MANUFACTURING: Technology Pushed To Extreme
Recent Western Cape Business News
IN the same way the addition of fluoride to toothpaste has forever changed the way it protects teeth, the addition of chromium, molybdenum and manganese to Technical Systems’ base material forever changed the quality of flat feeder chain, the company claims.
It requested this from the then Iscor (now Mittal) in the early 90s, and the product has now become a standard, according to founder Theuns Kühn.
However, at its Bellville plant heat treatment is done continuously and in-line for higher consistency in mechanical properties, adding elements such as hardenability, oxidation resistance and an improvement in creep strength.
The result is a feeder chain with the highest tensile strength in material of all known chains, no twisting, vibrating and empty spots and no elongation of the material after installation.
Feed chain is Technical Systems’ flagship product, having started production on it more than 15 years ago. Currently it produces some four million metres of chain a year.
A more recent product is the pan feeder auger conveyer, which has been in production for some eight years. Until recently, annual production was also four million metres, but due to increased demand, the company is now increasing capacity to five million metres a year.
Unlike many other manufacturers of auger (who purchase flattened, heat treated wire), Technical Systems heat treats and flattens its own wire, thus monitoring all stages of the process and ensuring correctly hardened auger, manufactured to each client’s specific requirements provided of course that the volumes warrant it.
Technical Systems is extremely focused on continuous product improvement. Due to the nature of the product range being very small and the sales volumes increasing at such a rate, it is imperative to keep an eye on improving not only the quality of the product, but streamlining the methods by which it can check the conformance of the products. The production of feed chain has in the past been limited by the throughput of the heat treatment line. During 2007 the speed of this induction heat treatment line was increased by 30%.
2007 has also seen the commissioning of the revolutionary new surface treatment equipment used to improve the fatigue capabilities of the Technical Systems flexible auger. The machine was commissioned in October 2007 and first produced product in November 2007, seeing the introduction of Fatiqless Auger, a flexible auger that is ‘unbreakable’ in fatigue oscillator tests, boasting an auger that out-performs any other auger, the company claims.
The company employs two full time engineers in its R&D department who are tasked not only to continuously improve products, but to enhance production processes as well.
So for example the company last year spent R2 million on high frequency generators to heat the auger and chain production lines up to 900 degrees Celcius. This increased the genset capacities to 10kH resulting in the same electrical consumption, but a throughput increase of more than 25% was achieved.
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