The popular manufacturing “stock photo” these days shows a guy in a hardhat in nice clothes looking at a clean plant full of machines and a spotless floor. I’ve seen plants like that in a precision sheet metal fabrication environment and maybe some machine shops where the company is producing components and/or products for the medical or some high-tech industry. These plants work with sophisticated machines and you need to have employees working in designer style type personal protective equipment. In fact the operators hardly need to get their hands dirty anymore. For instance, in a highly automated structural fabrication plant, a machine operator needs to ensure the right programme and the right material reach the work envelope at the right time. If they don’t, a sophisticated machine can produce a lot of scrap in a hurry.
Frankwen Forge has built an enviable reputation of supplying forgings in various metals to the petrochemical, power generation, mining, marine, heavy and general engineering industries while at the same time offering more than just a forging
The management team at Frankwen Forge: Vincent Horsburgh, Allan and Donovan Traube
But the message I get from these stock photos doesn’t match reality. Consider plants that specialise in heavy welding and structural fabrication, or heavy stamping? What about a heat treatment facility, or a forging plant? These environments are certainly safer and cleaner nowadays due all sorts of regulations and laws that have forced companies and manufacturing plants to change their ways from our ‘father’s manufacturing’ time that was full of grubby plants with loud machines.
However, things still get loud and hot if a company is involved in metal beneficiation. Manufacturing’s image has improved a great deal in recent years, as have the manufacturing processes. But you may still need to deal with lubrication, slag, welding fume, and other “dirty stuff”. It’s better than it was, but not every plant has guys in lab coats working in cleanrooms. The work dictates how clean a plant can reasonably be expected to be.
Thanks to modern software and sophisticated equipment, the nature of the work has changed dramatically. Many machines have straightforward user interfaces, so machine operation isn’t as opaque as it once was. The difference now is that jobs move so quickly. Pull up the wrong job on the beam line, or fixture an assembly in a robot cell incorrectly, and an operator can lose a considerable amount of money for a shop very quickly.
Forging, heat treatment, machining and SANAS testing
Considering all this, I think manufacturing’s image problem has less to do with what actual plants look like and more to do with the actual work employees perform. For nearly 50 years Frankwen Forge has built an enviable reputation of supplying forgings in various metals to the petrochemical, power generation, mining, marine, heavy and general engineering industries while at the same time offering more than just a forging.
Frankwen Forge offers a wide spectrum of heat treatment processes, backed up by a full range of straightening facilities and top hat furnaces for stress relieving, normalising, annealing, through hardening and tempering processes
Frankwen Forge forges all sizes and shapes of components in plain carbon, aluminium, copper, low to medium alloys, austenitic, martensitic or duplex, stainless steel and round bar as well as heat treatment (stress relieving, normalising, annealing and through hardening by means of oil and water quenching and salt bath hardening)
The company’s facilities might not look like the inside of an ICU unit but then what facility involved in shaping and treating hot metal does?
Situated in Benoni, Gauteng, Frankwen Forge has a unique diversified manufacturing facility that offers the customer forgings in plain carbon, aluminium, copper, low to medium alloys, austenitic, martensitic or duplex, stainless steel and round bar as well as heat treatment (stress relieving, normalising, annealing and through hardening by means of oil and water quenching and salt bath hardening), as well as machining and non-destructive testing to conform to the clients most stringent needs, requirements and specifications.
Managing Director Allan Traube has been with Frankwen Forge since 1985, having previously been involved in the industry in various forms for some years.
“Forging is one of the oldest known metalworking processes and in South Africa you can trace it back to the 19th century. Traditionally, forging was performed by a blacksmith using a hammer and anvil, though introducing water power to the production and working of iron in the 12th century allowed the use of large trip hammers or power hammers that exponentially increased the amount and size of iron that could be produced and forged easily. The smithy or forge has evolved over centuries to become a facility with engineered processes, production equipment, tooling, raw materials and products to meet the demands of modern industry,” explained Traube.
The normalising process
Components being oil quenched
“In modern times, industrial forging is done either with presses or with hammers powered by compressed air, electricity, hydraulics or steam. These hammers may have reciprocating weights in the thousands of kilograms. Smaller power hammers, 230 kilograms or less reciprocating weight, and hydraulic presses are common in art smithies as well. Some steam hammers remain in use, but they became obsolete with the availability of the other, more convenient, power sources.”
“Forging can produce a piece that is stronger than an equivalent cast or machined part. As the metal is shaped during the forging process, its internal grain deforms to follow the general shape of the part. As a result, the grain is continuous throughout the part, giving rise to a component with improved strength characteristics. Additionally, forgings can target a lower total cost when compared to a casting or fabrication. When you consider all the costs that are involved in a product’s lifecycle from procurement to lead time to rework, then factor in the costs of scrap, downtime and further quality issues, the long-term benefits of forgings can outweigh the short-term cost-savings that castings or fabrications might offer.”
“Some metals may be forged cold, but iron and steel are almost always hot forged. Hot forging prevents the work hardening that would result from cold forging, which would increase the difficulty of performing secondary machining operations on the piece. Also, while work hardening may be desirable in some circumstances, other methods of hardening the piece, such as heat treating, are generally more economical and more controllable. Alloys that are amenable to precipitation hardening, such as most aluminium alloys and titanium, can be hot forged, followed by hardening.”
Frankwen Forge also offers ring rolling
Components that have been through the heat treatment process
“Production forging involves significant capital expenditure for machinery, tooling, facilities and personnel. In the case of hot forging, a high-temperature furnace (sometimes referred to as the forge) is required to heat ingots or billets. Owing to the size of the massive forging hammers and presses and the parts they can produce, as well as the dangers inherent in working with hot metal, a special building is frequently required to house the operation. In the case of drop forging operations, provisions must be made to absorb the shock and vibration generated by the hammer. Most forging operations use metal-forming dies, which must be precisely machined and carefully heat-treated to correctly shape the workpiece, as well as to withstand the tremendous forces involved.”
“Frankwen Forge was established in 1971 and operated principally as a forge until I acquired the shareholding. To be a leader in the industry it was my mission to make the company as integrated and diversified as possible by offering more related services to our clients.”
Most of Frankwen Forge’s raw materials are imported as they cannot source them locally
Some forgings that Frankwen Forge are capable of manufacturing include gear blanks up to 2 000mm Ø by 650mm high, bushes up to 1 700mm Ø by 1 200mm long with various bore sizes and various rings up to 3 000mm in diameter. The company also has a speciality steel bar stock division stocking standard merchant bar stock in prime lengths and sizes in the popular steel grades and are available ex stock. A recent expansion to the company’s product range is the production of stainless steel round bar in the size range from 170mm Ø to 450mm Ø
“Through acquisitions, mergers and commissioning of new equipment and services we have grown to be one of the largest companies operating in this arena in South Africa. We now occupy 100 000m² of land with 39 000m² under roof. This area comprises two sites – one where the forge, heat treatment and metallurgical services are housed and the other where we have a modern 3 000m² machine shop housing 35 machines.”
“Most of the 200 staff that we employ are engaged in the various services at our bigger and main facility.”
“History shows that we have always tried to increase our capacity in this division by adding more equipment. We now have a number of forging presses installed with the biggest being a 1 500-ton open die forge press. Some forgings we are capable of manufacturing include gear blanks up to 2 000mm Ø by 650mm high, bushes up to 1 700mm Ø by 1 200mm long with various bore sizes and various rings up to 3 000mm in diameter. Two expander sizers are also used to ensure perfect roundness of forged rings.”
“We manufacture all types of forgings from 10 to 10 000 kilograms and our forging hammers range from one to three ton capacity.”
Horizontal band saws with capacities of cutting up to 1 000mm diameter are used for the preparation of feedstock to the forge
Various shapes of feedstock that have been prepared for the forge
“The forge is under utilised at the moment due to the slow down in orders from the mining industry for example but we can comfortably produce 1 500 tons of castings a month. Unfortunately most of our raw materials are imported as we cannot source them locally.”
Franktech Metallurgical Services
“Frankwen Forge maintains pace with the latest testing methods in the critical petrochemical and marine fields and prides itself in providing the customer with metallurgical and technical guidance as part of its customer service philosophy. This service also entails the services of an independent SANAS Accredited Metallurgical Testing Laboratory (Franktech), which is housed on site. This was an important addition to the company’s services offered.”
“Frankwen Forge has also successfully maintained TUV ISO 9002 certification since 2005.”
“Our range of input material includes the popular grades of carbon and low/medium alloy steels of the BS/EN, AISI/SAE and ASTM/ASME ranges. Selected grades of martensitic, austenitic and duplex stainless steels are also kept in stock. Horizontal band saws with capacities of cutting up to 1 000mm diameter are used for the preparation of feedstock to the forge.”
An integral component of the company is the machine shop, located on its own site in a modern 3 000m² facility. Not all of the forgings that Frankwen Forge manufacture end up in the machine shop for machining, but a sizeable amount do
A recent addition in the CNC department is a Doosan Puma VTS 1620M vertical turning center supplied by Puma Machine Tools
“For the client whose requirement warrants a ready to use component, our fully equipped machine shop is always available. A bevy of vertical boring mills, center lathes, horizontal boring mill and radial arm drills are fully tooled for almost every eventuality. The CNC machining/drilling section is the pride of this department, and a must for precision machining of components and perfection drilling of tube sheets, baffle plates and flanges.”
“We also manufacture bars/shafts from 100mm Ø to 850mm Ø by up to 7 500mm in length, either stepped or parallel.”
“Frankwen Forge offers a wide spectrum of heat treatment processes, backed up by a full range of straightening facilities and top hat furnaces for stress relieving, normalising, annealing, through hardening and tempering processes.”
“Our facilities include oil and water quenching up to 7 300mm in length and 3 000mm vertically, normalising and annealing up to 8 000mm long and stress relieving up to 8 000 x
3 000 x 1 500mm. We can also do heat treatment of aluminium forgings. All this is backed up by our in house mechanical testing facility – Franktech Laboratory.”
“This division is an integral component of the company. Not all of the forgings that we manufacture end up here for machining, but a sizeable amount do. Depending on client requirements we carry out pre/rough machining and final machining of components on our 25 different machines that include lathes, milling machines, vertical and horizontal boring mills and radial arm drills.”
Various components pass through the machine shop. Here we see the machining of a tube sheet that will be used in open cast mining applications
Frankwen Forge’s 3 and 5-axis CNC capabilities allow them to machine complex integrally re-enforced lip type nozzles and final drill tube holes in plate and forged sheets to customers’ drawings and specifications. They can machine up to three metres in diameter and proof machine shafts up to six metres in length, which they also manufactured in the forge
“Our 3 and 5-axis CNC capabilities allow us to machine complex integrally re-enforced lip type nozzles and final drill tube holes in plate and forged sheets to customers’ drawings and specifications. We can machine up to three metres in diameter and proof machine shafts up to six metres in length, which are also manufactured by us.”
“Other components include baffle plates, flanges, gear shafts and pinions and other general industry components – anything up to 10 tons. The majority of the machined items are used in the petrochemical and marine industries (locally and internationally) and conform to the required international specifications.”
“We also have a speciality steel bar stock division stocking standard merchant bar stock in prime lengths and sizes in the popular steel grades and are available ex stock. We can also cut to length. A recent expansion to our product range is the production of stainless steel round bar in the size range from 170mm Ø to 450mm Ø.”
“To further enhance our services to our clients we have a laboratory equipped with a full range of mechanical testing equipment. This includes a universal testing machine, an impact tester, microscopes, a Belec portable spectrometer that enables us to identify incoming feed stock or positive material identity on the clients’ final product, hardness testers and a host of metallurgical sample preparation equipment. The fully-fledged laboratory is capable of mechanical testing including compression, impact and bend testing, metallography or a complete metallurgical evaluation/investigation is therefore available for every eventuality.”
“All these laboratory services including NCS traceable, AIA witnessed (third party inspectors) and daily verification on certified test blocks are done on international specification guidance and the quality control plans are supported by individual job cards.”
Melt shop could be reopened
“Because of diminished orders in the forging industry as a result of OEMs and machine shops, particularly those involved in the mining industry, reducing production, we have had to look at other opportunities.”
“This economic downturn has meant that there is a lack of major capital projects being approved and, coupled with an increase in imported products, has also caused the recent closure of two well-known steel mills, ArcelorMittal Vereeniging and Evraz Highveld Steel.”
“The closure of these two mills has created an opportunity for us to investigate whether to reopen our melting facility, which we commissioned in 2006 and closed down in 2009 because of weak demand during the worldwide downturn.”
“The closing of the ArcelorMittal Vereeniging plant that was manufacturing billet in carbon alloy steels is very detrimental to the local industry. ArcelorMittal Newcastle is able to satisfy some demand but only in the smaller sizes, which for example does not suit our needs.”
Depending on client requirements Frankwen Forge carry out pre/rough machining and final machining of components on 25 different machines that include lathes, milling machines, vertical and horizontal boring mills and radial arm drills
A range of components that Frankwen Forge has manufactured for clients
“We specifically commissioned our melt shop to compete in this area but circumstances beyond our control forced us to mothball the plant. However, it is now very feasible for us to consider reopening. There will have to be a capital injection to upgrade existing equipment and add vacuum degassing and a ladle furnace. We are busy with the plans and negotiating with financers.”
“In anticipation we have even raised the roof by three metres in the facility where the melt shop is housed. Currently all the merchants are importing the material and users are experiencing quality problems.”
“One of the more disappointing occurrences that we have recently endured is the cancelling of orders from the OEMs that have US affiliations. We have put this down to the Trump affect and his US First policy. But we are already seeing a change in attitude from these companies as they realise the cost implications as a result of this policy.”
For further details contact Frankwen Forge on TEL: 011 746 9200 or visit www.frankwenforge.co.za