RCBI helps Wallace Metal Works merge old, new technology
The Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing (RCBI) continues to assist businesses of all sizes with a wide variety of services. The expertise and technology available at RCBI benefit everyone from international giants such as Toyota to smaller startup companies such as Wallace Metal Works.
Matt and Tessie Wallace use RCBI’s innovative, state-of-the-art equipment to help them with one of the oldest forms of manufacturing – blacksmithing. In this case, the Wallaces take advantage of the Flow Technologies Abrasive Water Jet Cutter at RCBI, which allows the entrepreneurial start-up company to dramatically increase production speed to meet demand for Christmas ornaments, decorative gift pieces and a specially designed West Virginia bowl.
Wallace Metal Works, based in Charleston, found a niche using their blacksmithing background to reach an entirely new market. The two entrepreneurs were so successful, however, that they found they struggled to meet the demand from their growing list of customers.
That’s where RCBI was able to help.
The company is a participant in Startup WV Manufacturing, a program funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and administered through a partnership of TechConnect West Virginia and RCBI.
The Wallaces use RCBI’s $250,000 abrasive water jet cutter to efficiently separate pieces of metal so they can be handcrafted back at Wallace Metal Works’ shop. Chris Figgatt, production engineer at the RCBI Charleston Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center, noted that the machine sprays pressurized water and sand at 60,000 pounds per square inch to quickly and accurately cut wood, glass, composites and – in this particular case – sheet metal.
Instead of cutting just one of Wallace’s signature ornaments or a single one of its state-shaped West Virginia bowls at a time, more than a dozen of the items are cut from a single sheet of 11-gauge steel.
In the case of Wallace Metal Works, the EDA grant helps pay for leased time on the water jet cutter at RCBI. One of the goals for RCBI is to help small businesses grow to the point where it’s cost-effective for them to purchase their own equipment, although long-term leasing arrangements and training are always available as well.
Read more about Matt, Tessie, Wallace Metal Works and RCBI in this Charleston Daily Mail feature story: