ACL Bearings has finally closed its steel-back sintered bearings and PM part facility in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia, after failing to find a purchaser for the business. The company had been in receivership since 2009 and received a multi-million dollar Federal Government bailout. However, as no offers were received for the business as a going concern the decision was taken in July 2013 to close the plant by the summer 2014 with the loss of 136 jobs.
At its peak ACL Bearings had a workforce of 730 and was one of Australia’s major PM producers supplying steel-backed sintered engine bearings, PM valve seat inserts, timing pulleys and sprockets, and a range of PM parts for water and oil pumps and brake systems to companies such as Ford, GM Holden, Toyota and Mitsubishi. The company was spun out of the failed Repco group in 1986 when senior managers bought ACL from the new owners of Repco.
ACL relied heavily on the automotive sector and whilst a considerable portion of its production was exported, the decision by Ford to halt car production in Australia from 2016 combined with disadvantageous exchange rates for the Australian dollar in recent years dealt the final blow. In 2012 ACL received a prestigious design award from the MPIF for a PM part it supplied to Futuris Automotive for use on steering columns. The part involved a sinter-brazed spacer tube used on the Ford Falcon steering assembly since 2008 to provide positive steering adjustment and supporting the tilt adjustment components.
The company also manufactured its own copper-based powders using water atomization in a plant having 150 tonnes/month capacity. Copper-lead powders were produced for use in bearing strip from which steel-backed engine bearings are formed. The copper-lead powder is bonded to steel by sintering and rolling in a continuous atmosphere furnace. Production of the sintered copper-lead strip was said to be approximately 35,000 metres per month.