The company adds large turning and boring machining options to its big-time fabricating services.
Processing of heavy plate and high-strength steel has become second nature to Rollfab, since it was established 25 years ago. Specialising in general steel fabrication, plate rolling, CNC bending and section rolling, the company has carved out a niche and emerged as a metal fabricator that can take on large and complex jobs that other shops might not want or do not have the equipment to handle. The company’s business approach is for differentiation among metal fabricators that might specialise in more routine work. This recipe has earned the company a highly respected reputation amongst manufacturers of specialised mineral processing equipment for the coal, gold, platinum, diamond, steel, gas and cement industries and as a result, Rollfab is their supplier of choice.
Not many fabricators can compete with Rollfab when it comes to size
Rollfab is both a job shop and fabricator, but there are big differences when comparing the company to other engineering companies that process plate. Like so many other job shops, Rollfab started off small in rented premises. It certainly was not fabricating huge specialty components like trommel screens for the mining industry, like it does today. A trommel screen, also known as a rotary screen, is a mechanical screening machine used to separate materials, mainly in the mineral and solid-waste processing industries. It consists of a perforated cylindrical drum that is normally elevated at an angle at the feed end.
Rollfab have fabricated kiln shells, scrubber drums, sag mills and ball mill shells
The company has always shopped out its machining requirements but have now sourced a second-hand Craven lathe / turning center that was completely refurbished and reconditioned to virtually new by Machine Tool Promotions. This included scrapping of beds and other components where necessary, new gearboxes and ballscrews – in other words a complete geometric reconditioning and mechanical and electrical upgrade. The company is now able to do all of its own turning of large components and has excess capacity that it can offer
In the beginning, owners and brothers Andrew and Colin Westphal concentrated on boiler shop type work and other smaller fabrications. They had a strong relationship with an international engineering company – a manufacturer of air, gas and liquid handling equipment – that has a large manufacturing facility in Johannesburg, Gauteng area. As is the case with many of these large companies they like to outsource the ‘nuisance’ work that is not part of their core business or is not cost effective for them to fabricate or manufacture themselves. They rely on companies such as Rollfab to process and supply.
The Westphals were only too happy to oblige and it was a valuable introduction to metal fabrication for them, while at the same time it allowed them to build their business. This client remains one of their most important clients still today.
However, the brothers really wanted to get into heavy fabrication and into an area that would set them apart from the rest. But this would take time. In the early years the company made a number of location moves, all necessitated by a growing client base and the scope and size of type of work that they were engaged to perform. This included investment in machines that could process heavier and larger plate and as a result require more space.
Rollfab is equiped with 12 plate rolls, ranging from 6mm up to 100mm by 3m
Owners and brothers Colin and Andrew Westphal
The transitional phase of the company into being regarded as one of the biggest companies in South Africa with the biggest capabilities for rolling and bending of plate culminated five years ago when the company moved into its own purpose built factory in Anderbolt, Boksburg, Gauteng.
“I would not say those previous 20 years prior to moving into our current factory were frustrating years for us because the business was growing all the time and with growth comes new challenges,” said Andrew Westphal who has claimed the title of Managing Director. Brother Colin is happy with his designation of Production Director.
Large lifting capacity up to 64 ton
“When we eventually built our own facility and moved into it in February 2013 we knew that in future we would be operating from a facility that would have the capacity that we needed. The factory is set on a 12 000m² site with a workshop that covers 6 500m². More importantly, we built the factory so that the access points could easily accommodate the large fabrications and components that we manufacture. The factory is equipped with nine overhead cranes that have an under hook height of 11 metres, and these are serviced by five forklifts, varying from three to seven tons capacity, and a 20 ton mobile crane.”
Rollfab has manufactured a large amount of Trommel screens used in the mineral processing industry. They fabricate, weld, stress relieve and machine to strict client requirements. Rollfab’s reputation in this manufacturing sector speaks for itself and they have produced some of the largest mill mounted and self-driven trommels in use around the world
Rollfab has the capacity to offer clients a huge variety of fabrications based on size, complexity and quality. Rollfab boasts a 20 plus year history of fabricating a broad spectrum of products for their clients in many different industries, including petro chemical, dust pollution, marine and mineral processing
“The crane lifting capacities vary from five tons to our 64 ton crane that is located in what we refer to as our big bay. For the scope of work that we currently do for our clients, this is more than enough capacity.”
Large processing equipment – big and heavy
Processing large heavy and thick metal plate requires an operator to deploy the matching equipment.
“A big advantage of us moving into the new facility is that it allowed us to organise the work flow of processing, from the delivery of material to the dispatch of component or product.”
“We initially operated as a general fabricator of what is now regarded as the popular material sizes. It was a very good business until other fabricators saw the opportunities. What had been specialty work soon became common work.”
“This was a big motivating factor in our desire to become known as a large operator. However, to be regarded as one the largest companies in South Africa offering large plate rolling and bending and section rolling services we needed the complementing equipment to offer these services.”
“The cost of this equipment to perform the larger metal processing operations is prohibitive and will deter many. But the driving force was competition because there were more and more shops that were getting into routine fabrications. We had to change and get into other niches to stay ahead of our other competitors,” he added.
Over the years Rollfab have manufactured equipment for the mineral processing equipment manufacturers. Examples include impellers, trommels, mills, shells and drums, but are not limited to this type of work
Over the years Rollfab have had a strong relationship with Machine Tool Promotions of Vanderbijlpark. Rollfab have purchased four of their press brakes from MTP, besides other equipment
Rollfab offers bending facilities with 11 press brakes, ranging from 100 ton by 3m width up to 1 200 ton by 7m and rolling facilities with 12 plate rolls, ranging from 6mm up to 100mm by 3m.
Continuing on the large equipment theme Rollfab boast welding manipulators that can rotate and tilt fabricated items up to 30 tons and 5.5m in diameter. Rollfab’s tank rotators can handle shells up to 60 tons and eight metres in diameter.
“We are also able to offer welding processes in MIG, TIG, MMA, flux-cored and submerged arc. We are able to weld in various grades of material and unlimited thickness. We boast welding manipulators that can rotate and tilt fabricated items up to 30 tons and 5.5m in diameter. Our tank rotators can handle shells up to 60 tons and 8m in diameter. Additionally, the company offers flange and section rolling.
“Not many fabricators can compete with us when it comes to size!”
Distinct divisions including shotblasting and painting
“We don’t manufacture our own products but rather process metal. Once processed through our service centre clients can collect their various processed material whether it is a once off, multiples or various components. We are not a production operation because of the size material that we process.”
“The other option for clients is that we manufacture their product from start to finish. They would supply us with the drawings and we manufacture according to these. This would include the shotblasting and painting of materials, which is our third division that we set up when we moved here five years ago. It is an added value option that we offer.”
MTP have also been able to source a Japanese manufactured O-M vertical turning and boring machine that MTP is busy refurbishing and reconditioning, for Rollfab. The machine will be supplied as a 2-axis CNC machine early in 2019. The machine has a table diameter of 3 000mm, a maximum turning diameter of 6 000mm, a maximum component height of 3 000mm, a maximum component of weight of 40 tons, a table speed range of 5 to 40rpm and a ram vertical stroke 1 200mm
The company has crane lifting capacities that vary from five tons to our 64 tons and up to 11 metres under the hook height
“Approximately 80% of the material that we process is supplied by client cut to size already. We only perform the rolling, bending and section rolling operations and where requested further fabrication, which includes welding, QC and QA, non-destructive testing, stress relieving, rubber lining, trial and final assembly and shotblasting and painting.”
“Over the years we have built a reputation for the manufacture of equipment for the mineral processing equipment manufacturers. Examples include impellers, trommels, mills, shells and drums. But we are not limited to this type of work. We have manufactured numerous fans that are used in the mines for clients and the supporting ducting.”
“This purpose built equipment for the OEMs can vary in size and configuration but for example the scrubber drums that we deliver weigh up to 35 tons.”
Machining on a large scale – a new development
It is inevitable that companies such as Rollfab that have experienced tremendous growth over the years will run into problems with suppliers. The company has always shopped out its machining requirements. However, the size of components that have to be machined for the fabricating division leave it with very little choice.
The Craven lathe / turning center that was completely refurbished and reconditioned to virtually new by Machine Tool Promotions. The PLC controlled machine was installed in August 2018 and has a 5m swing diameter with the maximum component length between the headstock and tailstock being 15m. The two modular beds have been reground and bolted together to form a single longitudinal travel bed, allowing for a single saddle to traverse approximately 12m in the Z-axis direction
“Now we are getting into turning and boring of components because to find shops with large enough equipment for our requirements, is very limited. We might have specialised in bending and rolling but with the increased orders for full fabrication and assembly from the OEMs, lead times for machining of our components were being extended more and more. This reflected badly on us so we had to address the situation.”
“Over the years we have had a strong relationship with Machine Tool Promotions of Vanderbijlpark. We have purchased four of our press brakes from them, besides other equipment. They are also well-known for mechanical and electrical upgrading of equipment, including sourcing the equipment.”
Large Craven lathe
“Luckily we were able to source a second-hand Craven lathe / turning center that was located in the Vereeniging area. This machine has now been completely refurbished and reconditioned to virtually new. This included scrapping of beds and other components where necessary, new gearboxes and ballscrews – in other words a complete geometric reconditioning and mechanical and electrical upgrade.”
Processing of heavy plate and high-strength steel has become second nature to Rollfab, since it was established 25 years ago. Specialising in general steel fabrication, plate rolling, CNC bending and section rolling, the company has carved out a niche and emerged as a metal fabricator that can take on large and complex jobs that other shops might not want or do not have the equipment to handle
An example of a large section of plate that has been roll formed
“The PLC controlled machine was installed in August 2018, has a 5m swing diameter and the maximum component length between the headstock and tailstock is 15m. The two modular beds have been reground and bolted together to form a single longitudinal travel bed, allowing for a single saddle to traverse approximately 12m in the Z-axis direction.”
Large fully modernised O-M vertical turning and boring machine
MTP have also been able to source a Japanese manufactured O-M vertical turning and boring machine that the company is busy refurbishing and reconditioning, for Rollfab.
“Again we have trusted MTP. It is their business. The machine is currently being retrofitted and will be supplied as a 2-axis CNC machine early in 2019.”
“The machine has a table diameter of 3 000mm, a maximum turning diameter of 6 000mm, a maximum component height of 3 000mm, a maximum component of weight of 40 tons, a table speed range of 5 to 40rpm and a ram vertical stroke 1 200mm.”
“Even as second-hand machines they are not cheap. But if you had to purchase one new I’d hate to think what we would have to pay.”
Machining of large components offered
“Virtually overnight we have gone from a plate processor to a company that can add extra value and offer extended services. We as Rollfab will certainly not fill the capacity of these two machines and will extend our services to other engineering companies that require machining of large components.”
“We intend to bring about 90% of our own machining requirements in-house but we will still have spare capacity.”
“Sourcing this type of large machining equipment is not just about picking up the phone to a supplier. It takes time to fit the match that you need.”
Stainless steel development
“The majority of the material that we process is the carbon and alloy steels of various thicknesses but in recent years we have been getting requests to process stainless steel more and more.”
Rollfab has over the last two decades manufactured a large percentage of surface, underground fans and ducting for many OEM fan manufacturers. The company was also able to assist with the fabrication of certain sections of the ducting installed at the Kusile and Medupi power plants
“We have now taken this seriously and are currently setting up a dedicated division to process stainless steel. This division will be housed in its own stand-alone building, which is currently being constructed alongside our current facility. The 550m² building will have its own processing equipment so that we do not have any contamination and will include its own cranes and other supplementary equipment.”
ISO 9001:15 and ISO 3834:15
For quality assurance, control and inspections are carried out in accordance with guidelines set by ISO-9001:15 and ISO 3834:15 for all welding policies and procedures.
Currently the company employs 105 staff, which includes welders and boilermakers.
“Our people have a lot of talent. They want to be challenged, or they will get bored. That’s the other part of the business that we focus on – to keep them challenged. We don’t want them to leave. I think we have been pretty successful with regards to that.”
This is an example of the evolution of a business. As an outside observer you can see evidence of that in the variety of heavy-duty and complex work done. It’s also evident in the company’s supplementary blasting and coatings, industrial mechanical and electrical services. Rollfab can certainly be proud of standing out from the rest. And it has not been tempted to invest in laser, plasma, oxy-fuel or waterjet cutting. Not for now at least.
For further information contact Rollfab on TEL: 011 626 1914 or visit www.rollfab.co.za