Orders are on the rise at many machine shops serving oilfield and gas producers, but there's no telling how long the good times will last in the unpredictable energy industry. Shop owners must balance the benefits of expanding against the high cost of acquiring a machine like an oilfield lathe. Shops that buy used CNC machines may be better equipped to handle the ups and downs of this cyclical market.
Right now most of the United States is turning up the thermostat and bracing for another frigid winter. On a raw day, the arrival of the monthly heating bill seems to add insult to injury. Thankfully we have a little relief this year - the gas we put in our vehicles is the cheapest it’s been in…well, forever.
The bill at the pump and the heating bill illustrate the volatile nature of pricing and demand in the US Energy market. Shifts in the energy industry have a big impact on machine shops that supply parts to oil and gas producers. When business is good, oil and gas companies place orders for big, expensive components. When business slows, shop owners still have to make payments on the big, expensive oilfield lathes required to turn said components. Big bore oil country lathes are known for outstanding precision and dependability in addition to their size, which makes them suitable for many large diameter turning & threading applications. These capabilities come with a premium price tag, however.
Some shops expand by adding used CNC machines or retrofitting existing machines. And with analysts predicting increased demand for drilling equipment over the next five years, it’s a great time to add capacity if your shop serves the oilfield industry.
Learn more: 10 Must-Ask Questions When Buying Used Machinery
By buying used machinery that was manufactured recently, shop owners get updated features and user-friendly CNC controls at significant savings over new equipment. It can be challenging to find a recent model large capacity oilfield lathe, also called oil country lathes, however, machines do occasionally come on the market. MMI Auction has several of these models available currently. The Hwacheon Mega 100 x 3000 from 2010 pictured at the top of this article is equipped with Siemens 810D controls and a whopping 118 inches between centers. This behemoth is actually the smaller of two similar models currently available through Machinery Marketing International. A higher grade oilfield lathe model is also available: the Hwacheon Mega 100 x 6000 from 2008 has 236 inches between centers, in addition to a 32 inch chuck and 10.5 inch bore.
CNC retrofits provide another option for cost-conscious shops. If a machine functions well but is outdated, a retrofit can upgrade the CNC, axis drives, and axis servomotors. Read more about the benefits and process of retrofitting machines that produce oilfield parts here. Alternately, a shop can purchase an older model machine that’s already been retrofitted with modern controls. This Warner Swasey SC36 Big Bore Lathe (pictured left) was retrofitted in 2009 with Fagor 8055 controls and all new electrical components. It has a 13 inch bore, 36 inch chuck, and a new 75 HP GE spindle motor. The axis and spindle drives were also replaced in 2009, along with the servomotors, coolant motors and more.
Some shops would rather purchase an older machine and do the retrofit on site. This allows the shop to add specific capabilities, controls, and upgrades to meet the machine shop's needs. This Mori Seiki SL-80B from 1990 (below right) is fully functional as it is, but it would also be an appropriate purchase for a shop looking for a workhorse that they can upgrade later. It comes with a Fanuc 15T control, chip conveyor, complete coolant system, splash guard, tool holders, hand tools, and a 32 inch 3-Jaw Chuck.
The machines mentioned in this blog are just a few of the large-capacity lathes and big bore lathes available for sale from Machinery Marketing International as of December 2014. MMI also provides full logistical support to help you move these large machines into your shop.