First Renishaw Equator™ 500 gauging system in Africa installed in Cape Town

Intelligent process control for larger components. Capable of high-speed comparative gauging for inspection of high-volume manufactured components.

When quality and efficiency are what you measure your business and personal growth by on a daily basis, then only the best will do. To achieve this goal Superexcel Precision Engineering CC, based in Blackheath, Cape Town purchased and installed the first Renishaw Equator™ 500 gauging system on the African continent in February 2019.

A chartered accountant (CA) by profession, it’s not hard to understand why quality control and process management are so important to owner Steve Bothma. Bothma, who is still doing consultancy work as a CA outside of his regular business hours, values the immediate benefits the Equator™ 500 is bringing to his shop floor.

“We specialise as a jobbing shop – but in mass production. We can be manufacturing up to 80 000 various components each month, and this can be on orders of 800 000 components.”

Originally established as Mauderer Engineering, Bothma purchased the business in November 1996 and began trading in January 1997, changing the name to Superexcel Precision Engineering CC on 1 March 2003. Initially he only had one CNC machine but that has since grown to a total of 27 various CNC machining centers and CNC lathes. There were also a number of CAM automatic machines, but these were all gotten rid of by 2010.

The Renishaw Equator™ 500 gauging system

Steve’s son, Stefano Bothma, joined the business in 2008, and like his father, enjoys getting his hands dirty on the shop floor. For Steve and Stefano, nothing is impossible, and there is always a solution – even if that means finding a way on a turret lathe.

The machining shop employees 48 people and now covers 1 100m2 of floor space across four units, each broken up into various stages of components being produced and jobs being undertaken. Predominantly parts and components are manufactured from aluminium, and as well as fulfilling local orders, Superexcel Precision Engineering also export components to companies in Europe.

The purchase of the Equator 500™ marks the next step in the future for Steve and his company: “To test 80 components for quality control used to take me between two and three days, now it takes me two to three hours to do the same job. And this includes testing the most difficult angle on one particular component – an angle of 22.5 degrees. In time this process will be even faster.”

Bothma prides himself and his employees on being goal driven and getting the maximum out of the business, “We operate by three rules: To produce components of the highest quality; to give decent service and to always be on time with delivery. Driven by European ethos we strive to delight the customer. We always strive to make the perfect component.”

Jamie Lord of Renishaw, Steve and Stefano Bothma of Superexcel Precision Engineering and Dylan Eva of       WD Hearn

“I spent day and night learning how to operate the machines and understand the industry and I believe if you don’t learn something from someone each day, you are a lot poorer for it,” said Bothma.

Jamie Lord, Industrial Metrology Engineer for Renishaw and responsible for all things automated in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and who was in Cape Town to assist with the installation remarked that, “The Equator™ 500 gauging and inspection system will make a significant impact on the quality control reporting for Superexcel Precision Engineering.”

Lord explained that it was about the Productive Process Pyramid for Renishaw, and that this is the philosophy behind the integration of the Equator™ 500 onto the shop floor. At the base of the pyramid one has the process foundation, above this the process setting, followed by in-process control, and lastly topped by post-process monitoring. This is the job the Equator™ 500 does, quickly.

Lord went on to highlight a recent, but larger installation of Equators used in automated cells at a large machine shop in the US and said that the equipment used for the turning cell paid for itself in just 18 days.

Another installation of Equators, this time in New Mexico at a transmissions systems plant, reduced shop floor gauging time of components by 85% with Equator™ gauges. After each stage of production, some features were inspected in the quality room, taking around 20 minutes on average. For the best accuracy, more than an hour could be lost waiting for the part to ‘soak’ to the quality room temperature prior to measurement. With the Equator™ gauges, alongside the machines, this was reduced to two-and-a-half minutes.

Steve and Stefano Bothma on the shop floor

In time Bothma says he is looking to add to the gauging system and create his own automated cell whereby a robotic arm will be added to further automate the loading and unloading process of parts for quality control, thus further reducing inspection times.

The Equator™ 500 gauging system
The new larger Equator™ 500 system now enables the gauging of larger parts components, with a working volume of 500mm in diameter and up to 400mm in height.

The Equator™ 500 gauging systems are accurate between a range of 5ºC and 50ºC at any rate of temperature change, and are capable of scanning speeds in excess of 200mm/s.

Every system is compatible with simple-to-use Organiser operator software, EZ-IO software for automation, and IPC (intelligent process control) software for updating tool offsets on CNC machine tools.

Process control
The Equator™ 500 gauging system has built-in software that can connect directly to CNC controllers. There is a range of options for feeding back offsets and corrections to the process, including the ability to set warning limits so that action is taken before parts are made out of tolerance. Measurement results and process corrections are displayed instantly on a run chart, which shows trends and production history.

You can update several machines on a per feature basis, and feed back to multiple tools. This enables control of multiple manufacturing operations with one gauging cycle. Managing tool life is easier and you can better understand the life of your cutting tools, and set user-defined tool wear warning limits. Sister tooling is also supported.

Measure size, position and 3D geometry data at the point of manufacture to update offsets and improve process capability. Measurements from multiple parts can be averaged to reduce variation. It is designed and perfectly suited to inspecting parts right where they are produced, on the shop floor.

Larger measuring volume
The Equator™ 500 has a gauging volume of 500mm diameter in the X/Y plane and 250mm in Z when used with the SM25-2 scanning module. This can be expanded to 400mm in Z with the SM25-3 scanning module, which allows styli up to 200mm in length to reach many more features. The base of the Equator™ 500 supports workpiece and fixturing with a total weight limit of 100kg.

Typical applications include the manufacture of car and truck transmission and engine casings, drive-train parts like conrods and differential housings, suspension castings, pressed parts, valves and pumps.

Accuracy with rapid temperature changes, now over a 45ºC range
Climatic conditions can result in variable daily and seasonal temperature cycles. For example, early in the morning a cold machine shop can increase in temperature due to both external conditions and machinery heating up. The system has been proven to cope with this by re-mastering, meaning that accurate gauging can start as soon as the first part has been produced and continue regardless of how conditions change.

Automatic update of tool offsets directly from Equator™ 500 systems
The Equator range is compatible with new IPC software which allows constant monitoring and automatic adjustment of a machining operation, keeping component dimensions close to nominal and well within process control limits. This correction of process drift improves part quality and manufacturing capability, and reduces scrap.

The proximity of the Equator™ 500 gauge to the CNC process allows adjustment at the point of manufacture, avoiding time delays or reliance on finished component (tailgate) inspection. An Equator™ gauging system can be connected to one or multiple CNC machine tool controllers.

For further details contact WD Hearn on TEL: 021 534 5351 or visit