Originally Published – 1968 – Connecticut Industry
The Story of Radcliff Wire, Inc.
Radcliff Wire, Incorporated is the subject … and the subject is unique. It is as unique in its purpose, its products and its operation, as it is in its vernacular.
A simplification of the operation of Radcliff Wire will begin to frame an understanding of the useful products it manufactures, some of which are novel and unusual. This company buys wire – regular round wire – puts it through various equipment and apparatus and changes the profile from round to other geometric shapes. And it does this within the confines of high-reliability standards of accuracy of dimension and accuracy of metallurgical tolerances.
But the operation itself is not all that makes Radcliff unique. There is the language of the business to cope with, too. A turk’s head, for example, is a profiling die… ribbon is not ribbon but, rather, narrow strip metal. While a coil is ac oil, a spool becomes a reel as its size increases… and, therefore, logically a reel becomes a spool as its size diminishes. A roll is definitely a hard roll, but not the sandwich variety. A roll is one of the tools that produces profiles by the miles.
Donald F. Radcliff is the driving force behind the company that bears his name. In a sense, he prepared himself precisely for his present responsibility without originally realizing it. His background of education and experience has always been a blend of business and industrial occupation taking him, after high school graduation, through Morse Business College, Boston University, various CPA assignments, industrial purchasing, quality control, sales engineering and production control. In his own business there is hardly a machine or special facility that he hasn’t helped to design and build with his own ingenuity. And there is much that he has accomplished entirely alone. Now, let’s look at why there is today, a Radcliff Wire Company.
In his last position as an employee, Radcliff became aware of the need – the growing need – for profiled wire and the limited sources for supplying it. Early in 1959 he left his employer to become its supplier of much needed and profiled wire. The first couple of years brought sales stability to the company which, with financial success and a growing payroll, necessitated a move to larger quarters. The Radcliff Wire shingle then hung from 165 Riverside St., once the site of Bristol Technical High School.
Things… all things… continued to grow and prosper with success and the company again had to provide expanded facilities. Plans for a modern fire-proof, one-floor, 15-thousand square foot building were developed. A site was purchased in Bristol’s Delwood Industrial Park: the new home for Radcliff Wire was built on Ronzo Road and occupied in full production by mid-1965. Employment and production facilities continue to increase. But the present location offers unlimited expansion possibilities. Radcliff Wire has its permanent roots set deep.
Who needs profiled wire?
The answer is an endless list, because the markets for profile wire are constantly expanding and changing with technological advancements. A few of those industries needing profiled wire and an explanation of what they need it for will serve to show the varied and unlimited uses to which it is being put… and possibilities of uses which creative engineering will find.
A leading manufacturer of electronic tube bases presented a problem common to that industry to Radcliff Wire. A tube base is a plastic cylinder in which a number of round holes are drilled. Into each hole a pin is assembled. The inside end of each pin is connected to the electric elements of the tube. The outside end is the contact to the power source as well as the anchoring device which holds the tube in its proper position. The industry had become used to the practice of inserting round pins (short lengths of wire) into the base holes. It had also become used to the perpetual problem of loose pins, particularly when the tubes where removed from the chassis.
Put square pegs in round holes!
That was the suggestion. And the suggestion became an order for a quantity of precision square wire (made from regular round wire). The square wire was then clipped into short lengths, or pins. The square pins were forced into the round holes and they bit into it and locked themselves securely with no chance of loosening. Square wire tube pins have since become a non-ending order in Radcliff production.
To take the place of a thread in a casting or a machined part, or when a thread becomes worn or stripped, there are devices known as threaded inserts. The thread of a threaded insert is often Radcliff-made, diamond-shaped profile wire. The material for flat springs, wire-forms, staples… the wire components of eye glass frames and tooth brushes are all profiled wire. And if you’ve never examined a toothbrush to see profiled wire in action, look at the tufts of bristles imbedded in the plastic handle. Each tuft – and there are usually 28 of them – are locked in position with a piece of specially profiled wire.
The break-away springs that provide quick release of expendable parts of missiles and rockets in flight are often made from Radcliff profiled wire.
Another problem that was solved with profiled wire was presented by a manufacturer of split washers. Until the problem was aired, the split washers were stamped from solid metal, deburred, tempered and finished. Scrap was great, expense was high. The solution was found in the use of hard temper, continuously plated, rectangle wire. One hundred percent of the metal is now used. Therefore, there is no subsequent operations. Expense dropped, consistent quality rose, production jumped. Profiled wire did it again!
Quality control is a big and important part of the Radcliff organization. Exacting industries – those involved with electronics, missiles, rockets, aircraft, instruments, appliances, communication and all precision spring, wire form and other manufacturers – require much more of their materials than its profile shape alone. Metallurgy is very much involved in terms of the selection of a metal or an alloy for a specific use. The anneal, temper, tensile strength and hardness are also specifications which must be met along with the dimensional tolerances set by product engineers. Elaborate quality control equipment at Radcliff has become a sizeable part of the operation and one of the busiest areas of the plant. The shadowgraph used at Radcliff is capable of magnifying up to 200 times actual size the most critical radius that has been precisely formed by grinding into a roll. Such critical tolerances are commonly held to .0001 inch on concentric run-out. A precision Rockwell hardness tester is used to spot check hardness in production, while a tensile strength tester measures such properties as strength, breaking point, elongation, and yield point. Data obtained during all tests are recorded and used to determine the values of production as well as serving as process controls to assure that all the specifications and requirements are being met.
The toolroom is an integral part of the over-all operation, too. With rare exceptions, tools for the production machinery are designed, made and installed by Radcliff men in their self-sustaining facility. While it is recognized that capable toolmaking suppliers are available, the uniqueness of Radcliff’s business with its own peculiar variety of techniques has made the undivided responsibility type of operation most desirable.
Radcliff also boasts of a unique strand annealing furnace which can anneal up to twenty-four strands of like wire at one time in a continuous operation in a variety of controlled atmospheres. The same equipment is also used to quench anneal beryllium copper wire, and for tempering. It can maintain temperatures up to 2000 degrees fahrenheit and yet maintain a precise temperature gradient at lower levels. The furnace is electrically heated and uses a variety of controlled atmospheres to eliminate harmful scaling and discoloring of the wire. This equipment is 75 feet long including feed-in and take-up sections. The furnace and the terminal equipment are all electronically controlled. Soft wire or partly soft wire is often required. The degree of softness is achieved by annealing.
Included among the production equipment are wire drawing machines which accurately reduce the diameters of soft wire and simultaneously cold work it to spring temper. These machines can carry up to fourteen dies. The number of dies determines the degree of temper. Electronically controlled tandem rolling mills flatten round wire into ribbon. Turk’s head machines are wire profiling machines. In operation, they are like a die with moving side walls. Turk’s heads produce such profiles as diamond shape, triangular, half-round, oval and other special profiles.
The production of Radcliff Wire, Incorporated is all around you… unique, ingenious, precise. It’s another highight in the community of Connecticut industry which contributes vitally to the life blood of our national industrial might. Radcliff in action means that tomorrow will be in better shape… or certainly in better profile.