The History of Filton - the 1980's
Wednesday 18th May 2022
This year we are celebrating 80 years in manufacturing. Today's blog looks at the changes that the 1980’s brought.
The picture above is from an event Filton attended in 1989.
The growth of Filton continued into the beginning of this decade. However, the general recession hit the country and in May 1981 there was a drop in orders of approximately 50%. Fortunately, orders did improve, but not enough to allow Filton to continue with the workforce they had. This was a difficult time for all involved as redundancies were inevitable for the first time in the company’s history.
Although Filton saw a drop in requirements for their standard products there was some increase in the need for special products. One was for the Steel Industry, where a Filton multi-port Swivel Joint was designed and manufactured for the converters. These Swivel Joints were fitted to converters in Scunthorpe, Redcar, South Wales and Ravenscraig.
The processing of sugar beet was a surprising application. The Rotary Union was basically of a standard design but the materials of construction needed to be carefully chosen to handle, in separate systems, formaldehyde and sulphuric acid. The formaldehyde part proved the easiest, stainless steel was identified for the fluid contact parts with PTFE gaskets. The concentration and temperature of the sulphuric acid forbade the use of stainless steel, instead, an expensive nickel alloy (Incoloy 825) was found to be satisfactory with a special carbon for the seal face.
Filton Rotary Unions were supplied for use on wind turbines in California during this time. In addition, Filton worked on a project to develop a wind turbine in the megawatt range (rather than the kilowatts of other machines) for the generation of electricity. Unfortunately, the price of oil dropped and the capital cost of the highly sophisticated machine meant the project was abandoned.
Rotary Cookers provided another source of orders for special multi-port Swivel Joints. The process involved compressed air and steam services. The compressed air was used for actuators and for signal systems, whilst the steam was for cooking the food product. The steam system passed through the centre of the Swivel Joint via a Filton Rotary Union, which provided a more reliable seal than the simpler rubber seals which were suitable for the pneumatic systems.
The pharmaceutical industry had provided a few applications in the previous decade but came up with a very difficult application for a Rotary Union on a ball mill. This machine required very strict control of the internal atmosphere and a very reliable Rotary Union for the production of a common over-the-counter drug.
Several other projects were undertaken during the 80’s. More involvement with the North Sea oil rigs occurred with 2 applications for Swivel Joints for hose reels and umbilical lines for diver’s equipment. A centrifuge for ‘g’ testing of aircraft equipment needed a five port Rotary Union. Care was needed with the materials selection for this union, due to the oxygen gas. A Rotary Seal was requested for an application in nickel alloy production for a fan shaft. The temperature adjacent to the seal was around 850° C.
Towards the end of the 80’s an enquiry came directly from a French customer. The French customer (a manufacturer of blow moulding machines) needed a Rotary Union to transfer dry compressed air. The urgency was stressed by the customer and Filton managed to design and send prices to the customer within 3 days. Subsequently Filton received an order for 10 of these unions, proving the old Filton adage that ‘The difficult we do immediately, the impossible may take a little longer’ which was written in our first catalogue.
In the early 80’s the BBC approached Filton for permission to use the front entrance and reception area for filming in connection with a new comedy series ‘Tears Before Bedtime’. The short sequence on the actual film could easily be missed by blinking at the wrong time!
The 1980’s gave the Filton design team the opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and skill developing new designs for new applications. More ‘special’ Swivel Joints were designed and different materials used in manufacture.
These opportunities were to continue into the next decade, the 90’s ….
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