? Maybe you’re after something to cushion 2 surfaces to stop them from rattling? Get in touch with AFACs technical team now on 0845 094 0993

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Precision masking metal fabrication

Why is masking such an important part of precision metal fabrication?

Successful metal finishing can often be dependent on precision masking,  As the finishes applied to metal can often be hard wearing in nature, it’s important that the right masking products are used to gain the desired finish to your metal parts.

Metal corrodes, particularly steel and aluminium which most metal products are made from. The primary reason you coat or “finish” metalwork is to prevent corrosion. The secondary reason is normally visual.

The reasons you would want to mask may vary. From simple applications to complex components with varied masking needs you need different tools and components to provide the best finish.

 Why use precision masking products?

  • Quality of finish
  • Safety
  • Electrical insulation
  • Thread protection

Masking threads:

Masking threaded holes, studs and bolts.

Threads can be male or female on metalwork. There are tons of different weld on and self-clinching fasteners available for designers to choose from. The coating is not always considered at the time of design. Finishes that leave a thicker coat can cause threads to become clogged. The nature of powder coating particularly makes this hard work if you don’t mask first.

Use silicone rubber caps and plugs that are available in huge varieties of shapes and styles to suit your preference and need. Put them in just before you apply powder, bake them and take them out while they’re still warm.

Shop for powder coating caps & plugs

Masking areas around threaded holes and studs

The areas around studs and holes often need to be masked to allow for usually electrical contact points or mechanical pivot points. If there’s a moving part or electrical contact is necessary, a clean metal surface is desirable.

There are tons of different shapes and sizes of standard plugs and caps available to suit most needs, particularly on the smaller side of M10 threads you find the most choice.

Silicone rubber flanged caps and ringed plugs are the quickest and most cost effective components for precision masking holes around threaded studs and holes.

Shop for flanged caps and ringed plugs

 

Masking flat surfaces

Simple flat surfaces

There are a number of  tapes able to withstand baking temperatures associated with more hard wearing finishes such as powdercoating. High temperature tape is applied before applying powder, baked in the oven and then removed before the components cool. You can purchase all sorts of different widths of tape on rolls. Green polyester masking tape is excellent for flat surfaces but applications requiring more flexibility in the tape benefit from thinner “conformal” tape found from quality masking suppliers.

Shop for High Temperature masking  tapes

More complex flat shapes

High temperature masking tapes can also be die cut to order to suit more complex items needing flat surfaces masking. This is common on enclosures and where gaskets and seals are part of the finished design.

You’re best going to a quality supplier that deals with custom cut shapes regularly to get the best service and advice. When getting shapes cut, you want “right first time”.

Shop for custom die cut high temperature self adhesive shapes

 

Bespoke silicone rubber mouldings

Even with the thousands of variations of masking solutions already available, the right shape for may well be custom. To make things easiest for a custom moulding you need a CAD/CAM file of the component in question. If that’s not available, it’s a good idea to take some pictures or a video. Your supplier should be used to handling custom mouldings and will offer you a prototype before going to full production.

 

AFAC offer the widest range of masking products in the UK, many of which are normally available for immediate dispatch from our UK warehouse.  We are specialists in the supply and manufacture of precision masking products for the metal finishing industries.

Call us today on 0845 094 0993 to find out more about precision masking metal fabrication or click here to find out more.

 

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What’s different about rubber moulding and rubber extrusion?

What’s the difference between a moulding and an extrusion?

The differences between rubber moulding and rubber extrusion are really simple. The are different manufacturing methods for producing shaped rubber components.

The easiest way to know the difference between extrusions and mouldings is simple.

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Rubber extrusions

Extrusions are moulded items such as tubes which can be produced in endless lengths. Extrusion involves forcing uncured rubber through a shaped tool and curing immediately afterwards. Extruding rubber is like turning a tap on that produces whatever 2 dimensional profile you require in continuous length.

Tubing is by far the most common type of extrusion but extrusions are commonly found in seals and

Shop for extrusions

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Rubber Mouldings

Mouldings are the opposite. Mouldings are 3 dimensional shapes. Mouldings are produced by forcing uncured rubber into a mould with no exit. The mould is then emptied and the cycle repeated. Mouldings are always numbers of parts produced.

Plugs, caps, o-rings, seals & gaskets are more common mouldings used in industrial applications.

Shop for mouldings

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What is Silicone Rubber

What is Silicone Rubber and what is it used for?

 

What is silicone rubber?

Silicone Rubber is a high performance inorganic elastomer. Its characteristics mechanically and chemically are unmatched by organic elastomers.

The unique properties of silicone rubber make it a top choice for an enormous variety of applications in industrial and consumer markets From mobile phone covers to industrial powder coating ovens, silicone rubber has is used for producing huge quantities of product.

Properties of silicone rubber

Silicone rubber can withstand extremes of temperature and is extremely flexible. It can be moulded or extruded and is transparent in its natural state. It can be dyed solid colours and mixes of colour.

Types of silicone rubber

Industrial Grade

By far the most common type of silicone rubber, industrial grade silicone rubber is commonly available and suits any industrial application not involving food or laboratory environments.

Food

More commonly used for consumer applications, food grade silicone is safe for all applications where contact with the mouth, food or children may be a consideration. It’s more costly than industrial grade silicone rubber.

Medical

Medical grade silicone rubber is produced for laboratory and “cleanroom” environments. The most costly of the 3 types listed, medical grade components are supplied free of any dust or swarf produced as a bi-product of the manufacturing process. Curing is slightly different with Medical grade silicone rubber too leading to increased cost.

 

Benefits of silicone rubber

 

  • Silicone rubber lasts longer in more extreme conditions
  • Weather has little effect — Silicone rubber stands up to the environment whatever the conditions, sun, snow, rain, it maintains its properties
    • The environment can affect organic elastomers causing them to deteriorate performance
  • Withstands extremes of temperature — from -100 to 316ºC (-148 to 600ºF)
    • Deterioration is caused at lower temperatures with organic elastomers >100ºC (>212ºF); performance can also be hindered by rigidity <-25ºC (<-13ºF)
  • You have plenty of choices
    • Broad hardness range (from 10 to 80 Shore A),
    • Useful range of color choices (from transparent to brightly colored)
  • Improves performance of seals and fittings
  • High performance electrical insulation characteristics.
    • Relatively unchanged with exposure to harsher conditions (heat, cold, moisture, oil, ozone, UV rays)
  • Remains flexible and resilient across a broader temperature scale
  • Improves the way consumer goods look and feel
  • Inert (no taste or smell); many food-contact options

 

Is Silicone Rubber the material for you?  Call us on 0845 094 0993 to speak to one of our experts today or click here to find out more.

 

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Protecting and masking delicate precision metalwork during media blasting

How to protect and mask delicate precision metalwork during media blasting processes in aerospace applications

One aspect of the work we do at AFAC is to be problem solvers on behalf of our clients. Of course, more often than not a client knows exactly which product they need and our role is simply to fulfill the order. But occasionally a customer will come to us and explain a particular problem they have—and in these cases it’s down to us to configure a solution.

We recently had a situation like this that certainly required some ingenuity on our part to solve.

Our client in this case was a well-known manufacturer of aircraft engines, low-emission power systems for ships, road and rail vehicles and electrical generators. The company approached AFAC because they were facing a particular problem in the maintenance of their aircraft engines. They had discovered that when some of the engines would come in for maintenance, there would be paint peeling off them in certain areas. Given that these are still new engines that would be going out to very prestigious clients, the company decided that they needed to address the problem.

One task of the maintenance team is to strip the coatings from the affected parts and then recoat them. They use a media blast to strip away the original coating, but they were finding the powder they were using for the media blasting was distorting the metalwork. This was making it impossible to satisfactorily refit the pieces to the engines.

The company came to us and explained the issue. We came up with a solid mask to reinforce the metalwork from behind while it was being blasted. As a result the integrity of the shape was maintained and the metalwork remained in a condition suitable for recoating and refitting to the engines, representing a significant money saving for the manufacturer.