Precision Fluorocarbon, Inc. (PFI) was founded in 1989 in Houston, Texas. Innovator Howard Frank (Founder / President) had been in the plastics fabrication industry since 1960. With a background in engineering, design, manufacturing, procurement, and senior management, his knowledge and passion for plastics fabrication was a perfect fit to open the doors of PFI. Shortly after starting production, Howard also brought his son, Steve Frank, into the business. They now serve as President and Vice President of PFI.
Within just a few years of rapid growth, the Franks purchased 5 acres in the beautiful town of Tomball, Texas, and built what is now PFI’s home in a 51,000-square-foot facility.
PFI’s primary focus began with custom PTFE machined products (primarily for the oilfield). As the oil market experienced sharp changes from year to year, Howard and Steve decided to use their extensive knowledge in plastics to diversify into other industries, as well.
Over the past two decades, PFI has developed, prototyped, and produced a wide variety of custom plastic components for many industries, including industrial, racing, pump, valve, semiconductor, and medical components. The experience gained from years of dedication to plastics manufacturing has given PFI a respected name across many product markets.
When the company opened its doors in 1989, PFI was purely a manual shop. “We started with two manual lathes and two semi-automated, modified manual lathes,” explains Steve. “We purchased our first CNC lathe in 1990 – a Japanese-built machine – and quickly realized the benefits of automated machine tools. We wanted a CNC mill as well,” he says, “but our financial situation at that time prevented us from purchasing another expensive Japanese machine tool.”
Looking for an affordable alternative, the Franks discovered the Haas VF-0 – a non-gearbox version of Haas Automation’s VF-1 vertical machining center. The VF-1 – which is known as the company’s “Very First One” – was introduced at IMTS in 1988 for the unheard-of price of $49,900. The VF-0 was priced $5,000 less.
“We visited a large machine shop in the oil tool industry,” Steve recalls, “and saw two Haas VF-1 machines being used to machine intricate metal products for the oil field. The personnel we talked to were very satisfied with the Haas machines. That confirmation, along with the price point, made Haas a very attractive machine to purchase.”
Howard and Steve purchased their first CNC milling machine in 1992: a Haas VF-0 (S/N 1829), with a base price of just $44,900. The Franks added rigid tapping, a Haas HRT9 CNC rotary table with chuck and tailstock, some tooling, and accessories, bringing the total drive-out price to $63,614.26, including tax and delivery.
This was Steve Frank’s first exposure to the world of CNC machinery, and he’s had a passion for automation ever since. “We have continued to utilize Haas machine tools for their affordability, reliability, and innovation,” Steve says. “We currently own 12 Haas CNC mills, 11 Haas CNC lathes, and 4 Haas rotary tables.”
The old VF-0 was still running strong 22 years later, but PFI decided it was time to increase production rates, improve part surface finishes, and utilize the latest generation of Haas Controls. “Gene Haas and Haas Automation are always innovating, and continuously striving to improve their products,” explains Steve. “These efforts have resulted in machine tools that are easier to set up, and more capable of performing the machining functions that we require.”
In December 2014, the Haas Factory Outlet of south Texas (a division of Champions Machine Tool Sales) gave PFI a fair trade-in value for their old trusted steed, and the machine now sits proudly in the HFO’s showroom. “It’s a great way to show potential clients the longevity, reliability, and support that come with each and every Haas machine tool,” says HFO Product Specialist Darren Peltier. “Haas currently has more than 200,000 machine installations globally.”
To replace the VF-0, PFI selected a brand-new Haas VF-1 – base priced at just $48,995 – and loaded it with a host of high-productivity options, including a 24+1 side-mount tool changer, wireless intuitive probing system, automatic air gun, high-intensity lighting, and expanded program memory. Even with the options, the new machine was only $65,000 – just slightly higher than what PFI paid for their VF-0 in 1992.
“The new VF-1 has improved speed and reliability, compared to the original VF-0,” explains Steve, “enabling us to produce more parts with improved accuracy.”
PFI currently has a number of standard Haas VF series machines, as well as many Super Speed models. They have achieved proven production rate improvements of up to 40% with the standard Haas VFs, and more than 50% improvement with the Super Speed models.
With part quantities ranging from small batches of internal tooling for thermally formed PTFE diaphragms, to one-off prototype parts, to large-lot runs of pump diaphragm blanks and molds for medical implants, PFI utilizes Haas machines throughout the production floor.
For more information, please visit PFI’s website: http://pfi-plastics.com