Besides being a recycler and processor of metal, SA Metal Group maximises the value of scrap metal it collects by beneficiating steel, copper and brass.
SA Metal Group might be one of the oldest and largest scrap metal collectors and recyclers in South Africa but when you visit the company’s head office in Epping Industria, Western Cape, you are introduced to an aspect of the company that is not commonly known – the beneficiating of the scrap metal that it collects and processes.
Scrap metal has been the core business of the family-owned SA Metal Group for the majority of its lifespan since grandfather Wolfe Barnett, an immigrant from the UK, established the company in 1919. Initially the company earned its revenue from buying up old machinery and breaking it up for spares. Scrap was a byproduct that was shipped back to the UK but this changed when spares became readily available in South Africa.
The Group is now run by Graham Barnett who deals with administrative functions, and his brother Clifford who looks after the operational side. Both started at the company in the 1980s while their father Aubrey was in charge. More recently fourth generation Barnetts – Graham’s sons Daniel and Rafael have joined the Group.
SA Metal purchased their first Leadwell CNC machine in 2013 and now have four Leadwell CNC machines
Our appointment was to find out more about the machine shop of the company, which to my surprise had been part of the company since it was set up in 2000. Machine Shop Manager Grant Kensley, who has been with the company since 2005 and is one of the driving forces in equipping his domain with the latest CNC machines, met us at the front entrance of the head office of SA Metal Group, which is situated in Christian Avenue, Epping Industria, Western Cape.
As large trucks laden with scrap metal rushed by and you dodged the empty ones leaving the scrap yard we were not prepared for what we were about to witness over the next three hours. They always say first impressions are the lasting ones but sometimes this is not always true.
After passing through tight security – scrap metal collection and recycling is big business – Grant escorted us to the machine shop area. The facility had been set up when SA Metal commissioned its melt shop in 2000. Equipped only with two conventional lathes, a mill and a drill the machine shop’s primary focus then, as it still is today, was to manufacture spares and wear parts for the melt shop and any other component that was needed for equipment used in other areas of the company.
SA Metal have recently added a Mitsubishi MV1200S Wire EDM to their machine capabilities because of the scope of the work that is now required by the Group divisions
The machine shop has now become an integral unit of the SA Metal Group and it not only services the equipment used in the scrap metal recycling and processing divisions that are situated in Epping but also those around the rest of the country. Additionally, the SA Metal Group now has a rolling mill division that manufactures rebar – SA Steelworks – and has recently established SA Copperworks, which beneficiates copper and brass scrap into copper busbars and brass bar. These two divisions are serviced by the machine shop and SA Steelworks in particular, has grown significantly in its own right.
“We only purchased our first Leadwell CNC machine in 2013 and now have four, with more to come. We have also recently added a Mitsuibishi Wire EDM because of the scope of the work that is now required by the Group divisions. As you can see it is a very busy machining facility and it still does not accommodate all the requirements of the Group. We still use outside entities to machine certain of our components.”
“You could say that the rebar rolling mill is our biggest ‘customer’ and was one of the reasons we had to purchase the CNC machines. The mill was only established in 2010 and is situated in Airport Industria, Cape Town. SA Steelworks manufactures steel billet, reinforcing bar and round bar in straight lengths and coils. All products are manufactured from 100% recycled scrap steel, thus contributing to preserving the environment.”
Final machining of rollers, which includes various grooving and notching operations, is done on a Leadwell LTC 50 XXLM CNC lathe that SA Metal specifically purchased in 2014
Machines are set up so that unattended machining can take place
“Our shredded steel scrap is melted using energy-saving and low-emission electric induction furnaces and is then refined, alloyed and continuously cast into billets. These are then reheated and rolled into a range of long steel products, all manufactured in accordance with international and South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) specifications. All recycled steel used at SA Steelworks is collected in the Western Cape and processed in our own works.”
“In a mill the attrition of components and wear and tear of the rollers used to manufacture the six different sizes of rebar that the company manufactures, is high. Depending on the size and the use, lifespans can be different between the rollers. SARCO supplies us the rollers rough machined and then we perform the final machining, which includes various grooving and notching operations on the Leadwell LTC 50 XXLM CNC lathe that we specifically purchased in 2014. The machine can accommodate workpieces up to three tons with turning lengths up to 3 910mm and was installed by WD Hearn Machine Tools.”
“This machine is very integral to our roller manufacture and refurbishment. One roller could require between 10 and 18 grooves with 120 notches per groove. Initially we had a bottleneck when we had to do the notching operation but we have worked out an indexing system and now we can have unattended machining. This has reduced the machining time per roller down to no more than 13 hours whereas previously it would take double that amount of time.”
The latest CNC machine tool that SA Metal have invested in, which was installed in 2016, is a Leadwell MCV-1500i vertical machining center. The 5-axis machine has XYZ travels of 1 520 x 760 x 720mm and a table size of 1 550 x 750mm
Rollers that have been supplied rough machined
“Rollers also require a number of other components to be fitted before being installed in the line at the mill. These include bearing housings (choc blocks) and other types of housings, flanges, spacer rings, and guide rollers. All these components are now manufactured on our other CNC machines whereas previously they were contracted out.”
“There are several advantages of having in house machining. These include cost, turnaround time and more importantly, if we need a change to the design of the grooves on the rollers it can be done without any external pressures. Rolling and rebar finishing in the mill is pretty standard but these days the requests for varied designs of rebar with shorter runs are more frequent so you have to adapt accordingly. We have the necessary software programmes such as SolidWorks, Autodesk Light and Edgecam so we can change our designs and machining operations to suit our needs.”
“However, it is not our intention to compete with outside machining shops. Where we do not have the capability we still contract out. The progression and advancement of the machine shop has been through necessity. With our constantly evolving experience we are now able to machine a number of critical components and we like to keep this intellectual property to ourselves. The SA Metal Group employs 120 staff in the engineering division, which the machine shop falls under, and that includes 10 qualified engineers. Including myself there are 13 staff in the machine shop and we are kept very busy with requests from the other areas of the Group.”
The machine shop at SA Metal manufactures many different spares and wear parts, such as bearing housings (choc blocks) and other types of housings, flanges and spacer rings, for other divisions in the Group
The machine shop management team: Dennis Koopman, Clifford Barnett and Grant Kensley
“A scrap metal recycler and processor such as SA Metal Group has a large amount of equipment that is used in the management of waste. The material handling equipment and attachments include balers, shredders, shears and cranes. The Group has over 100 cranes deployed at the main and satellite sites and, because of the harsh environment that the equipment works in, there are constant breakdowns and requests for wear parts to be replaced. Although the machine shop does not take care of all requests we are increasing the amount of components that we manufacture. Through the engineering department we use reverse engineering for drawings and in the case of one of our shredders we purchased the IP for the machine and can now manufacture the full range of wear parts for it.”
“The latest CNC machine tool that we have invested in, which was installed in 2016, is a Leadwell MCV-1500i vertical machining center. The 5-axis machine has XYZ travels of 1 520 x 760 x 720mm and a table size of 1 550 x 750mm. Again we have set it up so that we can have unattended machining. We purchased this machine because milling operations became a factor in the componentry that we are now required to machine.”
“The other machine that we purchased last year was our Mitsubishi MV1200S wire EDM machine, also supplied and installed by WD Hearn Machine Tools. With the introduction of our two beneficiating plants – SA Steelworks and SA Copperworks – we now have a call for manufacturing our own tooling. The Mitsubishi takes care of the production of this type of work.”
“Scrap metal prices per kilogram in South Africa are consistently changing and it is always a challenge for those companies in the industry to keep up with the changes. Ultimately however, we have been around for many years and now have 10 locations around South Africa – we only expanded outside of the Western Cape in 2001.”
Because of the constant fluctuation in the price of scrap metal SA Metal took the decision that wherever possible they should add further value to the metals that they were processing
Great care has to be taken during a copper melt. Copper won’t melt until it reaches 1 084 degrees Celsius
“We have always believed in adding value to whatever material we collect wherever this is viable. All scrap metal purchased by the Group is processed by sorting, shearing, shredding, torch-cutting, granulating and baling, amongst other processes. In addition, all our scrap processing yards are equipped with the latest cranes and handling equipment that are able to unload material from suppliers, safely and quickly.”
“Our steel shredding plant for example, situated in Christian Avenue, Epping Industria, produces shredded steel scrap at a rate of up to 120 tons per hour, reducing auto bodies, home appliances and other steel structures into fist-sized clean fragments of steel.”
“But it is not only steel that we recycle and process. All non-ferrous metals are processed or sorted in our main and satellite sites. This includes aluminium, copper, zinc, stainless steel, lead, nickel, brass, tin, bronze and others. We purchase scrap metal from a wide range of Southern African sources including industrial enterprises, scrap metal dealers and private individuals.”
“Non-ferrous metal and shredder waste recovered from the shredding plant is sorted further in our separation plant, where a combination of perforated screens, wind sifters, eddy-current separators and induction sorting systems (ISS), coupled with hand-picking lines, ensure that over 99% of the metal contained is safely and efficiently collected.”
“Designed for high capacity and reliability, our two 1 000 ton Lindemann shears, the largest in Africa, are situated at Epping Industria and at our plant in Germiston. A third 1 000 ton Le Fort shear is operational in Pretoria.”
Copper is a ‘soft’ material and can easily be extruded
Brass rods that have been extruded
“The company is geared to operate in remote regions where mobility is paramount. With this in mind, our mobile baling machines are rigidly constructed to ensure optimal productivity. By compacting vehicles and other light metal raw materials into manageable-sized bales, we are able to facilitate the cost-effective transportation of this material to our works. Our mobile shears are likewise used in much of our demolition work and in the processing of on-site scrap material. Designed with durability and structural integrity in mind, mobile shears can operate in the harshest of conditions and, with unparalleled power, allow a fast cut cycle that dramatically increases efficiency.”
“Advanced portable spectrometers are used extensively in our day-to-day operations. These provide accurate metal analyses to ensure the correct valuation of recyclable material.”
“Our weighbridges are electronic, assized and calibrated and are fitted with radiation detection equipment and cameras to ensure safety as well as accurate, documented systems for all material received at our yards across the country.”
“Our works is also equipped with a boilershop, container building and repair works, a hydraulic repair shop, a carpentry shop and plumbing and electrical departments.”
Further beneficiation of copper, brass and steel
“Because of the constant fluctuation in the price of scrap metal we took the decision that wherever possible we should add further value to the metals that we were processing. This resulted in the establishment of a steelworks mill in 1999.”
SA Copperworks, a division of the SA Metal Group, now manufactures a wide range of high-conductivity rectangular, square and round copper busbars, coiled copper rods and strip, paper-covered copper strip for the transformer industry, round and hexagonal solid and hollow brass bars, and solid square brass bars, as well as other profiles on request
Other profiles and sizes are manufactured on request
“Under the banner SA Steelworks, SA Metal Group manufactures steel billet, reinforcing bar, round and square bar in straight lengths and coils at this plant. All products are manufactured from 100% recycled scrap steel.”
“Our shredded steel scrap is melted using energy-saving and low-emission electric induction furnaces and is then refined, alloyed and continuously cast into billets. These are then reheated and rolled into a range of long steel products, all manufactured in accordance with international and South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) specifications. SA Steelworks is the only operating steel mill in the Western Cape region.”
The production of copper products begins with raw material in the form of either copper scrap, newly refined copper (called cathode copper, or simply cathode) or copper ingots. The choice of raw material depends on economic factors such as cost and availability, and the technical capabilities of the plant’s melting furnace.
Copper scrap is most often in the form of recycled copper wire that has been stripped of its insulation and/or baled copper tube, pipe, rod and other scrap that has been removed from demolished buildings, for example. Another common form of scrap is the so-called “home” or “runaround” scrap generated within the processor or fabricator itself.
“We realised that the company was collecting enough copper and brass scrap to consider beneficiating the material further. Coupled with the success and experience that the company had gained with setting up SA Steelworks and our own research, a decision was taken to setup a facility to manufacture copper busbars and brass bar with the intent to supply a broad spectrum of fabricators.”
“There are many fabricators of copper busbar in South Africa but very few companies that are manufacturing the busbar itself. The decision was made in 2015 and the process of setting up the mill to produce the copper and brass rod began. The installation of equipment for the mill was completed in early 2016 and includes a 1 000kW Inductotherm VIP™ Power Supply Unit.”
Copper busbar that has been extruded by SA Metal
Solid copper bar manufactured by SA Metal
“The continuous cast melting process allows us to produce solid copper rod which is then coiled before being sent to the extrusion facility, which was also setup from scratch.”
“SA Copperworks now manufactures a wide range of high-conductivity rectangular, square and round copper busbars, coiled copper rods and strip, paper-covered copper strip for the transformer industry, round and hexagonal solid and hollow brass bars, and solid square brass bars, as well as other profiles on request.”
“Product is either cut-to-size or coiled in strip, depending on the application needed by the fabricator. A full range of sizes are manufactured.”
“All the dies and other necessary accessories for these facilities are manufactured in our machine shop, as are any wear parts for the continuous casting and extrusion machines.”
“We have invested heavily over recent years and we can now boast that we have one of the largest capacities in South Africa to manufacture copper busbar that is supplied to many different industries.”
“Most scrap yards typically accept recyclable material from contractors and others, but many of them act only as the middleman and resell the material to specialised processors outfitted with the necessary high-tech equipment to efficiently process the material. We are now very much one of those specialised processors.”
For further details contact SA Metal Group on TEL: 021 590 3900 or visit www.sametal.co.za