When chemical maker experiences breakdown, it’s RCBI to the rescue

When a costly mechanical failure disrupted production at a manufacturing facility along the Ohio River, one of the world’s leading chemical producers turned to Marshall University’s Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) for solutions.

Wear and tear caused an impeller that pumps water through a cooling system to disintegrate, idling a production line at the plant. Obtaining a replacement for the stainless-steel part would take 16 weeks, company officials were told.

That kind of wait wasn’t an option, especially when the plant was losing $4,000 for every hour the machine was down.

Enter RCBI.

Company officials reached out to familiar faces at RCBI seeking a solution. They recently had contracted with RCBI’s technical staff and workforce development team to provide training in computer-aided manufacturing and design as well as CNC operation, thus ensuring that workers could fully utilize a newly purchased computer-controlled mill.

RCBI Design Engineer Morgan Smith and Machinist Mike Sutton worked to reverse engineer the broken impeller and produce new ones. Because company officials wanted options – and a backup plan in case of a similar breakdown, Smith and Sutton manufactured two replacement impellers: one machined from stainless steel, the other 3D printed from carbon fiber-reinforced nylon, a super-strong polymer that can replace metals in certain situations.

The RCBI team reverse engineered the part and manufactured two replacements in the span of a day and a half – just a fraction of the 16-week lead time the company was facing.

“The experience, expertise and agility of our technical team enables us to deliver innovative manufacturing solutions quickly to meet the most pressing needs,” said Derek Scarbro, RCBI deputy director. “This is just the latest example. We’ve been doing this type of work for more than 30 years. Supply chain issues caused by the pandemic – and which continue – have greatly increased the need for these types of services.”

If your operation is having difficulty obtaining replacement parts or other components because of disruptions in the supply chain or other issues, contact Eddie Webb, RCBI director of manufacturing services, at or 304.720.7738.

Nov. 28, 2022

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