Weir Minerals Africa has recently opened two new laboratories at its Isando, Gauteng facility. One of the laboratories will serve its foundry operations and the other one is to serve the rubber plant requirements. Both have been dedicated to the company’s late regional director Grant Ramsden.
“The two laboratories are an integral part of maintaining world class standards in our production processes. Previously most of the company’s testing requirements were outsourced, which suited our plans at the time but also brought challenges with it. These services can now be conducted in-house, which will result in the foundry and the rubber plant getting the results in a fraction of the time that they used to,” said Weir Minerals Africa’s plant manager Umar Smith.
“Building these laboratories and equipping them with the latest technology is further aligning our manufacturing operations with best practice standards. The quick results are allowing us to fine-tune our manufacturing processes to improve product availability and on-time delivery,” continued Smith.
Inside the laboratory. Amongst the equipment in the foundry laboratory is a cut-off machine for preparing material for testing, a polishing machine that automatically grinds and polishes samples for testing and an etching fume extractor to highlight metal features at microscopic level
“A range of testing is conducted on material samples from the foundry and the rubber plant, to assess their performance under various conditions. This verification ensures that the manufacturing process begins with good quality material, for optimal equipment performance.”
“Getting test results quickly means that any deviation from our stringent standards is picked up and addressed immediately. This reduces the chance of products being held back at a later stage due to quality issues, making the supply line to customers more reliable,” explained Smith.
“This has an important impact on customer confidence, lead times and supply certainty. It also reduces the level of wastage and time lost, which occurs when manufacturing defects lead to work needing to be redone.”
The laboratory includes an MTS electromechanical universal test system for monotonic testing
“Having our own testing facilities supports our research and development efforts as we evolve materials to improve our equipment’s benefits to customers. By having the laboratories in-house, it is also easier for us to protect our intellectual property and take forward innovative ideas that add value to our market.”
“Amongst the equipment in the foundry laboratory is a cut-off machine for preparing material for testing, a polishing machine that automatically grinds and polishes samples for testing and an etching fume extractor to highlight metal features at microscopic level.”
“We use a microscope to analyse the structural properties of material, and a hardness machine that can help us predict material failures. There is also a tensile tester for determining yield strength and elongation, and a sieve grader machine to test the coarseness of sand used in the moulding process.”
The laboratory includes a Carbolite Gero muffle furnace
“The rubber laboratory includes a tensile tester to assess material behaviour under tension load, a hardness tester that helps determines product wear life, and a rheometer to test the cure time and scorch time of rubber. Other equipment is a rebound-resilience tester for checking material’s ability to withstand stress, and a Mooney viscometer to test curing behaviour in rubber compounds.”
“The laboratories contribute to the overall skill development on the shop floor, by encouraging all staff in meeting quality standards and continuously improving production processes.”
“Sadly our regional director Grant Ramsden passed away last year. We are paying tribute to him in naming and dedicating the foundry laboratory to his memory because without his involvement before his untimely passing, we would not have these two laboratories. He championed the group’s investment in this project,” added Smith.