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NO MARGIN FOR ERROR: Byers Precision’s glove boxes keep nuclear workers safe By Darren Garnick
In most cases when you’re fabricating a stainless steel box, a microscopic hole here and there won’t be a problem.
Not so when you’re containing radiation from spent nuclear fuel rods.
Byers Precision Fabricators, a family-owned North Carolina metal shop, takes on “the work no one else wants to do,” CAD manager Jeff Cox says.
“Our bread and butter are one-of-a-kind, high-precision custom jobs. Our owner has been willing to change with the times and is never one to skimp on equipment,” he says. “He doesn’t ever want to hear the word ‘can’t’ and we’ll try to do things most other companies won’t even attempt.”
The glove boxes for the nuclear industry – the kind you see in science fiction movies where the handlers are wearing white hooded suits – have various functions. One kind contains a chopsaw for cutting waste rods into sizeable pieces for grinding and long-term storage. Others are connected to gas valves and plumbing.
“The inside has to be an extremely smooth finish with no pores to trap particles inside. We’re talking about having to avoid the slightest indentations or even scratches,” says Jeff.
“We’re known for our quality and attention to detail more than anything else,” he adds. “One large government contractor just pulled several projects from other vendors and gave the projects to us based on our quality, delivery, pricing and willingness to work with them to achieve their goals.”
Like any fabrication, welding and laser cutting shop, Byers Precision addresses a wide range of customer needs. Local apple farms use the company to make replacement parts for pesticide sprayers. Area tobacco factories also contract with Byers for spare parts for their processing equipment.
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Founded in 1942, the company has adopted a slogan of “Old World Pride/New World Precision.” Founder Paul Byers started with a neighborhood sheet metal shop in Hendersonville (22 miles south of Asheville in the Blue Ridge Mountains) and quickly became one of the largest roofing and ductwork contractors in North Carolina.
Today, the 60,000 square foot facility is run by Paul’s son, CEO Roger Byers. Clients span across the Aviation/Aerospace, Computer/Electronics, Nuclear Power, Consumer Goods, Transportation, Robotics and Medical industries.
To read and modify DWG and DXF files for his laser cutters and punch machines, Jeff relies on DraftSight, a professional-grade free 2D CAD product from DassaultSystèmes.
“We used to keep a seat of AutoCAD for this stuff, but keeping the license up to date got relatively expensive for how little we actually used it,” he says. “DraftSight meets all our needs perfectly.”
When punching out dozens of countersink holes on a fire engine safety step, Jeff says he especially finds DraftSight’s Quick Select tool helpful in automatically categorizing the holes by diameter size.
“I had at least 500 holes to do, part laser cut and part punched and Quick Select saved me at least an hour’s time. With the old way, I had to individually pick out the holes. Quick Select is awesome,” he says.
As for the future, Jeff vows he’ll continue to take on challenges that some rival companies can’t or won’t handle.
“We give our customers what they want, when they want it, at the quality they deserve,” he says. “And I hope we still keep exceeding their expectations.”