Shaping the future for aesthetically pleasing, defect-resistant metal surfaces.
Designers, architects, fabricators and engineers are looking for additional inspiration on how to make their product or project stand out amongst the crowd. Aesthetic and functional textures can be one of the most important components of design projects, and choosing and applying the right texture to the various components of the project can turn the project into an eye catching piece of art.
With the advent of 3D printing and the wealth of software now available, these designers and architects are demanding decorative and coloured finishes, especially when there is metal finishing involved. The flat, uninspiring ‘vanilla’ piece of metal is no longer acceptable in this world of glamour, except in the engineering environment where sheet metal or plate is used for practical or function-first engineering reasons with “rigidized” finishes offering up to 35% additional flexural strength to standard flat steel sheet.
Graytex Metals has recently installed a new coil-to-coil line
But even the engineering shop is not immune to the design trend. At the recent EMO Milano 2015 machines were displayed with gleaming white and pristine livery, highlighted by slick graphics, windows, and mesmerising LED displays. The result is a stunning piece of hardware that is trying to strike an even balance between style and function.
The designer was quoted as saying: “You wouldn’t buy an ugly car, so why would you buy an ugly machine?” he asked. “Equally why work in a dirty, ugly factory?”
The new design, and its focus on extreme style, continued as a trend across all of the other exhibitors. The function-first aesthetics of yesterday’s machines are gone. Instead, machine manufacturers are putting out increasingly beautiful, slick, machines designed to attract new, millennial users in a format they know and trust.
The various patterns are either laser etched or milled onto the rolls that are used in the mills. The lifespan of these rolls depends on usage but can be up to 25 years
“Manufacturers, processors, assemblers and the like have to stay ahead of the game and embrace the ‘glamour’ demands,” says Jason Naude, a Director at metal finishes specialist Graytex Metals.
“But it is not just about the ‘glamour’. Glamour is what we enjoy at the end of a project. We’re always looking for something new, different and challenging. We work with exciting people and have a lot of fun in the process, but it takes hours, sometimes months and requires getting our hands dirty to produce a product we’re happy with.”
Using metal in the kitchen is a trend that seems to only be increasing as time goes on. Stainless steel has long been the go-to finish for appliances and professional kitchens. Not only are we seeing an increase in demand for these materials, textured finishes are growing in popularity as well.
Senior staff at Graytex Metals: Chad Cato, Duncan Gray, Jason Naude, Anikie Thekiso and Devon Jardine
Stainless steel countertops and appliances have become a fixture in modern, minimalist, décor in recent years. With its clean lines, and reflective, monolithic surface, stainless steel is perfect for those who want to incorporate metal into their design, but don’t want to worry too much about maintenance and upkeep.
In some applications, stainless steel can look sterile and uninviting. This is where textured finishes come in. By giving the stainless steel a machine-hammered texture (stainless is too hard to be hand-hammered), you add another dimension and character to the material.
Stainless steel is also a very popular material for backsplashes, not just for its look, but for how easily it can be maintained. A diamond or quilted patterned backsplash can almost mimic the look of tile, and saves the homeowner the trouble of keeping the grout clean.
“Graytex Metals offers a diverse range of stainless steel, aluminium and pre-painted decorative finishes. Textured and brushed decorative finishes are functional, aesthetically pleasing, durable and inexpensive. Used in a variety of applications from architectural shop fronts, hotels, airports, appliances, food processing, refrigeration, engineering, general fabrication and many others. Some textured finishes offer a tough durable scratch resistant surface, which are ideal for high traffic areas. The use of textured finishes results in increased product life together with lower long-term repair costs.”
Coil waiting to be processed
“A patterned/textured surface has a reduced contact area. As a result friction problems in food, drink and processing machinery have been solved when using textured metals. The textured stainless steel sheet not only hides dents and scratches, the product is weight saving, breaks up light patterns, is aesthetically pleasing and functional all in one. Other finishes are popular as they hide scratches, mask finger prints and break up light and are ideal for use on tanks, shop fronts, appliances and decorative features.”
Long term cost and weight savings
“As a direct consequence of the strength and durability benefits provided by the patterned finishes, long term cost savings are provided in maintenance and replacement of applications such as elevators, columns and doors. The patterning process increases the strength and rigidity of metal enabling lighter guages to be used with consequent cost and weight savings.”
Low friction services
“The patterning process provides a reduced contact area so reducing friction problems common in food, drink and photographic machinery. This can significantly speed up production flow.”
Heat insulation and dissipation and reflective surfaces
“The appliance industry uses the patterned finishes because they provide heat insulation and dissipation advantages. The patterned finishes are also used in the lighting industry to break up glare.”
“Applications include decorative panels, grab bars, elevator doors, cases, boxes, flooring and material handling products. But they are not limited to these. You can use them in all types of engineering environments and on all types of machinery. It all depends on what type of finish the client wants.”
The cut-to-length line
“For example our MaxiSlide™ collection of metal finishes can be fabricated to form parts to machinery that will quicken the flow of goods through a processing line. Unlike flat metals, the use of a patterned finish from the MaxiSlide™ collection will prevent components from delay and blockage and can increase the performance of processing machinery. The processing of wet materials can be particularly enhanced.”
“Our diverse range of metal finishes, stainless steel, aluminium and carbon steels are utilised for a wide range of design applications within the automotive field. Both private and commercial vehicles can benefit from weight savings, increased strength, aesthetic and performance related qualities of the product range.”
“Cladding on buildings is very popular these days and patterned/textured metals come into their own in this application. You have to be sure of the fundamentals of your project, including details on the building’s structure, location, and performance requirements intended for example for thermal and acoustic insulation or for environmental considerations.”
The cutting shears on the cut-to-length line
“The scope for application is so broad, and when a project is complete and it’s new and different it becomes a landmark that gets spoken about. The fact that its stainless ensures that it’ll be there for generations.”
“Additionally, other stainless steel finishes such as coloured, coloured textured, the Granex finishes, which is our bead blasted product range, Super Mirror which is highly polished stainless steel and the Imprimo finishes which are custom designs of different shapes, sizes and spacing that can be rolled into all types of metal, are available. Mirror polished surfaces, as the name implies, have a bright reflective surface which gives a mirror like image.”
“Graytex Metals offers the most extensive and most specialised range of aesthetic stainless steel, aluminium and pre-painted applications in South Africa. However, beauty is only one aspect. Our finishes also provide functionality. Functionality includes anti-vandalism, high-traffic wear protection, hygiene, anti-slip and the like.”
Graytex Metals offers a diverse range of stainless steel, aluminium and pre-painted decorative finishes
“Graytex Metals provides a series of natural stainless steel finishes as well as colour finishes. These include the lmprimo and Textured ranges. The nature of coloured stainless steel is that the colour and/or tone may vary in different lighting conditions, between batches of stainless steel and production runs and as a result can be very effective if used correctly.”
The ColourTex range is an electrochemical process that is used for exterior applications. ColourTex is weather resistant and hard wearing. The process is highly specialised and produces a narrower colour spectrum than the interior application. ColourTex can be combined with the substrate finishes of mirror or satin polishes, Granex bead blast or with other product lines of patterned or MetalArt finishes.
ColourTex is a sheet product available on stainless steel only. The colours produced under the ColourTex process are black, blue, bronze, champagne, charcoal, gold, green and red.
Graytex Metals history dates back to 1991 when a joint venture subsidiary of Rimex Metals Corporation, UK was set up in South Africa to market the range of processed metals to the local industry.
The reality of local manufacture was soon implemented and the local operation began processing two ranges of rigidised sheet products that are said to offer 35% extra strength properties. This was the company’s ‘bread and butter’ for five years before the decision was taken in 2000 to invest in three smaller capacity cold rolling mills.
One of the original three smaller capacity cold rolling mills
Further investment in equipment took place in 2005, and in 2012 the company invested in a slitting and cut to length line to add more services to the processing operation.
In 2014 a custom made polishing line was purchased which produces #4, satin, scotch and titanium finishes. Now in 2016 a new coil-to-coil line has been added to the shopfloor.
“We are very excited about this new acquisition as it is a solution to the production bottlenecks that we were experiencing, and it adds to our services,” said Naude.
“We are now able to offer the Stucco and Cedar pattern range of finishes on stainless steel, aluminium and pre-painted colour variations. These are especially popular for garage door manufacturers, refrigeration, and rain water gutter products. Previously most of the metal to manufacture these was imported. Capacity on this line is max 8 ton coils, max 1250mm wide, 0.3mm – 0.9mm thick coil to coil processing.”
Recent projects include Chevron Towers in Cape Town
“Our patterned finishes are manufactured by cold rolling various types and grades of steel and stainless steel in sheet and coil format. The patterned product is then levelled and processed for flatness.”
“We can supply flat custom length stainless steel sheet and coil/slit which in stainless steel can be offered in 2B, BA and No4 finishes. Our services now include cut-to-length, slitting, slit and blank, coil to coil, #4 brush, ring-polish as well as PVC coating.”
“The cut to length / slitting machine capabilities are maximum input coil width of 1500mm, a maximum input coil mass of 9000 kilograms, maximum gauge on stainless steel up 1,2mm on stainless and 2,5mm on aluminium, and a maximum sheet length of 4500mm. The minimum gauge is 0,4mm.”
The company, launched in South Africa 25 years ago, initially provided two standard patterns. These have been continuously added to and Graytex Metals now produces 26 local products and stocks 22 imported patterns from the UK.
The various patterns are either laser etched or milled onto the rolls that are used in the mills. The lifespan of these rolls depends on usage but can be up to 25 years. Sheet material that has been profiled, as it is sometimes referred to, is usually patterned on one side only via the cold rolling process and the pattern is imprinted on the material via the forces that the roll exerts.
Another project was Fredman Towers in Sandton
Rimex Metals South Africa has now become a wholly owned South African company and changed its name to Graytex Metals. The company remains the sole distributing agent for Rimex Metals Group in sub Saharan Africa and will still have access to technology transfer from the UK company, which has manufacturing facilities in the UK, the USA and Australia. Graytex Metals will continue to import certain of the products not manufactured locally. Currently Graytex Metals processes 80% of its output locally with the other 20% imported.
The company is continuously supplying stainless steel products and industry knowledge to various projects in Johannesburg, such as the Sandton City refurbishment and the Rosebank Mall extension. Graytex Metals also supplied the column cladding, lift cladding, access control and general shopfitting for the Rosebank Mall extension.
“We work from the conception stage of a project and, through this, we try to gain an understanding of the clients’ and architects’ needs, as this enables us to offer the most suitable product – from not only an aesthetic point but also a functional-product point.”
Trends and challenges
Graytex Metals notes that there is high stainless steel demand in the hospitality sector, including demand from hotels and restaurants. Additionally, government is recognising the sustainability and longevity of stainless steel in the healthcare, transport and retail sectors.
An example where Graytex Metals material has been used. The finishes provide functionality including anti-vandalism, high-traffic wear protection, hygiene, anti-slip and the like. On this 4×4 trailer it has been used to protect the bodywork
“The decor in a new business has to be unique to stand out among the rest and it certainly has to possess the wow factor. Trendy cafes and nightclubs are a good example. To compete with the multitude of sensory experiences which greet clubbers out to see the latest bands and DJs, a unique interior using patterned stainless steel would wow the patrons.”
Recent projects, including the austere and flawless exterior of Fredman Towers in Sandton, “Chevron Towers” in Cape Town and the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosebank exemplify the varied results and versatility of the materials.
The company has also supplied “Rigidized” stainless steel for the façade cladding for the first phase of the BRT, the bus rapid transit system currently being deployed around South Africa’s major cities.
Operating out of facility in Strydom Park Gauteng the company employs 15 staff.
For further details contact Graytex Metals on TEL: 011 793 3695.