Ultra-Flow Engineering Services finds additional niche in market

Heavy, mobile and stationary equipment represents a substantial investment for any business. Due to the heavy demands placed on equipment performance, a significant consideration of risk for any operation today is damage to equipment or potential loss of life resulting from the ever-present risks.

The very nature of the products that Ultra-Flow supplies to all these industries is to improve the life of equipment and components, therefore increasing productivity while at the same time decreasing machine downtime.

“It was only a matter of time before we would find a product that would complement the industries that we were already serving. The reality is that occasionally machines also catch fire, and consideration must be given to the costs of machine replacement and the lost production. These costs are, however, insignificant in comparison to the potential loss of life.” said Leon Ladewig, Managing Director of Ultra-Flow.

Ultra-Flow Engineering Services machines all of its own components

“16 years ago we started a small machine shop to manufacture components for our lubricating systems. We initially started to machine spares such as fittings, elbows, connectors, valves, piping and nipples in mild steel, steel and stainless steel. Ultra-Flow Engineering Services, as we named the company, was purely servicing our own needs and continues to do this ensuring quality whilst containing costs.”

“However, we supply lubrication solutions and systems for large equipment such as mining and construction vehicles, which are normally operating in remote areas and not close to emergency help. There’s always a potential for something to go wrong in these situations and often it does. If the vehicle catches fire, for whatever reason, it can be very costly to the owner. Many serious fires start when an oil-based fluid ignites. So why would anyone use these combustible oil-based fluids? They are often necessary to achieve the optimum production from your equipment, as we have said.”

While there are a few common causes, it is worthwhile considering the options available to protect your investment in the case of such an event. The installation of a fire suppression system has now become an essential part of a company’s overall risk management plan in order to minimise the risk to both operator and equipment.

Leon Ladewig, Managing Director of Ultra-Flow

The machine shop at Ultra-Flow Engineering Services. The company has five CNC lathes and one CNC machining center on the floor

When one thinks of a fire suppression system you immediately think of a fire extinguisher, an overhead sprinkler system or even the fireman himself. But there is much more to the industry than one realises.

Fire incidences lead to several disastrous impacts such as threats to livelihood and/or destruction of public as well as private properties. To prevent such damage, fire suppression systems are highly adopted in the commercial sectors. Fire suppression was first designed to be placed on mobile equipment to give a big enough window of opportunity for the operator to exit the machine safely in the event of a fire.

Based on the extinguishing agents used to suppress the fire, the fire suppression systems consist of three types – water, chemical or gas-based. Within these categories, depending on specific requirements, different delivery systems are found such as distribution via water pipe, sprinklers and manual or automated suppression systems. Apart from this, the fire suppression system can also include detection systems, alarms, and emergency control systems.

Ultra-Flow Engineering Services has recently installed a Nikon Alto 6.5.4 CNC CMM, supplied by WD Hearn. The CMM has a measuring stroke on the XYZ of 600 x 500 x 440mm and can take a maximum component weight of 300kg. The jigs and probe are from Renishaw

On-machine fire suppression systems ready for dispatch

What does a fire suppression system have to do with Cape Town based Ultra-Flow, a company that is known for being associated with supplying industry with lubrication solutions? The company has been servicing the marine, transport, mining, agriculture, food & beverage, industrial, harbour, construction and earthmoving industries since 1990, supplying lubrication systems and equipment. These include progressive, single and dual line systems, grease pumps, centromatics, spray systems, single point lubricators, chain lubrication systems and rail lubrication. Ultra-Flow are also the developers and suppliers of lubrication control systems, namely the Autolube, Genie and G2 timers for both the local and export market.

Joint-venture with Australian company
“Ultra-Flow Engineering Services was approached in 2009 by an Australian company with the possibility of becoming their manufacturing division of the fire suppression products, as well as being responsible for design and continuous improvement.”

The latest machine to arrive is a Leadwell T-6A, supplied by WD Hearn Machine Tools

All components are laser marked with an Automator Vis marking system supplied by Traceability Solutions

“We later established a new company in 2010 as a joint venture with an Australian company. The role of the joint venture is to maintain stringent logistics and quality assurance before dispatching to its Australian partner. The Australian company are the marketing ‘gurus’ and market the fire suppression product worldwide. Our Australian partner’s portfolio is highly diversified, with commercial interests that extend into markets across the world, supplying and distributing products for the automotive, mining and construction industries including industrial markets.”

“Various types of on-machine fire suppression systems are available, and most function in much the same way. Some type of mechanism within the machine’s enclosure triggers the release of an extinguishing agent when it detects a fire. The cost of these systems varies depending on the complexity of the detection mechanism and control system.”

“And they are not only used in a heavy vehicle situation. Take a machine shop for example. There are clear benefits to implementing unattended machining operations. There are obvious dangers, too, especially when oil-based coolants are used. These combustible coolants are susceptible to flash fires that can not only damage or destroy a shop’s machine tool, but can devastate an entire facility if left undetected.”

On-machine fire suppression systems are manufactured in a number of varieties. Solidworks software is used to improve designs

Ultra-Flow Engineering Services currently has a small 3D printer (Object) for prototyping but wants to introduce more advanced 3D printing

“On-machine fire suppression systems offer good insurance for costly equipment as well as peace of mind that any fire that might spark inside a turning center or mill will be quickly extinguished. These systems use some type of heat-sensing mechanism that automatically triggers the release of an extinguishing agent when a fire is detected inside a machine’s enclosure.”

“While we are not the inventors of fire suppression systems – they have been around for decades – we saw an opportunity to offer more to our clients through our partnership arrangement. Fire suppression systems have basically not changed in concept for many decades. However we now utilise modern technology to produce a 24/7 fully monitored fire suppression system.”

“Stainless steel components are used to ensure longevity and durability in harsh conditions culminating in a higher quality product with greater accuracy in performance. Constructed to AS 2470 standard, the cylinders and brackets are stainless steel grade 304 including the ring neck, relief valve and handles, and completed in a UV stabilised powder coated finish. The fittings are also manufactured in stainless steel. Nozzle fittings are available in a 90°, 45° and straight, for both inline and end of line connections and come complete with a stainless steel bracket and bolts.”

“The in-built accuracy of our fire suppression system is controlled using intelligent pressure sensors, ensuring that the discharge time meets the initial design criteria, effectively suppressing fires in the punishing environments where many machines operate.”

Ultra-Flow has an in-house tool-sharpening machine, capable of sharping end mills including slot drills

An on-machine fire suppression system being assembled

“Each assembly comprises of about 30 different components. We manufacture most of the components ourselves but some – those that don’t fit our machine profile – are shopped out and then we assemble and test here in our 900m² facility in Montague Gardens, Cape Town. The electronics are also outsourced and manufactured for our assembly requirements.”

All our metal components are manufactured in stainless steel. Stainless steel is long lasting and can operate in the most difficult of conditions. We had an example recently where our product was fitted to earthmoving equipment that was operating in the extreme cold of Mongolia to the hottest areas of northern Africa. The weather conditions in Mongolia are extreme and the machines were operating at double digit figures below 0 degree Celsius and our products passed the test with flying colours.”

The future
“Currently we have a small 3D printer (Object) for prototyping but we want to get more involved in this technology. We have the knowledge to encompass more advanced 3D printing and I am just waiting for the right opportunity to introduce it to my company.”

“On the machining side we are investigating multitasking CNC machines. The technology is mature now. I am interested in that it offers integrated flexible multitasking machining and automation while maintaining high production levels and flexibility.”

For further details contact Ultra-Flow Engineering Services on TEL: 021 551 7497 or Arno Kutzer TEL: 021 551 7496 for any lubrication product requirements.