South African tool and die specialist benefits from the world’s current crisis

Enviro Lamps had to purchase new Haas VF-3 vertical mill to cope with extra business.

“For many years there has been lively discussion about the mould and die industry in South Africa losing out to low-cost countries. I myself have previously vocalised on this topic and questioned whether mould manufacturers really have to fear these low-cost countries as a threat to mould manufacture in our country? We are not alone in this dilemma – worldwide countries have been affected, some going back to the eighties when the automotive OEMs started to explore having their products manufactured internationally and they were exposed to dramatic savings in tooling costs,” said Johan Dreyer, Managing Member of Enviro Lamps.

“When you are in the business of the manufacturing of metal and plastic parts on a production scale, the die or mould is the essential starting point and the die or mould contains much of the innovation related to both product design and the manufacturing process. It is estimated that the die and mould tooling sector control a manufacturing market that could be more than 10 times larger than the tooling costs.”

“You do not buy our tooling off the shelf like DIY tooling. Many hours are spent on the design of the product, then the design of the tool and then the manufacture of the tool. The tool has to be functional and is manufactured in high-calibre steel on high-quality and expensive machines. If you think about any plastic part that you see in your car or in your daily life, and you try to imagine that coming out of two big blocks of steel, you’ll realise why there are a lot of moving parts because when that mould pulls apart, there are slides and lifters and other elements that help release that plastic part. So, these tools are really complicated, and they take skilled craftsmen to build them.”

The new Haas VF3 CNC machining center. This new machine increases Enviro Lamp’s capacity of producing more injection and blow moulds by cutting down drastically on the delivery time

“Tooling used in the automotive industry could weigh up to six tons and more and first have to be cast. Smaller moulds for bottles and containers are not light as well – they could weigh 400kgs and more. So there is a fair amount of expense in the material alone.”

Proudly made in South Africa
“They (international manufacturers) are finding ways to leverage technology and modernise the design approach that will rival local companies. They still have an advantage of lower labour rates, but those rates are continuing to rise as their populace wants more of the things that a consumer-driven economy provides.”

“There is of course the long-distance communication and very little relief if things go wrong, especially on the quality side. More recently, the South African rand has weakened and as a result it is not so cheap to import from the low-cost countries anymore.”

“The dangers and pitfalls of dealing long distance have been heightened by the current crisis that the world is experiencing. Logistically, I am sure, it must have been a nightmare if you had any type of product manufactured outside of South Africa.”

A recent mould manufactured by Enviro Lamps

“Not predicted the demand for containers – plastic bottles, drums and others – rather unexpectedly exceeded supply. Companies that were virtually about to close their doors had to hastily get their plastic injection moulding machines firing and spitting out product by the thousands.”

“There was also the demand for uniqueness so the pressure for new moulds to be manufactured was at a premium.”

“An added bonus was all the demand for PPE items with masks on top of the list. Many local mould manufacturers and plastic converters have benefitted. Stories in the media about the various projects are plentiful as are those on the awarding of tenders to the well-connected and corrupt.”

“None of this would have been possible if companies were reliant on getting moulds, tooling, dies and product from low-cost countries. There was simply no transport. Even now, five months later, there are still major obstacles transporting goods and people around.”

“There has also been spin-off for products and components that are not COVID-19 related. We are benefitting from this side as well with a number of new projects being awarded to us. We have the expertise to take your concept or idea of a plastic product and produce a 3D model, the mould and run the production of the product.”

“Using the latest 3D software, we are able to create a model from which we produce injection and blow moulds. We have a CNC turning and milling facility which allows us to manufacture all the moulds, dies and tools, depending on which industry we are dealing with, and also undertake small production runs of various components.”

“Amongst the equipment is a Romi G280 turning center, a Haas TM-2 toolroom mill and a Hurco VM10i vertical machining center.”

Enviro Lamps can machine small run production requests

“Our tool-room continues to expand with the latest technology. We have now added a Haas VF3 CNC machining center. This new machine increases our capacity of producing more injection and blow moulds by cutting down drastically on the delivery time.”

“When the tooling is done offshore, there is a different language, a different time zone and no chance to meet face to face. The partnership between the tooling buyer and the tooling producer is largely reduced. It’s critical to be able to optimise the product and the process by working in parallel rather than separating the tooling buyer and producer by such great distances.”

“Our own range of products include the manufacture of oil lamps that can be found in many restaurants and bars in South Africa, dinnerware including cups, plates, bowls, platters, sushi bowls and plates and glasses – both beer and wine – mining and related products.”

For further details contact Enviro Lamps on TEL: 011 708 3655 or visit