Sun shines brightly at Tank Quip

Renewable energy source keeps company’s new 6kW Bystronic fiber laser operating at 100% uptime – saving on energy costs the primary objective.

Unless you have been living like a “Lost” survivor or studying stalagmites up close, you’ve witnessed the explosion of green energy generation – “greenergy”.

Harnessing the power of the earth, water, sun, and sky is not new, of course. In fact, some applications date back hundreds, even thousands of years – think solar tile baking ovens and merchant sail ships. Windmills have been around long enough to be the nostalgic symbol of Holland and the shape of tasty cookies.

But to harness a renewable energy source to run your fiber laser you must think that I have been at sea for 10 months and I am starting to hallucinate. Well you would be wrong. It is happening right on your doorstep.

The new 6kW Bystronic fiber laser. The Bystronic BySprint Fiber 6520 laser cutter is the first to be installed in South Africa

On the metal removal side Tank Quip have purchased a Takisawa EX-300 CNC lathe and a Takumi VC 1052 CNC milling machine from F&H Machine Tools

In a time when most OEMs are touting how they have reduced energy consumption in their latest model through a direct drive on pumps used on the machines, an energy saver is fitted to the machine, the start-stop technology that automatically turns off the machine while not in production or a heat exchange system feeds all the exhaust heat from the machines on the shop floor into a heating system, and the heat recovery system is generally able to heat one of the production halls and the adjacent office building.

Clean production is another well used term, and energy efficiency is not simply a matter of how much energy a manufacturer’s products consume; it’s also about how those products are themselves manufactured.

These are just some of the energy saving concepts for energy efficiency or the electricity a machine consumes on the market for metal removal or forming.

However, you would usually associate high-efficiency lasers with the manufacturing of solar panels. It is said that the manufacturing of solar energy panels is therefore likely to grow into a significant industry, offering large rewards for whoever can establish an advantage.

Tank Quip also has a Durma press brake on the shopfloor

The original 4kW Bystronic Bystar 4025 CNC laser with two 6.5 x 2.5m worktables

The biggest barrier to widespread commercialisation of renewable-energy generation – solar, wind, biofuels, and geothermal – as well as energy storage, such as lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells for electric vehicles (EV) and hybrid electric vehicles has been the cost. This is changing though.

Solar power as the power source for a fiber laser
“When we set out on this project that was prompted by not having enough capacity in our laser cutting department we also had to take into account a number of other factors,” said Pieter Smit, Managing Director of Tank Quip.

“They say that the City of Johannesburg suffers from at least 300 power outages a month. This is the reality for businesses and residents in South Africa and Tank Quip has not been immune to this frustrating disruption.”

“So we had to look at an alternative source of power not only for our production machines but also for the general factory environment. We also had to take into account the cost factor.”

About Tank quip
“Established in 1984 by Nick Gerber, who is now the Chairman of the Group, and Norman Brown, Tank Quip was originally an importer of a range of products and accessories for road transport tankers used in the fuel and chemical industries from the US, Europe and UK. The company still imports a large amount of products such as hydraulic, hydrolet, emergency, flush, ball and butterfly valves, connectors, tank unit adaptors and other miscellaneous products.”

“Many of them have a safety critical label attached to them. As you can imagine transporting chemicals or fuel in vessels is classed as hazardous and if involved in an accident it could have far reaching implications. Quality and standards are therefore taken seriously.”

“The health and safety authorities in the individual countries are very vigilant in this industry and inspection and testing is carried out regularly before certification is issued. For example weld integrity or the flatness of flanges are things that we take for granted that can lead to restrictions.”

Blue Valley Machine & Manufacturing Co. Inc. a US company, supplied a cold forming machine for dish manufacture

Some dished ends that have been manufactured for tankers

“Based on local legislative and industry requirements the fuel tankers that are manufactured locally must be built in accordance with the South African National Standards acceptance code SANS 1518 Transportation of Dangerous goods by road. We therefore, when supplying product or components to the OEMS, have to adhere to these standards. One of the main references in the industry to these standards is ADR.”

“All these products and components are marketed to road transport tanker manufacturers and those companies that are involved in custom manufacturing of these tankers or repairs, refurbishment and servicing.”

“Some of our international suppliers include Betts Industries, Blackmer, Girard Equipment and Todo.”

Local manufacturing
In 2006 Tank Quip management took a decision to manufacture products and components for the same industries locally. Besides the ‘barrels’ or pressure tank, which forms the bulk of the vehicle, there are many flat sheet type products and components that make up the running gear for a tanker. These include control boxes, holders, brackets, various types of tanks, supporting frames, meters, pumps and other running gear structures.

The main material used in the manufacture of tankers is aluminium in grades 5454 to 5083 and more recently manufactured with 5182 H111 grade. This complies with local and international codes of construction. Depending on the customer requirements and types of products to be carried, Tank Quip also manufacture with various Stainless steels (316 and 304), carbon steels, Domex steels and commercial grade mild steels.

One of the first machines that Tank Quip purchased was a 4kW Bystronic Bystar 4025 CNC laser with two 6.5 x 2.5m worktables. This allowed the company to cut components in stainless steel from 0.5 to 12mm, carbon steel from 0.5 to 20mm, aluminium from 0.5 to 8mm and other materials when required.

Tank Quip also acquired a Durma E-30300 hydraulic press brake that has a 300 ton bending force over 3 000mm. Punching and guillotine cutting machines were also added to this department.

Tank End is versatile in manufacturing other types of tanks for the chemical and other industries

Components manufactured on the CNC machines

Soon after that it became evident that the company had to offer more than just bending and cutting of sheet metal. On the metal removal side Tank Quip purchased a Takisawa EX-300 CNC Lathe with a turning diameter of 260mm, a turning length of 530mm and bar capacity of 52mm from F&H Machine Tools. The machine also has an X and Z axis live tool holder.

The latest addition to this department, also purchased from F&H Machine Tools, is a Takumi VC 1052 CNC milling machine with XYZ travels of 1 060 x 520 x 610mm, rapid traverse of 48m/min, a table size of 1 160 x 520mm and a work load of 650 kilograms.

Dish end forming machine and flanger machine
The company’s dishing facility is well equipped with a Blue Valley Machine & Manufacturing Co. Inc. a US company, cold forming machine. The dishing machine – Model 1625 – is used for the dishing of round and oval blanks for the pressure vessels that are used on the road transport tankers. The maximum rating of a 16-Series Disher is 16mm carbon steel, either as a single blank or as a cumulative thickness of two or more blanks. The model 1625 is manufactured in a “C” configuration. The machine has a throat that allows for the dishing of a round blank such that it can finish at a maximum diameter of 2 500mm after it has been flanged on a Blue Valley head flanging machine.

“Coupled with our Model 87 head flanging machine, also supplied by Blue Valley Machine & Manufacturing, it enables us to quickly and easily produce round, flanged and dished heads so that we can completely fabricate tank heads from flat square blanks,” explained Smit.

“In this department, besides manufacturing the tank ends, we also prepare nozzle holes/intrusive placements, cut out of nozzle holes/openings, bevel nozzle holes to required specifications, weld preparation symmetrically to the nozzle centre line, trim the straight flange and bevel the straight flange edge.”

“It also allows us to manufacture dished/tank ends for other pressure vessel manufacturers, boiler manufacturers and other manufacturers of industrial equipment where dished ends are required.”

The welding department is set up for MIG, TIG, stainless steel, aluminium and mild steel welding. Extraction units are installed at all seven welding bays, limiting gas and smoke inhaling.

Industries served
Although initially Tank Quip initially targeted the fuel and chemical industries, its products can now be found on tankers in the LPG, aviation and food industries.

Prominent oil companies such as Engen, BP, Sasol, Shell, Total and Chevron will have a Tank Quip component on their tanker fleets boasts the company. Additionally, transport companies ranging from blue chip entities with large fleets, as well as new entrants with single tankers, fall into the Tank Quip customer scope.

Road tankers that operate in the SADEC regions as well as areas outside of this region such as Malawi and Zambia will also be decked with some or many of the components and products that emanate from Tank Quip.

Products manufactured by Tank Quip include control boxes, holders, brackets, various types of tanks, supporting frames, meters, pumps and other running gear structures

Sheet metal components ready for delivery

The aviation related products are fitted to what is known as refuellers that are currently in service as far afield as the South Pole and Cape Verde off the West Coast of Africa.

New BySprint 6kW Fiber 6520 laser cutter that runs on solar power
Tank Quip has taken the major challenge of the cost of gas and electricity and a stable supply of power head on and installed a 300kwp Roof Top Grid-Tied Photovoltaic Solar System.

“We need to have a constant supply of work moving through the shop floor without any interruptions. This became a high priority when we started to lose orders because we did not have enough capacity. This we rectified by purchasing the first Bystronic BySprint Fiber 6520 laser cutter to be installed in South Africa from First Cut. This took place in December 2016.”

“The second challenge was power supply. Every time there was a power outage for more than six hours, it would be the equivalent of losing two days of production,” explained Smit.

“The situation did stabilise for a while but in the last 10 months it has got even worse than when we first had to endure load shedding. The power situation has put all of us South Africans under pressure. But more so for the companies that are high-energy users. Not only do we have to encounter the load shedding, the cost of power has increased substantially and will continue to rise.”

More components manufactured by Tank Quip

Products manufactured by Tank Quip end up on the road in the transport industry

“The cost implications forced us to look at our whole operation. We have looked at every department systematically and trimmed wherever we needed to, improved production levels by implementing better methods and generally improved our manufacturing, fabrication and assembly processes to maximise our returns. In general we have become a ‘smart’ company and we can thank Eskom for that.”

“However, when we decided to purchase the Bystronic BySprint Fiber 6520 laser cutter we looked at whether it could be powered by a source other than from the grid. Solar power was an option and it became a reality once we had done our research and consulted with Electro-Flex, a solar power commercial PV installer.”

“The main objective for the installation was to ensure 100% uptime for the fiber cutter whilst maximising savings by taking advantage of renewable resources. So as long as we have the sun shining, now that the PV system has been installed and linked to the fiber laser, we will be in operation.”

“With an expected daily yield of 300kWh this takes care of our power supply to the fiber laser. The savings are still being calculated but more importantly our 100% uptime has been achieved.”

“The PV system does not provide enough power to run our other CNC machines yet but on weekends, when we are generally not operating, we are able to put power back into the grid.”

First in South Africa – possibly the world
“We believe that this type of installation is the first in South Africa and could be the first in the world.”

“The Bystronic BySprint Fiber 6520 laser cutter is certainly the first to be installed in South Africa. One of the big advantages of the 6kW machine is the large format. That means it allows sheet metal measuring up to 6.5 x 2 metres to be processed.”

“For instance, material usage can be maximised when using larger sheet, as more parts can be nested with greater efficiency, meaning there is less material wastage. Bystronic’s BySoft 7 process software supports users with nesting procedures. We also deploy SigmaNest and Inventor in the software department.”

Outside work
Although the road transport tanker and trailer OEM manufacturers have always taken up most of Tank Quip’s production capacity, with this new fiber laser installation, the company can now actively search for other clients in industries such as mining and general engineering.

“We sell and supply approximately 2 000 different products and components. Of this number, 60 per cent are now manufactured locally. With a staff compliment of 30 and branches in Cape Town and Durban, we are now equipped to offer more than just to the road transport tanker and trailer industry.”

For further details contact Tank Quip on 011 908 4772 or visit