This is the fourth installment of Hands On, a series of informal posts dedicated to honoring the people, machines, and processes involved in making and manufacturing.
From Magnetic Shileding to High End 5th Avenue Fabrication
Amuneal was started in 1965 by Harriet and Sy Kamen, and their dog named Spencer in the back of a candy shop. Sy was an electronic salesman back then when his customers noticed that their components were becoming sensitive to the magnetic fields. He saw the opportunirty and together they both started Amuneal, a business focused on magnetic shielding. They use a special proprietary technique that shields from earths magnetic field. Semi conductors, for example, require magnetic shielding. They moved to the present day location in the Frankford neighborhood of Philadelphia in 1975.
So what's their name mean? The "mu" is a reference to mu-metal, that material used to build magnetic shields. The "neal" references the annealing cycle used to process magnetic shield. The "A" was thrown into the front to ensure favorable placement in industry listings at the time, thus creating the name Amuneal.
With shifts in government contracts and general industry changes within the elctronics realm, Amuneal had to grow and expand it's operations. In 1993 son Adam took over. They are an example of manufacturers evolving with the changing times and technologies.
At one point, Amuneal was one of the countries top suppliers of magnetic shielding. Today, the business is seemingly split. They still do magnetic shielding, but the majority of the business these days comes from custom fabrication projects which vary from major luxury retail clients such as Barneys New York, high end architecture firms like Roman and Williams, and for high caliber artists such as sculptor Mikyoung Kim. A smaller part of the business is focused on their "Standard Products" line of furniture and displays. "The Collectors Shelving System" recently went viral on social media site Pinterest. "In one day we had 50 calls" said designer Connell Carruthers.
Where, What, and Who
Today Amuneal is made up of 3 factories and 1 showroom, all right here in Philadelphia. Their newest location is near the airport which will allow them easier access to their manufactured designs final homes all around the world.
Their specialty is in unique metal finishing, specifically, in replicating vintage metals. They can spray zinc, pewter, bronze, stainless steel, brass, etc. onto almost any substrate. They also do work with wood, plastics, glass, upholstry, etc. Theirs no material they haven't worked with.
The team of about 108 employees hold mixed and varied backgrounds. Some of the creative work happens within the office, with folks who have industrial design backgrounds, who work with clients, and spend time rendering concept models and final plans. Other machinists, creatives, and fine artists work in the main warehouse behind the office. This is where the magic of fabrication happens. It's also where they have their industrial hydrogen powered ovens, for the magnetic shielding and metal treatments, which heat up to 2500 degrees Fahrenheit. Everything is calculated - from the time of day they use the ovens to how quickly to cool material.
Above the factory floor is a special room affectionately called the "Finders" room. This space houses a beautiful collection of vintage materials, books and prints. This is where they go to calm the mind, to brainstorm, and to find inspiration for a new vision.
When work comes in that requires some extra special skills, they turn to Groundwork or Robert True Ogden. Amuneal holds these relationships dear as these companies all share ideas, processes, and vendors. They even share The American Street Showroom, a former electric company substation turned into a showroom that highlights creative vision and fabrication.
While Amuneal seems to be operate in a niche market, they are open to taking on smaller jobs, especially creative ones. They have done one-offs, to small runs, to huge million dollar projects. Their expertise is varied and their excellence in materials really shines through. This gets us excited - because you never know, maybe one day we'll get into copper and brass plated timepieces?
To learn more, visit www.amuneal.com. Special thanks to Karen Randal and the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce for facilitating this trip.
- Amuneal uses a local metal supplier right next door in NJ
- They opened their own wood shop this year
- They get 4-5 project quotes a day
- On average, they require a 6-8 week lead time for fabrication projects.
- Amuneal is ontop of it's environmental game. All fluids are drain and captured to later be taken away by a chemical disposal company. They recycle all of their metals and have a low-VOC paint booth. They are pro-active in their relationships with environmental agencies.
-They have a meeting once a month to discuss employee and business health. Once they had an employee express concern over the air quality - so the company did tests in 5 locations for 48 hours. The final results? The air was of a healthy level.