Core business for new company will constitute diamond wheel manufacture for grinding operations, manufacture of ceramic shapes and sizes and general engineering.
Infinity Diamond Wheel Manufacturing, which only began trading on the 1st January 2021, has been established as a result of a management buyout (MBO). Although, MBOs have been popular for a long time there have not been many publicised in the current economic climate. MBOs can occur in any industry with any size business in a transaction in which the management team pools resources to acquire all or part of the business they manage.
Partners Marius Joubert, Mhleli Nkuna and Daniel Botha
In this case the MBO is a result of multinational company Element Six, which is ultimately owned by the De Beers Diamond Group, deciding to offload some of its manufacturing divisions that they don’t regard as core business anymore.
Element Six is a global manufacturer and supplier of high-quality superabrasives and industrial diamond materials including synthetic and natural diamond and the complementary superabrasives cubic carbon nitride. The company has primary manufacturing facilities in Ireland, China, Germany, South Africa, US and the UK.
The South African connection dates back to 1946 when Sir Ernest Oppenheimer established Industrial Distributors Ltd. to concentrate on industrial uses of natural diamonds. The Element Six manufacturing and engineering complex in Springs, Gauteng was established in 1960 and has seen many of the other De Beers companies either established or relocated to the Springs complex. It was only in 2002 that De Beers Industrial Diamonds was rebranded to Element Six.
Last year Element Six invested in the machining department, an investment that saw four new Victor Vturn-NP16 CNC turning lathes, each equipped with a robot arm for automation, added to the floor
De Beers’ success in the synthesis of diamonds was announced to the world by the late Harry Oppenheimer in 1959. A full-scale plant to produce synthetic industrial diamonds commercially started operation in Springs in 1961 and the majority of the Springs complex has been focussed on the manufacture of industrial diamond products.
Manufacturing includes a whole host of engineering divisions and laboratories as well as those that are involved in manufacturing products that aid in the manufacture of the final product that is used in oil and gas, automotive, aerospace, mining and construction, consumer electronics, optics, thermal management, wear parts and next generation applications.
Products are used in industrial applications such as cutting, grinding, drilling, shearing and polishing, while the extreme properties of synthetic diamond beyond hardness are opening up new applications in a wide array of industries such as optics, power transmission, water treatment, semi-conductors and sensors.
In essence Element Six manufactured most of its own high-integrity products used in the manufacture of industrial diamond products. That was until 2019 when the less publicised offloading of some manufacturing divisions, considered non-core businesses, were sold. The first of these was in the mining industry and now the ceramics, grinding wheels and general engineering divisions have been sold.
The installation of the four Victor Vturn-NP16 CNC turning lathes with a robot arm made such an impression that top executives based internationally with Element Six had to come and see for themselves how the Victors were operating. The investment was also categorised as one of the top five success stories for 2020 with regard to investment in capital equipment, in the whole of the Element Six companies worldwide
“We have been given an opportunity that does not come around very often,” said Marius Joubert, one of three partners involved in the MBO. Joubert has been in charge of the divisions that make up Diamond Wheel Manufacturing and has been with Element Six for the last 20 years.
“All three divisions were primarily a service provider to Element Six and will definitely remain so going forward,” explained Joubert.
“What will be different going forward is that we will now be able to offer our services and products to a broader industrial market and also develop markets that we see potential in, whether it be for the ceramics or general engineering.”
“For example ceramics are used in disc brakes and bullet-proof vests. We have not explored making components for these products before but will be able to do so in future. For any other applications, components or products that require ceramic as the material we will be able to offer a service.”
“The current ceramics that we machine are all for Element Six products and come in various shapes and sizes. We do not manufacture the materials but the types of material we are machining at the moment are magnesite, pyrophyllite, salt and talc but we have the know-how to machine other ceramic materials as well.”
“On the general engineering side we have 22 CNC machines (lathes and milling machines), two large vertical and horizontal boring machines, wire cutting spark eroding machines, grinders and a number of other conventional machines at our disposal.”
The flexible automated production that the Victor CNC machines have brought Infinity Diamond Wheels has seen them more than double their productivity and drastically reduce the manual intervention
“Seven of our CNC machines have Renishaw probes on them so we are up-to-date with the latest quality standards when it comes to reducing setup times and in-process control.”
“Only a few of these machines are working to capacity so we have plenty of machining time to offer to outside businesses. Likewise our first priority will be our client Element Six.”
“For turning work on our 14 CNC lathes we are able to accommodate from 300mm swing and a 500mm length up to 600mm swing and 2 000mm length. One lathe has a C-axis and live tooling.”
“The XYZs on the CNC milling machines are 1 000mm by 500mm by 500mm. The Webster & Bennett double column vertical turning and boring machine has a table size of 108” (2 745mm) and a 1 980mm working height and can accommodate a workpiece mass of up to 25 ton. The Giddings and Lewis horizontal boring mill will machine a maximum workpiece size of 1 520mm by 2 135mm by 2490 and a mass of 20 ton.”
“Amongst the equipment purchased are four eccentric presses used for punching of various components 10 uniaxial presses ranging from 60 to 300 tons that will be used for the pressing of ceramics and two 4-axis Komage CNC presses with 600 ton force that will be used for controlled filling systems for producing multi-layer pressed parts.”
Four Victor Vturn-NP16 CNC turning lathes with a robot arm for unmanned operation
“Last year Element Six invested in the machining department, an investment that saw four new Victor Vturn-NP16 CNC turning lathes, each equipped with a robot arm for automation, added to the floor.”
On the general engineering side Infinity Diamond Wheels have 22 CNC machines (lathes and milling machines), two large vertical and horizontal boring machines, wire cutting spark eroding machines, grinders and a number of other conventional machines. The Webster & Bennett double column vertical turning and boring machine has a table size of 108” (2 745mm) and a 1 980mm working height and can accommodate a workpiece mass of up to 25 ton
“The robust Vturn-NP16 turning center boasts a compact footprint of just 1 488mm in length by 1 956mm wide, and has a height of 1 775mm, so even the most compact machine shop can now benefit from the productivity, rigidity, precision and longevity of a Victor CNC machine tool. Heavy stock removal and highly productive machining of difficult-to-process materials are the machine’s forte.”
“Besides the robot arm, which is an auto parts loader, each machine is equipped with a parts catcher and Renishaw probing. The swing is 200mm and the bed length is 500mm, ideal for the size of ceramic components that we are machining.”
“The Easyway Robot is seated on the slide ways of the tailstock, which has been removed from the lathe. This robot (parts catcher) has three servo motors to rotate the arms and grippers to transport the parts between work feeder and chuck. Maximum part weight is 3kgs, maximum part diameter is 120mm and length is 102mm.”
“The flexible automated production that the Victor CNC machines have brought us has seen us more than double our productivity and drastically reduce the manual intervention.”
The current ceramics that Infinity Diamond Wheels machine are all for Element Six products and come in various shapes and sizes
“The installation of the four Victor Vturn-NP16 CNC turning lathes with a robot arm made such an impression that top executives based internationally from Element Six had to come and see for themselves how the Victors were operating. The investment was also categorised as one of the top five success stories for 2020 with regard to investment in capital equipment, in the whole of the Element Six companies worldwide.”
“The big advantage of the machines is that there is very little downtime – only when the cutting tool inserts need to be changed. All machining done is dry cutting and we are getting between 3 000 and 4 000 cuts per cutting edge. The insert we are using is a PCD based product and it is being used in conjunction with a parting blade with through coolant but the coolant in this case is compressed air which keeps the cutting area cool and clean.”
Components no longer made in China
“Another big benefit from this investment is that it has re-shored a number of components that were previously being manufactured in China. We are now price competitive, just through making good use of the automation.”
“Additionally, logistics is no longer a problem because of our close proximity to the client.”
Diamond wheel manufacture – grinding
“The third exciting piece that we have acquired is the diamond wheel division where product is used for grinding applications. De Beers Industrial Diamonds started manufacturing wheels for the company’s own consumption in 1981 and this was continued when the rebranding took place. As the leader in industrial diamond development and uses the company has built up plenty of IP, not only in their own products but also in diamond wheels, for example.”
Infinity Diamond Wheels do not manufacture the materials but the types of material they are machining at the moment are magnesite, pyrophyllite, salt and talc but they have the know-how to machine other ceramic materials as well
“As part of the MBO we have acquired these ‘recipes’ and the associated manufacturing equipment such as that used for the isostatic pressing, furnaces and forge presses.”
“Additionally, we have a 30 metre tunnel kiln and various furnaces used in the manufacturing process.”
“We are concentrating on a range between 25mm diameter and 580mm diameter. There are five types of wheel that are used for grinding, cutting and polishing operations.”
“In our machining department we have three Springfield horizontal grinders and various other surface grinders on which we will be able to test our diamond wheels but also offer a grinding service.”
“We have purchased a going concern and we are very excited about the potential of our diamond wheels that up until now have not been available to the external market.”
Besides the Victor Vturn-NP16 CNC turning lathes Infinity Diamond Wheels has a number of other Victor Fortune machines on the floor. This one has been operating since 1992
“The performance of a grinding wheel predominantly hinges on the type of abrasive material used. Diamond is the hardest abrasive grain and, thus, the one with the highest cutting performance.”
“Besides all this equipment we also have an Accutex wire cutter and an AgieCharmilles die-sinking EDM machine and deep drawing equipment.”
“Currently our equipment and processes are housed in four different locations on the Springs facility. We have already started to consolidate it under one roof but that will still take a few weeks as we need to wait until Element Six moves their equipment out. Eventually we will be a separate company with our own manufacturing and engineering buildings housed alongside the Element Six Springs facility.”
“Element Six is our biggest client and will remain so going forward so it made no sense to move away.”
Amongst the equipment that Infinity Diamond Wheels has is an Accutex wire cutter (represented by EDM Shop) and an AgieCharmilles die-sinking EDM machine (represented by Retecon) and deep drawing equipment
“33 staff have moved with us during the transfer of assets and already we have employed another 20 staff. This could increase as we start to grow and maximise the potential of our equipment, processes and product.”
CVE vacuum heat treatment furnace
“By the end of this first quarter there will also be a new CVE furnace installed. The vacuum heat treatment can take up to 1 000mm workpieces and a load capacity of 800kg. This new service could open a number of doors for us.”
“Us consists of three partners – myself, Daniel Botha and Mhleli Nkuna, who is a 40% shareholder. We are also B-BBEE compliant.”
“Getting the opportunity to bring together the production and processing of high-quality products that have had years of research and development in IP by a major international company as well as adding a modern engineering department into the mix, is one that we could not refuse and we are grateful for.”
For further details contact Infinity Diamond Wheel Manufacturing on TEL: 073-324-5695 or
082 576 6976