By David Brown, GSN Contributor
The Estrada Brothers’ Chandler operation has shown a lot of mettle over the years.
This year, the Gilbert residents’ Southwest Metal Spinning company is celebrating 25 years of serving individual and corporate clients with metal spinning, stamping and the engineering of tooling to fabricate custom, metal-formed parts for everything from food industry components to precision aerospace parts.
Metal spinning, or turning, creates a product by placing any number of metals over an existing shape – brass instruments, cookware and rocket nose cones, for example. With metal stamping, a tool-and-die unit impresses a shape onto a piece of metal, producing items such as cooking and baking pans.
Founded in 1994 in Mesa, the company moved to its larger current building in Chandler about five years later.
The family’s separate company, Elite Solar Lighting & Fans, began manufacturing tubular skylights, solar attic fans and garage exhaust fans in 2001 from the same location. SWMS builds the premium aluminum components for its high-impact domes and diffusers.
Brothers Saul and Juan Estrada have together worked for more than 75 years in the industry, learning the business while working for several metal spinning and stamping companies in native Southern California. In 1994, the Gilbert residents moved to Arizona and formed their company.
“This is not a job; it is my passion. It is the only trade both of us have known,” Saul said. “I love trying to figure out how to engineer and design new metal parts for customers. I enjoy the challenge.”
Less used today, metal spinning is nevertheless efficient and useful in many applications and intricate designs, he explained. The brothers have worked with aluminum, steel, copper and rare metals.
The family business also employs 16 people – 14 full-time and two part-time, SWMS with nine and Elite, seven. All but one employee live in the East Valley, most in Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa.
Most of the employees are sisters, brothers, sons, nephews and brothers-in-law.
Jované, the general manager for Elite, is Saul’s older son, and his younger brother, Saul Jr., is the junior vice president at SWMS. “The legacy of this business will continue with the next generation in this family, which is rare indeed,” their father said.
Nonfamily employees are adopted in. “We welcome them to our companies and our family functions,” he said.
The challenges of the business include balancing production deadlines with starting new projects. Because of the precision required, a new product can require four to eight weeks from design through prototyping, prototyping approval and then final production.
Because of both companies’ success, little space is left in the existing industrial park building for expansion; a new machine, for example, was purchased in 2017 to create larger diameter parts at SWMS.
“We have plans and a vision to build a bigger location on land we own across the street and hire more personnel, but, because of the high and rising expenses, including raw materials, we have to wait a bit longer before we build and expand,” Saul said. “We love working in Chandler and living in the East Valley.”
Solar tubes, also known as tubular skylights, allow homeowners and businesses to easily welcome natural light into a dark room, especially when windows or traditional skylights are not an option.
“A tubular skylight allows natural light in to brighten your room during the day without the need for an electrical light source,” Jované explained. “Solar tubes can be retrofitted into any existing roof system.”
The company’s solar tubes have a 25-year warranty and include a high-impact acrylic dome, built to withstand hurricanes.
Environmentally, two advantages stand out. Home and business owners can use free sunlight to light up their homes, garages, offices, hallways, bathrooms and warehouses while three layers of UV protection inhibit fading of interiors.
Solar tubes also offer lifestyle benefits for pets and plants. People, too: “They’ve been reported to improve a person’s mood,” Jované said.
The tubular skylight only requires a hole on the roof and another in the ceiling inside the home. In contrast, a traditional skylight requires framing and drywall to be installed from the roof to the ceiling.
East Valleyites have enjoyed them for years.
In their recently purchased Chandler home, Nick and Theresa Drake didn’t like the darkness of the family room during the day, so they added a solar tube.
“The family room is now very bright during the day and, with the solar night light feature we added, the room has a soft glow at night,” he said, noting that the solar tube qualified for a tax credit.
Mesa resident Richard Fontinel installed Elite Solar tubes 11 years ago when he had his Mesa home built – one in the main hallway and another in the master bedroom.
He and his wife also recently needed a new roof for another Mesa home; simultaneously, they had five sky lights installed. The one in the master bedroom has a light damper that can be closed during the daytime.
The solar lights save money because lights aren’t needed during daylight. And, because of Southwest’s high standards and Elite’s equal quality commitment, they’re still in good shape after years of battering by the desert sun, Fontinel said. “They’ve stood up quite well.