Hooked on precision machining

It’s one thing to emphasise capital investments and technology updates, but every machine shop needs to make its capabilities and skills known to customers in a way that is immediately effective, honest, thorough, and memorable.

This Centurion, Gauteng based machine shop promises customers (and potential customers) an “old school dedication to craftsmanship combined with state-of-the-art equipment,” delivering precision machined parts on-time, produced with the latest CNC technology.


The latest machine to be installed by WD Hearn Machine Tools is a Leadwell V-42iF CNC vertical machining centre with Siemens 828D, XYZ travels of 1000 x 520 x 610mm, a table size of 1100 x 500mm and a load of 500 kilograms

“People’s lives are at stake in everything we do,” says Louis le Grange, founder and sole Director of Hentiq 1536 (Pty) Ltd. This 36-person job shop specialises in close tolerance machining for the aerospace, defence, automotive, mining and medical industries. Jobs range from a single prototype or piece of gauge tooling to production runs. Almost all of these workpieces are critical components that could determine whether a medical procedure succeeds in saving a patient’s life, whether a weapons system functions properly and allows a jet pilot to complete a mission, or whether the steering system on an SUV will keep a young family inside safely on the road.

This life-or-death reality is the main motivation for le Grange’s intense preoccupation with controlling every aspect of the manufacturing process to ensure compliance with specs and tolerances. “Lives are at stake,” he says.


The company has four Accutex Wire EDMs with various table sizes, all supplied by EDM Shop


A large Victor Vturn-45 turning centre with a generous envelope of 2185mm between centres is one of a few Victor machines on the shopfloor

“Take the instance where an elephant had toothache and we were called in to help. While it may sound like the first few lines of a poor bar room pun, elephants often suffer from broken or infected tusks. Tusks are not made of ivory from end to end, explains Steenkamp. Inside the tusk, starting from inside the skull, there is a pulp – consisting of nerve endings and blood vessels – that extends into the visible tusk for quite a few centimetres. This hidden part of the tusk often exceeds more than 50 cm in grown bulls – which spells a monster tusk ache should infection sets in.”

“We were approached by Dr Gerhard Steenkamp from the University of Pretoria’s (UP’s) faculty of veterinary science, Onderstepoort, one of only two elephant ‘dentists’ in the world, to improve and enlarge his elevators (an instrument used to loosen and ‘elevate’ the teeth in their sockets prior to extraction). The largest he had were only 50cm long. He needed to extend them to 70cm and do a few other modifications. We were also able to design and make some other pieces of equipment for him,” continued le Grange.

“It did help that both my son and wife are veterinarians so they were able to give us advice.”

Controlling every aspect of the manufacturing process is also the key to the shop’s ability to be both competitive and profitable. Le Grange fully understands that his shop must continually find ways to machine parts “better, faster and cheaper.” That is also a life-or-death reality for his business. His shop’s existence is at stake.


A prototype component that Hentiq 1536 has machined


Stainless steel components that have had various machining operations done by Hentiq 1536

Yet le Grange is certainly not the kind of manager his employees would characterise as a “control freak.”

“If you have good people, they can and should make as many of their own decisions as possible,” he says.

Lessons learnt
Louis le Grange learned a lot about the importance of lean manufacturing before he started his own manufacturing company. He began his career as an artisan at AEC before establishing his own business in 1999.

“I started off the business with a few machines and two employees. Most of our time was spent on the machines manufacturing components, but as the demand for precision engineered components in the defence and other specialised industries increased so did Hentiq 1536 grow.”

One of his goals in starting this company was to create an environment most like the one he himself would want to work in as an employee.


Castings that are due to be machined

“It had to be lean but not mean. I wanted pride in ownership to be a part of every employee’s experience – that means giving people the responsibility to work to the highest quality standards, yet be fully cross-trained to handle jobs through every step of the manufacturing process.”

No boundaries for CNC equipment
“We employ 30 people producing machined parts, assemblies and tooling, from most metals, composites and many plastics.”

“We utilise CNC milling, CNC turning, wire EDM and manual machines to produce our parts. I feel our greatest strength is using three and four-axis machining to produce our parts in an affordable way.”

“We have built up an array of CNC machines with most of them arriving in the last two to three years. At the moment we have nine Leadwell CNCs, five Hurcos, a large Victor Vturn-45 turning centre with a generous envelope of 2185mm between centres, four Accutex Wire EDMs with various table sizes, a Swiss type cam auto, some other older type CNCs and some internal and external grinders.”


At the moment the company has nine Leadwell CNCs


Inside one of the two Hurco VMX 60Mi CNC machining centres

“The largest of the Accutex Wire EDMs, which have been supplied by EDM Shop, has a table size of 600 x 400 x 300mm and runs on a linear motor.”

“The latest machine to be installed by WD Hearn Machine Tools is a Leadwell V-42iF CNC vertical machining centre with Siemens 828D, XYZ travels of 1000 x 520 x 610mm, a table size of 1100 x 500mm and a load of 500 kilograms.”

“This machine was installed in January 2016 in our original facility in Sarel Baard Drive. We have been in this factory, which is 635m², since December 2000.”

“However, when we started to expand our order book and machine inventory we had to find an alternative. Fortunately a factory three doors away from us became available and we now have 800m² of extra space available to us, although I must admit the floor is virtually full with machines now.”

Latest investment
“Fast, furious and flexible has been the pace of the company recently, machining complex precision components, ranging in size from 0,5mm to three metres. At one stage in the company’s history we were into larger components, but these days the mix has been reduced somewhat with an emphasis towards stainless steel materials and aluminium and its alloys.”


Various models of Hurco CNC machining centres on the floor at Hentiq 1536’s second facility


The company has two Hurco VMX 60Mi CNC machining centres

“CAD, CAM, CNC and wire EDM have all played a role in the company’s business growth. I don’t believe any single technology is dominant,” he says, “but each is simply an additional tool to help you do your job more effectively. However, if you don’t stay up-to-date with technology, you run the risk of falling behind and losing out to the competition.”

“Things change so fast, it’s hard to know what the next great technology will be. I’m sure many advances will come along that will help my company, and we will take advantage of any that do. But as I said before, new technologies are like tools in your toolbox, and acquiring good tools allows you to do good work faster.”

“We have tried to keep up with the technology, and arriving on the floor in March 2016 is a Kitamura Mytrunnion 4G 5-Axis vertical machining centre. Manufactured in Japan with hand scraping production techniques, the Mytrunnion 4G offers up a host of Kitamura stand-out features such as a high level of precision with accuracy levels of +/-0.002mm and a repeatability of +/-0.001mm. The rigid machine design enables the powerful 15kW directly driven spindle, with a BT40 taper to maximise material removal rates. With the world’s fastest accelerating spindle, the Mytrunnion 4G gets to a maximum speed of 15,000rpm in just 2.3 seconds. The machine comes with a 50 tool carousel as standard.


Aluminium components that have been machined

“This ultra-high precision, simultaneous 5-axis machine has a tilting table that rotates -120 to +30 degrees in the A axis, with a C-axis rotation of 360 degrees, both having a minimum indexing command of 0.001 degree.”

“The Mytrunnion 4G has a maximum work-piece diameter of 500mm on its rotary trunnion table and 400mm work height in the Z-axis, with the ability to accept billets up to 200kg. This machine is going to take care of a number of current projects and open up new opportunities for us.”

“Generally of late we have been purchasing machines for a specific project but once that project is completed the machines don’t sit idle for very long. For that matter, they might not stay located in the same spot or even the same company building once a job has ended, although we will try and keep the same make of machine and discipline together.”


Hentiq 1536 manufactured the mould for this spray can and still supplies the pins for the mould


Plastics is another material the company machines for a client

“One shortcoming was the fact that precision grinding capabilities was limited or non existent.
In the second half of 2014 the decision was made to incorporate an engineering company who did our grinding for the past few years, as part of Hentiq 1536. This was like a circle completed for not only did we expand in the market, but also added additional CNC as well as big conventional machines to our shopfloor.”

“These days it is very easy to setup for a new component and we make our jigs and fixtures, so we can adapt to change quickly.”

Le Grange attributes several factors to making his business a success, the first of which is, “enjoying what I do.”

Another contributor to this success story is the culture of teamwork at Hentiq 1536. The backstory is that “We have a great bunch of guys working here,” Le Grange offered.


In March 2016 a Kitamura Mytrunnion 4G 5-Axis vertical machining centre was installed by WD Hearn Machine Tools

“They’re dedicated, loyal, and they always get the job done. We believe in them, and invest in them. We’re always looking at what we can do to keep them happy. Like most places today, skilled workers are hard to come by. We’ve found it easier to reward them rather than lose them. And, they should be rewarded commensurate with their abilities, talents, and their contribution to the company.”

“I am captivated by nature and like to take time off to visit the bush and go fishing, two passions that I am hooked on. I know that I can leave the shop in capable hands and not worry that there will be complications while I am away. Our personnel just walk me through the obstacle and come up with a solution. They’re very knowledgeable, and very responsive. What a pleasure it is working with personnel who actually know what they are doing.”

A strategy for the long run
“There’s really nothing complicated about our strategy. We keep our eye on our customers, our competitors and on developments in new advanced technology. We invest regularly to stay ahead of the competition, allowing us to do what others cannot. We try to learn from our mistakes, of which there haven’t been a great number during the past 17 years. Then we work very, very hard to be the best supplier a customer can find.”

For further details contact Hentiq 1536 on TEL: 012 661 0843.