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BFC Architectural Metals, Inc. Produces Northwest Charm

BFC Architectural Metals, Inc.

For a child, going to the hospital doesn't have to be a scary experience when you can imagine Washington Coast marine life swimming at your feet. The new wing of Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma, WA brings the serenity of the outdoors into their hallways with the help of BFC Architectural Metals, Inc. The metal fabrication job shop supplied bronze salmon, turtles, and other sea creature cut-outs made from their OMAX Model 55100.

Mike Cochran, president of BFC Architectural Metals, said waterjet technology became an apparent solution for approaching this particular project. "The customer didn't fully understand the difference between a waterjet process and a laser process," Cochran said. "They didn't know waterjet would be the chosen technology for this job because of the reflectivity issues with the material."

The sea creature cut-outs were made out of 1/8th inch and 3/16th inch bronze. From Mr. Cochran's experience, bronze is difficult to cut on a laser machine because of the reflective properties. When he provided a waterjet cut sample to the customer, they were convinced waterjet could handle the complexity of the design. "Bringing them a sample the next day with cut details down to 0.024 inch on the sea creature just impressed the heck out of them."

In 2005, Mr. Cochran decided to add waterjet technology to his shop because he needed a software controlled cutting machine capable of producing different shapes. He discovered a greater demand from his clients to cut circles, ellipses, and rounded geometries that could not be sheared or cut on conventional "squaring" shears. After working with laser technology with other companies, he concluded laser cutting does not perform well in all cases.

"When you cut some aluminum with a laser, there is a considerable amount of dross, the hangnail edge you get on a part," he said. "To be quite frank, a larger OMAX waterjet was about a half the cost of a comparable sized laser. We wouldn't have been able to acquire new cutting equipment if it wasn't for the price point."

Mr. Cochran's OMAX JetMachining® Center has been a major factor for maintaining a loyal customer relationship with an internationally renowned Northwest coffee retailer. He said operating the waterjet not only helped him keep up with their regular parts production, but also built his company's reputation for being dependably fast in prototyping.

"We were able to do many of the small batch prototyping on the waterjet that we couldn't have done if we subcontracted the work," he said. "Having a machine in-house has been the difference between getting an order and not."

The home field waterjet advantage also played a role for successfully making a decorative grill for an overhead bar rack in a tropical themed restaurant in Florida. BFC Architectural Metals was commissioned to create the grill out of 12 gauge steel with some sections rolled.

"When you roll something, you gain a little dimension or lose a little dimension. Having the in-house ability to cut that allowed us to adjust dimensions right on the spot to suit the as-built condition of the project," said Cochran.

Having the tools of the trade makes BFC Architectural Metals, Inc. successful and competitive during economically trying times, he said. Waterjet technology allows them to be responsive to immediate customer demands, particularly with cutting part prototypes. Although he might not utilize abrasive waterjet for the larger production run, the OMAX played an important role in the quote process.

"To be right there at the table with finished goods one week after the client's request is invaluable," Cochran said. "Anybody who owns a waterjet would be able to say the same thing. It's very good and very appropriate for many things."

BFC Architectural Metals, Inc.
President: Mike Cochran
Location: Seattle, WA
Specializes in: Custom metal fabrication, custom countertops, railings, and retail fixtures
Founded: 1987
Website: www.bfcmetals.com

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