Custom Fabrication
Can Be The Right Fit
by Paige Bowen

hen people hear the word custom, they usually think expensive. Their mental calculator starts adding up charges for design time, prototypes, tooling, molds, etc. Yes, a custom project can cost more than purchasing something off the shelf, but that’s only looking at part of the equation. In some cases, having a tank custom fabricated may even save you money.

What does it mean to have a plastic tank custom fabricated? As the user of the tank, you dictate its size and shape. More importantly, you make the decisions about how many and the placement of the fittings and connections required for your tank. By being able to design the tank to the exact specifications of your space, layout and needs, not only will you have a tank that fits perfectly in the available space, you will save money by not having to retrofit the surrounding area to fit your tank.

Having to retrofit an area can be one of the biggest expenses of any job. Not only does it make it more expensive, but it can make the job more difficult. Retrofitting to fit the tank requires additional material, takes time and can cost you in lost productivity as well as the hard costs involved. It may also result in lines not able to run as smoothly, making the flow more difficult. Access to the tank may be impeded for cleaning, viewing or, if needed, repairing. Designing the tank to fit perfectly into your production area means your systems run more streamlined; in the long run, it means saving money.

water holding tank fabricated by DJ Plastics
20′ water holding tank fabricated by DJ Plastics, a division of Seelye Acquisitions, Inc.
Does this mean that buying an “off-the-shelf” or pre-made (inventoried) tank will not work or will cost more money? Not necessarily. It depends on your needs for the job. Buying a pre-made tank sometimes is the better option. For instance, if you only need a small tank that holds just a few gallons of liquid, it makes sense to buy an off-the-shelf tank. Unless you require a specific type of thermoplastic or shape of tank that isn’t readily available, purchasing a pre-made tank can save you money. If your requirements are for a roto-molded or fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) tank, which typically is pre-made to specific sizes with specific size man-ways, fittings, etc., again, purchasing an inventoried tank will likely have the correct fit and be a good option for you.
tanks fabricated by DJ Plastics
Slurry tanks fabricated by DJ Plastics, a division of Seelye Acquisitions, Inc.
Finding a fabricator
If an inventoried tank just isn’t going to work for you, the next question is: How do you find a custom fabricator? Google can be a good start but, better yet, try contacting companies that distribute or manufacture the material you want used in your custom fabricated tank. It’s easy to use the online membership directory at www.iapd.org to find companies with this expertise. Many times, this is your best option because fabricators have long-standing relationships with distributors and manufacturers of thermoplastics. It is not always a guarantee, but choosing a company that is recommended by a distributor or manufacturer typically means the company is established in the industry. Making sure you choose the right fabricator is important not only in terms of cost, but also in quality, longevity and customer service. Dealing with a company that does not have a lot of experience in fabricating can mean additional costs and headaches down the road.

Another important aspect when selecting a fabricator is (obviously) their knowledge of fabricating. For instance, will the tank need internal baffle supports? If that is not an option, are encapsulated steel ribs acceptable? Knowing when you do — and don’t — need supports can mean the difference between spending a little or a lot of money.

Design and planning
After you select a fabricator, the designing and planning stages begin. Some fabricators can provide technical CAD drawings, which are nice but can be expensive. Having and using this service depends on your requirements and budget. If you do not need to have certified prints of your tanks, many fabricators are able to design a tank based on line drawings. Some may even be able to create a line drawing for you free of charge based on information you provide, such as: how many gallons are needed or the size of the area where the tank will be installed. Creating a custom tank doesn’t necessarily mean that expensive prints have to be part of the process. If you know the size that is required to fulfill your needs, then an experienced fabricating company should be able to build your tank to specs.
Plating tank fabricated by DJ Plastics
Plating tank fabricated by DJ Plastics, a division of Seelye Acquisitions, Inc.
Do your homework
Make sure to do some research, have a plan and know as much as possible about your requirements before contacting a fabricator. By doing this groundwork, you can mitigate potentially expensive mistakes. Make sure to talk to the suppliers and manufacturers of thermoplastic sheet and piping to get a sense of what type of material will best suit your application. Some performance plastics are good for chemicals, while others are FDA approved for potable water and foods. Knowing what is going into the tank and at what temperature are essential details to give your fabricator. There are not many fabricators, if any at all, who will take the responsibility of content compatibility. When deciding what type of material should be used, most fabricators can provide suggestions based on the information you specify using chemical resistance charts created by the manufacturers of the material. However, be aware that most fabricators are going to state that you, as the customer, are solely responsible and liable for verifying all the specifications and content compatibility. This is true whether you have a custom tank made or buy a pre-made tank.

Custom fabrication should no longer be out of reach. With the correct information and knowledge, custom fabricating may just be the right fit.

Paige Bowen is the president of Seelye Acquisitions, Inc. For more information, contact Seelye Acquisitions, Inc. at 946 Century Lane, Apopka, FL 32702-3709 USA; phone (407) 656-6677 or (800) 258-2936, fax (407) 656-5244, customerservice@seelyeinc-orl.com or