Modern machinery has increased throughput in many metalworking and fabricating companies tremendously. I’ve visited some shops in which I see components move from one process to the next within minutes, as long as there is an organised production plan. In many operations, the once so dreaded machine changeover is now no big deal. The speed at which the machines cut or bend shifts the problem to address downstream issues. If a business has not addressed its welding, fabricating or assembly operations to meet the inflow of processed components then bottlenecks will occur.
Lasers produce blanks faster than ever, and modern press brakes can be set up in minutes. Surveys show the greatest bottlenecks on the shop floor occur in the front office, in sales, quoting, engineering, programming, purchasing, and scheduling.
SkyReach is a proudly South African company based at the Springs Airfield, just east of Johannesburg. The company manufactures the BushCat, a distinctive light sport aircraft
Despite all this, one metric has remained stubbornly steady in recent years: On-time delivery. Time and again service centres are letting clients down. Before you know it, the client has installed their own machine or machines to perform the metal cutting or bending that was once outsourced to you, and because initially their own requirements cannot fill the capacity of these machines, they seek outside work to justify the investment and ‘pesto’, ‘your customer becomes your opposition in a field that you once dominated.
Rainbow SkyReach is another classic example of this scenario. The company, which was only established in January this year, has purchased a Bodor P3 fibre laser cutter and a 125 ton press brake to complement its existing welding, machining and reverse engineering services. The company is now able to take full control over its component manufacturing and quality control, as well as reduce turnaround times as it no longer needs to outsource these services.
A BushCat being assembled. This particular aircraft is for a client in Plettenberg Bay, Eastern Cape
SkyReach Zonkeh is a division of Rainbow SkyReach, the home of the BushCat light sport aircraft (LSA) that is manufactured by the company and sold the world over. The SkyReach BushCat is a South African developed LSA. The aircraft is supplied as a kit for amateur construction or as a complete ready-to-fly-aircraft. The BushCat is a distinctive LSA within the reach of many budgets.
Rainbowc SkyReach is a proudly South African company based at the Springs Airfield, just east of Johannesburg. Formerly Rainbow Aircraft, the company has its origins in the weight-shift trike market. However, a need for a cost-effective and rugged, 3-axis bush aircraft was identified in the late 1990s, resulting in the first flights of the newly designed aircraft taking place in 2001.
Rainbow SkyReach is a SACAA approved aircraft manufacturing organisation and the BushCat aircraft meets ASTM and CS-LSA standards applicable to light sport aircraft design and flight performance. The BushCat has been thoroughly flight tested to prove compliance and assure clients of SkyReach’s commitment to safety.
SkyReach Zonkeh was founded to complement the company’s existing departments that are responsible for manufacturing or processing individual components and materials for the manufacture of the BushCat. The company, which was only established in January this year, has purchased a Bodor P3 fibre laser cutter and a 125 ton press brake to complement its existing welding, machining, reverse engineering and tube manipulation services
“SkyReach Zonkeh was founded to complement our existing departments that are responsible for manufacturing or processing individual components and materials for the manufacture of the BushCat. We are proud to say that except for the landing gear, instruments and the engine, everything else is locally designed, manufactured and assembled,” explained Shawn Braisier, General Manager of SkyReach Zonkeh.
“For example, the BushCat fuselage, wings and control surfaces are all covered in an extremely durable, lightweight and tough material called Trilam. These covers require cutting to templates before being double stitched together with the use of industrial sewing machines. This is all done in our sewing department.”
The introduction of laser technology is intended to improve production efficiency and allow the company to grow by opening the doors to new markets, specifically for laser cutting and profile bending services
“While all the strength of the BushCat design comes from triangulated aluminium tubing that we fabricate ourselves, there is substantial use of composite parts in the finished product. Cowling, wing tips, doors, fairings etc are handmade in our composite shop to a very high standard. Of course these parts are also subject to a critical QC programme before parts are accepted into stores.”
“Any deviation from the manufacturing drawings, materials or assembly discovered during our QC process is treated with urgency and dealt with under strict compliance.”
Bodor fibre laser introduction
“The introduction of laser technology is intended to improve production efficiency and allow the company to grow by opening the doors to new markets, specifically for laser cutting and profile bending services,” explained Denise Kruger, Parts Division Manager of SkyReach Zonkeh.
SkyReach is a SACAA approved aircraft manufacturing organisation and the BushCat aircraft meets ASTM and CS-LSA standards applicable to light sport aircraft design and flight performance. The BushCat has been thoroughly flight tested to prove compliance and assure clients of SkyReach’s commitment to safety
“Application of high-powered lasers is becoming more commonplace in industrial environments and manufacturing as more applications of these lasers are discovered and developed. More manufacturers are realising how reliable and repeatable industrial laser systems can be. Like any other machine tool, the technologies surrounding the laser system have advanced significantly over the past several decades.”
“The Bodor P3 fibre laser cutter has a bed size of 3 000mm by 1 500mm and a 3kW power source was only installed in March this year. We are currently cutting flat mild steel and stainless steel components on it between 2mm and 6mm and 2mm aluminium components. But as you know the machine is capable of cutting thicker sheet for all of these materials and this is a feature we will be pushing to external clients.”
“Our requirements only take up 20% of the capacity so we have the potential to really expand our portfolio of clients. We have already acquired clients that service the mining and bakery industries but we will not be limited to these industries.”
“We have Autocad, Solidworks and the Bodor software at our disposal so we are very up-to-date with the latest tools in this area.”
The company also offers welding, machining and reverse engineering services
“For SkyReach we are cutting axle main plates, exhaust plates, throttle arm components and the aircraft control panel, which is done in aluminium. At this stage I am the operator as well being the parts manager, and I have learned to operate the laser through my qualifications and experiences at previous companies. I worked at a steel supplier for a number of years before I joined SkyReach Zonke.”
“Introduced to the metal processing side in April was a 125 ton hydraulic press brake that can bend material up to 3 200mm wide and mild steel between 0.5mm and 12mm. Again, our own requirements will not be significant at this stage so we will be marketing the fact that we are capable of doing outside work.”
“In keeping with our aviation lineage, we handle all your parts manufacturing with the same attention to detail and quality control as you would expect from an experienced aircraft manufacturer.”
Introduced to the metal processing side in April was a 125 ton hydraulic press brake that can bend material up to 3 200mm wide and mild steel between 0.5mm and 12mm
“The acquisition of this laser cutter and press brake give us the opportunity to diversify, apart from focusing on the aviation industry, and becoming a preferred supplier of laser cut and profile bent components parts to other industries who require quality and precision work.”
“But we are not limited to these two processes. We are also able to offer Tig welding, conventional turning and milling. As we grow and require more diversification as well as bringing services inhouse, we will look at CNC machining. And of course there is also our sub-assembly, assembly and fabrication experience. Reverse engineering is another service that we offer.”
“The company operates out of various workshops that are housed in the hangars at Springs Airfield, with a combined floor space of 1 800m² and the company has 45 full-time employees.”
For further details contact SkyReach Zonkeh on TEL: 010 006 5513 or visit www.skyreachzonkeh.com