Wadeville Foundry adds non-ferrous metals to its casting capabilities

A jobbing foundry is described as a fully equipped foundry that does not cast its own components for the company product, but rather it undertakes contractual casting for other companies. The term jobbing foundry is used to indicate the ability of a foundry to handle efficiently a variety of patterns from which relatively few castings are made per order. Typical jobbing foundry orders can range from one piece to several hundred pieces, unlike a production foundry that gears its casting operations for bulk manufacturing of one or more types of casting. It is the very reason that you will generally find that a jobbing foundry operates as a floor foundry where it pours molten metal into moulds that are lined up on the factory floor. You will find very little automation such as an automatic vertical moulding machine or match plate machines, if any, except for a carousel system to move heavy moulds and castings around, in a jobbing foundry. Hand-moulded castings are the order of the day in a jobbing foundry that will have hundreds of different carefully crafted moulds stored by the foundry that have been used and are being kept for a ‘just in case’ scenario.

Pouring molten metal into a mould will always fascinate but foundry operators are faced with an insurmountable number of important process variables that they must control, even while pouring

Running a jobbing foundry is tough no matter how you look at it. Environmental compliance, personnel issues, government regulations, equipment problems, tooling issues and labour challenges, make for some pretty long days. The type, size, or complexity of work varies every day, always. Jobbing shops are substantially different than production shops in that hundreds or even thousands of parts of any size or type require a completely different approach.

The main advantage of a jobbing foundry must be its flexibility and ‘first time right’ capability. All components and processes have to be correct and of a high quality the first time.

Casting methods are typically used to create solid and hollow shapes, and cast products are found in a wide range of applications, including automotive components, aerospace parts, medical, mining, general engineering and many others. Castings are one of the most fundamental components for products used by society. I always explain that every single item or product around you or that you use originated in a foundry in some form of casting or component.

Steven Thomas who is the Managing Member and owner of Wadeville Foundry

A good jobbing foundry is a crucial piece of the puzzle when you are looking for a company that can do complicated part manufacturing. It is why you need to analyse the various grey foundries available to get the expertise you need. The most important thing is to go to the family-friendly company that has a history of delivering for their clients. A company like this is a lot better because they will be able to give you the personalised care you deserve. They are also a lot better because they will offer competitive pricing that can be the difference between a big loss or profitability. Casting is only getting more sophisticated, and it is crucial you have the right partners at your side to help you navigate this world. The right jobbing foundry will enable you to do a lot of work you didn’t think was possible.

Steven Thomas, now 52-years-old, has never been involved in any other profession other than that of the foundry industry since starting his working career in 1992. And all of the foundries he has worked for and the one he established in 2003 have been jobbing foundries.

“My career started in the foundry industry when I was only too happy to get offered an opportunity at a company called Wilgard Foundry that was based in Springs, Gauteng. The company would later move to Boksburg and join up with Arc Foundry. It was my first job and I started off at the bottom, as one does, when you have no qualifications. But that did not deter me as I was mechanically minded and I was prepared to learn. Skills need to be taught, but the process of teaching and learning (and relearning) is just as important as the ideas and techniques. However, there is no better skills learning than gaining the experience on the floor while doing the work yourself. The first-hand experience you will gain will remain with you throughout your career,” said Steven Thomas who is the Managing Member and owner of Wadeville Foundry.

The melting platform at Wadeville Foundry

The mould of a grate to be used in the power generation industry

“After a few months in Boksburg Wilgard Foundry closed its doors citing the bad economy as the reason. I then spent a short time at a foundry named Pro Cast. I then met an ex-partner Grant Estman and I ventured into business with him opening up GSG Foundry. We spent a decade together in business before I decided to open up my own foundry business. I knew that nothing ventured, nothing gained and the lessons I learnt from that experience made sure that I did not repeat them,” explained Thomas.

Quantus Foundry
“My next venture was to start Quantus Foundry in 2003, a name that would eventually be dropped and changed to Wadeville Foundry. As the name suggests I was based in Wadeville, at first in the Lothrien Industrial Park in Tedstone Road. I had an informal partnership with Vince van der Walt of Knights Sales, who was a castings broker at the time and I was his main supplier. Knights Sales would ultimately start their own foundry in 2006 and the family run a very successful business.”

“I started off with a small 250kg furnace, casting mainly cast iron and steel. After some growth I purchased my first new furnace – a 350kg furnace – and not long after that I purchased a 500kg furnace, also a new one. This allowed me to cast bigger castings, to increase my monthly tonnage and also to add other metals to my mix of materials to cast.”

Wadeville Foundry have been contracted to make a number of grates

Although regarded as a jobbing foundry Wadeville Foundry can do small production runs

“One of these is high chrome iron and this now makes up 80% of the mix of metals we cast. As we all know high chrome iron is a one of a kind white cast iron that can be difficult to cast but worth it for its end performance. Compared with the alloy steels or normal white cast irons, high chrome iron has higher wear resistance, higher temperature resistance and higher resistance to corrosion. High chrome iron castings can ensure better toughness and strength of the castings.”

“Chromium’s excellent wear resistance, toughness, heat and corrosion resistance ensure that high chrome iron castings are ideal for equipment used in the construction, mining, milling and earth-handling industries, cement mixers, coal washing equipment, water pumps and general engineering where there is wear and tear expected. Due to the excellent wear resistance, the service life and productivity of castings manufactured in high chrome, are both increased.”

“When you stop to think about the forming of a rough component, the most obvious reason to choose the casting process over other processes is it’s the most simple and direct method to obtain a near net shape component for further processing. One of the foundational concepts of casting design is that you can put the metal where you need it.”

Patternmaking requirements are a facilitated situation whereby Wadeville Foundry provides the floor space and the company runs as an independent business

Running a jobbing foundry is tough no matter how you look at it. Environmental compliance, personnel issues, government regulations, equipment problems, tooling issues and labour challenges, make for some pretty long days

“A designer would choose to use a casting over an alternate manufacturing process for many reasons. There are several considerations that make the use of castings the best choice. These usually fall into two broad categories – functionality and economical – and parts of these categories often overlap.”

“The size of a part is not a limiting factor for castings. The adaptability of the process can allow for making parts that weigh as little as several grams to over several hundred tons. The casting process also offers freedom in the quantities that can be made; small prototype orders or large production lot sizes aren’t a problem.”

“I always recommend that anyone unfamiliar with the casting process, either from the buying, engineering, or quality professions, should schedule a visit to their chosen foundry to become familiar with the processes and the capabilities as soon as they can.”

Further growth
“The company growth necessitated a move to bigger premises – we doubled our space – to Immelman Road, Wadeville where we spent close to a decade. We then found our current location in Barracuda Road, Wadeville and moved in four years ago. At the same time we purchased the property and the 3 000m² that we have at our disposal should be adequate for some time.”

High chrome iron makes up 80% of the mix of metals Wadeville Foundry casts

Wadeville Foundry also has a fettling department

“We are proud to say that when we started out as a desperate jobbing shop in 2003 there were only four of us in the business. Our staff complement is now 37.”

“We now have two 500kg furnaces as well as a 1 ton furnace. The largest size casting we have cast is 1.3 tons and we cast approximately 50 tons of material every month and that includes SG, manganese, stainless steel and special steel alloys castings as well.”

“We are as self-sufficient as much as possible and that includes doing our own heat treatment. Oil and water quench treatment is shopped out when required. But all other services that a foundry requires are done by ourselves. We also have a full reclamation plant that was supplied by RC Systems.”

“Our patternmaking requirements are a facilitated situation whereby we provide the space and the company runs as an independent business.”

“The type of castings we produce are numerous but most are wear resistant castings. These include casings, grate bars, gears, crusher parts, bearings, valves, housings and pump components for many different and general engineering industries. Supplying components to the power stations is also a sizeable amount of work that we do.”

Adding non-ferrous metals to casting capabilities
“Many foundries try to identify their core business internally, based almost entirely on process and metallurgical capabilities. Usually this is a mistake, unless the foundry can honestly say that they have a unique process or metallurgical capability from which they derive more than 80% of their profitability.”

“The type of castings we produce are numerous but most are wear resistant castings. These include casings, grate bars, gears, crusher parts, bearings, valves, housings and pump components for many different and general engineering industries. Supplying components to the power stations is also a sizeable amount of work that we do.”

The full foundry floor

“Perhaps one example of a foundry with unique process capabilities might be the foundry that has committed to automating and yet keeping the casting process highly flexible. This could give them a commanding lead in the general industrial casting market. Another good example is Atlantis Foundry in the Western Cape, a manufacturer of engine blocks for high-end OEMs. They have committed to becoming a Smart Foundry using AI and machine learning. They could be world leaders now.”

“Identifying the business core is best done with an external focus. Are there a small number of customers that provide 80% of the profitability? Or, perhaps there is a particular type of casting that makes up the 80%. Perhaps there is one particular market segment, or better, a niche within a market segment, that provides 80% of the profits.”

“This we have done and we have realised that we need to broaden our reach in terms of materials cast, the number and type of clients we service and of course the castings we produce or are capable of producing.”

Wadeville Foundry does sample testing on a Bruker Q2 supplied by Scientific & Precision Solutions (SPS)

Wadeville Foundry has a reclamation plant that includes return silos that were installed by RC Systems

“Adding non-ferrous metals to our casting capabilities has become a core of the business strategy and this we will start doing in April 2022. We have dedicated a bay to the non-ferrous production and besides the different alloys of bronzes and aluminium we will also be casting phosphorous bronzes and leaded gunmetal. We already have clients to service and will actively seek more.”

“All growing businesses must add new capabilities to keep their core business healthy and to expand into new business adjacencies. Ours has not been an easy journey. Starting off owing the taxman puts you a few steps back but it also entrenches beliefs to be successful. This we are doing and will continue to do.”

For further details contact Wadeville Foundry on Tel: 087 654 0168 or 082 458 7527 or visit www.wadevillefoundry.co.za