Pressure Die Castings invests in a new zinc HPDC machine and a chrome plating plant

“Ten years ago we made a strategic decision to move further up the value chain, with an emphasis on product delivery and quality. The strategy involved reconfiguring the business, increasing factory productivity and training employees, which would ultimately lead to improving quality and reducing costs,” explains Pressure Die Castings (PDC) managing director Mike Wolhuter.

“We also employed a number of smart and innovative engineers who are constantly working on important areas such as energy savings and process design improvements. They are continuously pushing the boundary for implementing radical and new ideas, including automation. However, with the ever-increasing challenges of regulation and energy costs, the importance of continuing to develop and implement new technologies has never been greater.”

“The recent developments at PDC are as a result of a long term technical and business relationship with Cobra, a client of ours in the plumbing industry. Both Cobra and PDC are in the brass industry. However, our association goes beyond the normal client/supplier relationship in that we regularly share knowledge on brass processing, alloying and other technical aspects that can make improvements in the final component that we supply to them.”


The new chrome plating plant is capable of processing 500 000 components per month with an OEE of 80%. PDC is not a jobbing operation and has reserved the full capacity for Cobra’s production

“A few years ago Cobra decided to get out of high pressure die casting brass and focus on gravity and low pressure casting. We acquired their high pressure die casting equipment and tooling and continued to supply a selection of brass components to them.”

“During one of our recent discussions we were asked by Cobra to look into the feasibility of manufacturing HPDC zinc components with a chrome plating finish to help the client ‘reshore’ products from the east back into South Africa.”

“The revival of OEMs’ demand for domestically produced castings is gradually gaining traction in South Africa, although it is no sudden phenomenon worldwide. It does present an opportunity for local metal casting execs who are determined to improve their organisations’ competitiveness.”

“Executives of efficient foundries and die-casters who overcome organisational inertia and take steps needed to improve their competitiveness can meet the price and delivery requirements of casting buyers and take advantage of the ‘reshoring’ trend – casting orders once assigned to cheaper foreign metal-casters, but now returning due to rising Far Eastern labour costs, fluctuating foreign exchange rates and logistical difficulties.”

New zinc HPDC machine and a chrome plating plant
“However it went beyond ‘reshoring’. Cobra had previously tried the local route but soon became fed up with the local suppliers blaming each other for not delivering the quality that is expected of them. They operate in a very competitive area of supplying aesthetic sanitary and plumbing products and need to have a showroom finish.”

“As we have had many years of experience in high pressure die casting the proposal was put to us (PDC) that we manufacture a certain range of their zinc products as well as the finishing aspect. We agreed to take on the project where we would cast, polish and chrome plate the parts so there was no finger pointing.”

“We knew this would be a challenge as Cobra’s plating standard is the “Rolls Royce” of sanitary/plumbing in South Africa.”

“The project involved us purchasing a 160 ton hot chamber HPDC machine from Taiwanese manufacturer Producer CO Ltd. It is the first fully automatic HPDC machine that we have installed at PDC and includes auto spray, auto cycle and auto picking and typically producing three components every 15 seconds on a three cavity die.”

“The machine has turned out to be reliable and able to produce parts of a good quality. This has pushed us to investigate fully automating our brass and aluminium machines to improve throughput rate and increase quality. We are currently automating an aluminium HPDC machine for business that we have received in the automotive industry from Toyota and Ford. Our next challenge will be to automate a brass casting machine – a lot more challenging!”


The project involved purchasing a 160 ton hot chamber HPDC machine from Taiwanese manufacturer Producer CO Ltd

“The chrome plating process is a four stage plating process – Cyanide copper, acid copper, Nickel and then chrome plating. This gives you a 30 micron coating that is aesthetically stunning and has good corrosion resistance.”

“The plating plant is fully automated and includes off line filtering and heating on the process tanks, reverse plating of jigs, auto dosing of chemicals into the tank and reverse plating in the Nickel tank, all designed to achieve optimum quality.”

“The plating plant is capable of processing 500 000 components per month with an OEE of 80%. PDC is not a jobbing operation and has reserved the full capacity for Cobra’s production.”

“We have been contracted to initially manufacture six relatively small products, about 50mm x 50mm in size on average, with high aesthetic and high volume requirements. This contract will utilise about 50% of the plating plant, but we have an understanding with Cobra that we will be awarded further contracts once we have achieved their “Rolls Royce” status.”

“We have also installed a comprehensive effluent treatment plant and are looking at reusing all the waste water wherever it is practically possible.”

Positive results with capital investment and automation
“With the recent capital investment and automation programme that we have embarked on at PDC, coupled with a better organisational performance, we have found that we are very competitive against components and products being imported from the East even with their relatively cheap labour costs.”

“Executives dissatisfied with the status quo need to understand that clients can be persuaded to purchase their cast products again from domestic foundries – from their foundry – not for patriotic reasons, but because they can make quick deliveries of quality products at reasonable prices.”

“This year we expect about 30% of our turnover to be in components and products that were previously sourced from the East. This is as a result of us reconfiguring our business, increasing factory productivity, including automation, and training our employees.”

“The most successful business executives I have met are never fully satisfied with current results. They have a gnawing sense that if they had only made an extra effort here, had asked their managers to execute faster there, had been less accepting of excuses, and had insisted on better performance rather than resting on dubious laurels of current profitability (that is often marginal), their firms would have lower per-unit costs, better delivery records, and more orders taken at more profitable margins.”

For further details contact Pressure Die Castings on TEL: 033 397 5500 or visit