Thekwini Wire and Fasteners targets import replacement in automotive, lighting and general manufacturing industries with investment in a new Robomac R214 TF wire bender

Durban, KwaZulu-Natal-based light engineering company specialising in wire converting and processing Thekwini Wire and Fasteners, has recently invested in a Robomac R214 TF wire bender, manufactured by French company Numailliance. Retecon are the suppliers.

“We currently supply a fair portion of our production of wire components into the automotive industry. However, we noticed that some of the Tier 1 suppliers and OEMs are still importing components that we could manufacture if we had this machine. Also, there is a substantial amount of business that could be acquired from the non-automotive industry,” explained Bala Moodley, a Director of Thekwini Wire and Fasteners when asked why the company had purchased the new 5-axis CNC wire bender.

“Not so long ago automotive exhaust systems were essentially disposable. They required frequent repairs and wholesale replacement. Not so today. Modern exhaust systems last for years – the result of decades of research and development and continuous improvement on the part of exhaust component suppliers,” explained Moodley.

Thekwini Wire and Fasteners have purchased a Robomac R214 TF wire bender, a high capacity sequential bending machine. The machine is manufactured by French company Numailliance and was supplied by Retecon

“Today’s exhaust systems consist of a lot of expensive parts. There are one or more catalysts, an oxygen sensor, maybe even a 2-stage muffler. There’s piping that’s not only shaped to clear underbody lines, but also may be made of premium metals, in some cases dual-wall tubing. There are sheetmetal underbody heat shields to prevent the exhaust from igniting dry grass.”

“What’s holding everything together? A few clamp joints and some welds. What’s holding everything up? A few pieces of rubber with some brackets. What’s keeping everything aligned? Those same few pieces of rubber and brackets. Failures are common and they range from cracked rubber to failed welds.”

“Nowadays, assemblers have a limited time to mount the exhaust system, so the fit must be perfect. Hanger brackets have critical dimensions and must be welded precisely to the exhaust system so that it will fit properly to the vehicle’s brackets.”

“The project is based around the supply of hanger brackets for an exhaust system, that our client Bosal manufactures, that will be used in the manufacture of the new VW Polo Vivo. However, we have also presented to Toyota South Africa Motors and they have shown interest in some components that they are currently importing.”

“We will be targeting the automotive industry mainly to localise the manufacture of more components and thereafter various other industries such as decorative lighting and general manufacturing.”

The Robomac R214 TF wire bender is associated with standard cold upsetting units that have become references worldwide in the field of producing exhaust brackets in short or large quantities

“We will be processing mainly low carbon steel components for the project with Bosal. However, we will be able to process medium carbon steel, stainless steel, copper and brass material in the future. Sizes will range between 4mm to 14mm diameter.”

Ntinga Project finalist
“The project and subsequent purchase of the Robomac R214 TF wire bender was initiated through our participation in the Ntinga Project, an initiative by Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) to identify and develop black-owned component suppliers in South Africa. The initiative includes an intensive 18-month mentoring programme run by VWSA, the VWSA Learning Academy, the VWSA B-BBEE Trust and the Automotive Supply Chain Competitiveness Initiative (ASCCI). We were one of five companies to be chosen out of 350.”

“Although we are now in the process of being a verified as a supplier to VWSA it is intended that we become a component supplier that is not reliant on VWSA.”

“A mentor was deployed to our company to develop our company from being a third-tier component supplier to fulfilling the requirements of a first-tier component supplier for the automotive industry. The mentorship covers everything from administration, finance, production to delivery. This includes assisting with the implementation of the industry standards and quality process audits such as VDA 6.3, IATF16949 and OSH on top of our ISO9001:2015 accreditation that we already have.”

“We further expanded our vision when we were part of the South African delegation, supported by the dti, that exhibited on the national pavilion at the Wire and Tube exhibition in Düsseldorf, Germany in 2018. There we were exposed to the international community but were also able to investigate the wire processing equipment that was on display.”

The Robomac R214 TF wire bender
“It was at that show that we decided to invest in the Robomac R214 TF wire bender, a high capacity sequential bending machine. Simply put, cold heading or setting is feeding wire into a machine, cutting it into pieces, and hammering on it. The material is not heated or machined, but formed into its desired shape at room temperature. The ability to form material instead of removing it deems this process extremely efficient and cost effective when manufacturing large quantities. Of course our machine is fully CNC and automated so we can run large or short quantities.”

An example of an exhaust bracket that can be bent on the Robomac R214 TF wire bender

“The Robomac, previously manufactured by Latour, a company that along with Macsoft and Satime form the Numalliance Group, is associated with standard cold upsetting units that have become references worldwide in the field of producing exhaust brackets in short or large quantities. The machine processes exhaust brackets with cone and ring upset at one or both extremities, besides other components and can be used in flexible or fast production cells.”

“Our machine has a larger than usual capacity, capable of bending steel brackets up to 14mm diameter and to cold form the cone and ring at one extremity with the enormous force of 60 tons.”

“The Robomac is a fully servo electrical 5-axis CNC machine and thanks to its very advanced user-friendly software can be programmed in minutes for making different exhaust hangers. It is also compatible with the usual CMM’s – Romer, Hexagon and Aicon – for automatic geometry correction. The software can take the usual STP, DWG, DXF formats for automatic programming. The machine can be easily integrated into fully automated cells with robot, press and optical devices for checking that the upset cone and ring fall within the required tolerances.”

About Thekwini Wire and Fasteners
Moodley established Thekwini Wire and Fasteners in 2009 when he did a management buyout from his previous employers, purchasing a division of the company. Moodley’s boss at the time became a 50% shareholder in the new company but he subsequently purchased the remaining shares in 2012. Moodley is much indebted to his boss and partner for the first three years of the business as he guided him through all aspects of running a business.

The arrangement did ensure that Moodley’s business – Thekwini Wire and Fasteners – would start off with a bit of security as his previous employers with whom he had been with for 29 years, became his first client and was his only client for a few years. A drop in demand for the fasteners that Moodley was manufacturing and his desire to grow the business forced him to invest in new equipment and look for clients in other industries that were consumers of steel, aluminium and brass wire cut and formed components.

The Thekwini Wire and Fasteners machine has a larger than usual capacity, capable of bending steel brackets up to 14mm diameter and to cold form the cone and ring at one extremity with the enormous force of 60 tons

“We operate in a highly specialised sector of the wire industry. We regard ourselves as a leading manufacturer of split cotter pins and wire forms. Thekwini Wire and Fasteners are suppliers of steel, copper, brass, aluminium and stainless steel wire of various grades to the cold heading and fastener manufacturing industries. Our capabilities include wire for the cold heading industry, shaped wire for the fashion industry and straight wire for various other applications. We also offer our products in zinc, nickel brass and copper plating, which we outsource.”

“Our coiled wire and wire forms are used in other applications in the automotive industry such as the seats – listing and frame wire – and headrests, also used as high tensile quick link bailing ties, used in the manufacture of belt buckles and our fasteners are used for high voltage lines, to give you a few examples. We also manufacture split pins from 1.6mm to 13mm in ferrous and non-ferrous wire.”

Moodley has had his son – Patrick Moodley – working in the business since 2010, who is now a Director of the company. This forms part Moodley’s succession plan. When the company was established in 2009, during tough economic times in South Africa, Moodley only employed four staff. He now employs 28 staff.

Thekwini Wire and Fasteners is a member of NAACAM (National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers), SAWA (South African Wire Association), DAC (Durban Automotive Cluster) and is a Level 1 BEE contributor.

Looking ahead
Proficiency in 2D and 3D CNC wire bending has the business looking deeper into the automotive industry for appropriate applications that require bent wire components with accurately machined features, those that can be substituted for import replacement, and applications outside of the automotive industry.

“By and large, businesses don’t shape themselves, customers shape a business. That is, customer needs drive decisions about the equipment, capabilities and processes shops bring in-house. As a result, an increasing number of them are looking beyond conventional processes to alternate manufacturing technologies that complement their existing equipment. After all, the goal is to deliver whatever product the customer requires in the quickest, most cost-effective way possible.”

“We at Thekwini Wire and Fasteners have done it the other way. We have invested in the latest high-tech equipment and are now offering existing and new customers an alternative.”

For further details contact Thekwini Wire and Fasteners on TEL: 031 902 7097 or visit