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Q&A: How and Why Atlas Tube Products Undergo Rigorous and Advanced Testing
Our quality assurance team is the best in the industry—they are present in all 15 facilities to ensure we follow our documented quality system procedures when producing products to meet ASTM, CSA, API, UL and FM standards. These documented quality procedures are a part of our ISO, TS and API certified quality management systems upheld at our manufacturing facilities. I recently sat down with Atlas Tube Quality Assurance Manager Mike Whalen to discuss the Atlas quality control process, including procedures, specifications and tests.
1. Why are Atlas Tube’s products tested for quality control?
Our products are tested for quality control for a few reasons. The first is dimensional tolerances – we want to make sure that we meet all requirements and standards for our products. The second is mechanical properties. We want to ensure that our products meet all the standard mechanical properties, which are critical to engineers when they design the product.
2. Who tests Atlas Tube products for quality control?
Inspectors and quality technicians in the mill, as well as tensile testers in the lab.
3. What are the steps involved from checking the quality of a product to checking the quality of customer satisfaction?
The quality control process starts before we even receive the coil. We review the Mill Test Reports (MTRs) from suppliers to ensure that the chemistry specifications are met. From there, once we receive the coil we inspect the physical characteristics – such as OD thickness and strip width – to make sure that we are getting the proper steel and that it will fit on our equipment for further processing. Once the coil has met our specifications, we load it into the mill, continually checking the thickness and width to make sure that the proper coil is in the mill. Cosmetic inspections are also performed on a continual basis to make sure that there are no visible blemishes on the product. Then we will finish up with tensile testing in the lab. Weld verification testing, as well as both destructive and non-destructive testing, are performed when required by the customer.
4. Where are Atlas Tube’s products checked for quality control, in-line or off-line?
Our products are primarily checked in-line for quality control. Tensile testing is an off-line test.
5. What sort of tests are Atlas Tube’s products subjected to in quality control labs?
The main test that our products are subject to in our quality labs is tensile testing. Other forms of testing that we perform, such as cone and flattening tests, are done in the mill.
6. How do those tests differ from Atlas Tube’s competitors?
Our inspections are very thorough. We do inspections on a relatively high frequency compared to our production rate. When it comes to actual product testing, we always give 100 percent. The bottom line is this: we can’t have a product that doesn’t meet the specifications leaving our facilities. And we work every day to make sure that is not the case.
7. What requirements are necessary for an Atlas Tube product to pass a quality control test?
There are the basic standards for dimensional requirements, such as well thickness, size, straightness, etc. As far as mechanical testing, there are requirements for tensile strength as well as notch toughness for Charpy impact testing.
8. What are Atlas Tube’s goals/objectives regarding the quality of their products?
Our objective is to give the customer or end user a product that will meet their requirements, work in their processes, and be fit for use 100% of the time. I believe it was Duran who said that the definition of quality is “fitness for its intended use.” Our ultimate goal is to make sure that our product is fit for its intended use.
9. Does quality control testing go beyond the product?
In a way, yes. Some of the inspections that we do are beyond the requirements of the product standards and are more specific to certain customer requirements and their end use. Surface finish is an example.
10. How do customers affect Atlas Tube’s quality control testing?
Customers affect quality control testing through the order entry and contract review process. We try to make sure that we gather all requirements, hear the voice of the customer and what they require, and translate that into messages that our shop floor people can easily understand should a question arise.
11. How are changes in the marketplace or industry reflected in quality control?
One of the biggest changes that we have encountered recently is a dramatic increase in the amount of material that customers want Charpy tested because they intend to use the product in cold weather environments, such as offshore as well as the oil sands in Northern and Western Canada. In terms of new legislation or laws, there really haven’t been any major changes that have greatly impacted the quality control process. No matter what happens, however, we are always trying to stay on top of new developments and changes to revisions of the standards that we produce.
12. What do Atlas Tube’s quality control labs guarantee?
We guarantee that the product meets the requirement of the standard to which it’s produced.
13. Does each Atlas product have its own quality requirements that must be met? How is that enforced?
There are a variety of requirements that must be met, which primarily depend on the end-use application of the product. Roll Over Protection Structures (ROPS), for example, have their own set of requirements, as do products made for use in hydro-transmission lines. It really just depends on the end use.
14. What is the most difficult part about quality control testing?
The most difficult part is probably just keeping on top of all of the different requirements of the customers and end users, and staying abreast of all of the changes that are coming through.
15. How does Atlas Tube go above and beyond normal quality control procedures?
I think in general one of the things we try and focus on is not only to do it right the first time, but make sure that we’re doing the right thing right the first time.