The first parts manufactured by RWI were made for a handful of customers in Silicon Valley’s burgeoning computer hard disk drive industry. Those customers were followed in short order by others working in different areas of the technology sector, including semiconductor and computer printer manufacturing.
Today, RWI manufactures parts for a large number of customers, no longer just in the technology sector, but in a widely diverse variety of industries, including aerospace, defense, medical, microwave & X-ray, and general R&D. And although each industry has it’s own unique requirements, the single requirement that all of our customers have in common is their need for high-precision parts manufactured to very exacting tolerances. That is where RWI’s capabilities in precision manufacturing come into play, and why we now serve such a diverse customer base spanning so many different industries.
RWI has manufactured parts for NASA’s Mars Rover, Curiosity, the Kuiper and Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) observatories, a number of commercial cellular phone and television satellites, as well as parts for a diverse selection of commercial propeller-driven aircraft and helicopters.
One of our aerospace customers approached us with a very unique manufacturing problem. They needed a device to zero an infrared detector that they were developing for a NASA satellite. They asked if we could make a hollow sphere with an extremely rough surface on the interior face so that infrared energy would not be reflected by the surface when the sensor was placed inside the sphere. Since the vast majority of our customers want their parts to have the smoothest finishes possible, this was a very uncommon request.
We manufactured the sphere in 8 segments, and then assembled 4 segments into two hemispheres. Once the hemispheres were assembled, we manufactured a hemispherical electrode that matched the radius of the sphere, and used a sinker EDM to ablate material from the inside surface of the sphere. This process produced a surface that looked much like a piece of 40 grit sandpaper. When the two hemispheres were bolted together and the sensor was positioned in the center, the customer was able to zero their infrared sensor successfully.
RWI manufactures a variety of different parts for our customers in the defense industry, including parts for ship-board radar, missile guidance systems, high-reliability electronics connectors, submarine turbines, collimators for X-ray cargo security examination equipment, and non-lethal weapon systems.
One of the most complex single parts we have ever manufactured was made for one of our defense industry customers. This particular part had over 1200 individual features, each of which had to be machined to a tolerance of Â± 25 microns. Because of the tight tolerance, we decided that we needed to manufacture the part in one setup, and we produced a stainless steel fixture to hold the part so all the features could be machined at one time. Produced on one of our Agie wire EDMs, the part took over 1000 hours of continuous cut time (yes, almost a month and a half). During that time period, the EDM was never turned off. Cutting was paused only to replace wire spools and water filters, to perform routine maintenance, or to load new program segments, and then restarted. Over this extended time period the Agie never missed a beat, and we completed a part that was within specifications for all of the features.
RWI is the industry leader in the manufacture of multi-leaf collimators (MLCs) for use in the radiation treatment of cancer. When a patient is diagnosed with a cancerous tumor and radiotherapy is identified by an oncologist as the preferred treatment, an image of the tumor is obtained and digitized. Using the digital data, a beam of radiation, – shaped by an MLC – is delivered to the tumor, providing maximum radiation exposure to the tumor and minimizing the radiation exposure of healthy tissue neighboring the tumor. We have been manufacturing MLCs for more than 25 years, and have amassed expertise in the manufacturing of high precision tungsten parts that is unparalleled by any other company.
In addition, RWI manufactures collimators for the proton treatment of cancers, vascular stents, orthopedic titanium bone screws, equipment for the manufacture and packaging of pharmaceuticals, and stent manufacturing equipment.
Another of our customers designed a completely new type of eyeglass lens; a design which provided eyeglass wearers with nearly perfect peripheral vision. In order to economically manufacture the new lens design, our customer required a series of molds for lens casting. To minimize cost, our customer wished to have the molds come out of the manufacturing process finished, and ready to use, thus removing the need for laborious hand polishing of the mold surfaces. RWI met our customer’s wish by machining the lens molds on a 5-axis machine with an extremely small step-over, thus producing molds that had a mirror finish when they came off the mill.
The first parts RWI manufactured were flying height head testers manufactured to support the assembly and testing of computer hard disk drives for the nascent disk drive industry in Silicon Valley. The technology at that time required the read/write heads to fly on a cushion of air only a few microns above the disk surface, so these testers had to be manufactured with extreme precision and to very tight tolerances. In RWI’s early days, these flying height head testers were our signature product.
Today, RWI continues to support of the technology industry by manufacturing gas distribution manifolds for semiconductor manufacturing, optical vibration isolators for lithography applications, mass spectrometer components, parts for e-beam semiconductor inspection systems, and fiber optic interfaces for telecommunications applications.
In a similar vein, another customer was in the process of developing a solid oxide fuel cell for power generation use. They also asked if RWI could assist with material selection and completion of the final design before they developed molds for casting the fuel cell components. We helped refine the design, and assisted them in determining that a tungsten-based metal would make the best part. RWI then manufactured several dozen prototypes for performance testing. The customer achieved extremely good results during those tests, and is now producing turn-key power production systems.
RWI has manufactured parts for a wide variety of X-ray and microwave devices, including backward wave oscillators BWOs), traveling wave tubes (TWTs), various horns and circuits, and X-ray inspection equipment, and non-destructive test equipment.
RWI worked with one customer on the design and manufacturing of parts to produce a synchrotron X-ray source. The Compact Light Source (CLS) is a breakthrough technology that offers many features of a synchrotron beamline, but for home laboratory applications. The CLS X-rays provide a mechanism for investigating physical structure down to the atomic scale, and are useful in many scientific disciplines including materials, nanotechnology, structural biology, medicine, semiconductor metrology, and pharmaceutical development.
Another customer produces X-ray systems that are used to inspect truck trailers and shipping containers for customs and security purposes. RWI manufactures a variety of tungsten collimators for these systems. These collimators make it possible to shape the X-ray beams to match the needs of different inspection systems.