Heavy diesel engine and remanufactured component provider Metric Automotive Engineering is awaiting the delivery of a new RTM575 crank shaft grinder from Italy, which will enable the company to grind shafts up to 4.7 m in length.
The order was placed eight months ago with materials handling equipment manu- facturer Berco. “This machine will provide us with an increased capability on the new-generation heavy diesel engines and marine engines,” notes Metric Automotive Engineering operations director Andrew Yorke.
The RTM575 crankshaft grinder is created and manufactured according to high-order specifications, and is a struc- turally balanced and a highly reliable machine, providing precision and flexibility. It is designed for internal combustion engine crankshaft reconditioning and for cylindrical grinding.
Yorke highlights that a new machine of this size has not been bought by a South African company for 20 years, adding that, as Metric Automotive Engineering’s customers are launching new-generation 18-cylinder and 20-cylinder engines, the company needs this machine to service new generation large diesel engines.
He adds that the company aims to improve its engine-cleaning processes through the implementation of environmental-friendly technology. Metric Automotive Engineering will invest in ultrasonic cleaning technology, which it hopes to acquire by the end of September.
“Ultrasonic cleaning is a much greener alternative than traditional methods of cleaning, such as acid, and it will also prove to be more efficient and effective,” Yorke explains.
Consequently, to increase the quality of its service offering, Metric Automotive Engineering commissioned a Rottler SG80A cylinder head machining centre and new generation valve seat refacing machine at its Germiston premises in February.
“This is part of our strategy to align our operation with world-class technology, and this machine will enhance our productivity and accuracy,” he says.
The Rottler SG80A was created specifically for machine shops that rebuild large cylinder heads found in the heavy-duty engine industry. Rottler’s valve seat machines are able to plunge-cut wide valve seats found in large cylinder heads very quickly and with an excellent surface finish.
State of the Industry
Owing to the recent unrest in South Africa’s mining industry, a decrease in the demand for refurbished products has been evident, says Yorke.
“Most mining equipment repairs are based on machine hours. When strikes occur, the machines are not operated and, therefore, the period between engine overhauls is extended,” he explains.
He notes that a slight recovery in the mining industry has been evident but, owing to lingering tensions and renewed threats of strikes, customers are uncer- tain whether to continue with repairs or purchases.
He adds that some mines are also not buying new machinery, and are doing only what is needed to keep operations going. “No one wants to overcommit in this kind of negative climate; therefore, the market has slowed.”
Amid market slowdown, Metric Automo- tive Engineering is educating its customers about the cost saving that remanufacturing offers businesses, compared with buying new engines and components, and the company aims to create awareness regarding refurbishment.
“We also invest in cutting-edge technology to remanufacture components, which comprise the same physical properties as a new component. However, remanufactured components offer cost savings, as they don’t need to be manufactured from scratch,” Yorke states.
He points out that, during an engine refurbishment, 80% of the engine components are reused and the remanufactured machine components conform to original-equipment manufacturer (OEM) specifications. “These wear parts are designed for remanufacture and offer companies a cost saving of at least 20%.”
Yorke predicts that, owing to the resource boom in Africa, the demand from mining companies for engine and component refurbishment services will increase.
“While most mining companies have acquired, and continue to acquire, new equipment for new African mining projects, owing to the harsh operating environment, the equipment is completing its first life cycle and the demand for refurbishment will become evident.
“We hope to use the opportunities resulting from Africa’s resource boom,” says Yorke.
Subsequently, he notes that, Metric Automotive Engineering trains artisans to help maintain the quality of skills in the company.
“All artisans are trained in-house through the automotive machinist course. Currently, there are eight apprentices active in this programme and the company qualifies two apprentices a year.”
Yorke explains that the automotive machinist course is competency-based and apprentices need to pass certain levels and tests to be promoted to the next section of the course.
Automotive machinists measure, machine and refurbish all repairable parts of the engine. They are also required to be completely competent on the remanufacture of all engine components, he explains.
Meanwhile, Yorke highlights that there has been a technology shift from mechanical to electronically controlled engines over the last decade, but this shift is peaking, owing to the urgency placed on OEMs for cleaner emissions. Electronic engines are managed by ECU, which control the engines’ power, emissions and efficiency.
“This development is good, as it offers better fuel economy, emissions are cleaner and more power is extracted from a smaller engine,” Yorke explains.
However, he adds that when there is a problem with the engine, the required technical diagnostics are problematic for industry stakeholders. “During engine failures, companies require software, skilled technicians and on-site communication technology for repairs.
“Electronic engines require a new breed of technician who is computer literate and has a good electrical understanding. However, in remote mining locations, these skills are not readily available,” he points out.
Metric Automotive Engineering is servicing these electronic engines and notes that, with the increase in efficiency and power, the machines have become less tolerable of unfavourable practices, such as dirty fuel use and running it hotter than it should. “Any abnormal condition will not be tolerated by the engine, while the older engines had higher tolerances,” Yorke states, adding, however, that the new generation engines are more durable than older technologies when operated in the correct environment.
He notes that, with the advances in engine technology, Metric Automotive Engineering also required advanced machinery to service these engines. “That is why we are investing in new machinery,” he says.
Metric Automotive Engineering also offers engine-testing and component-salvaging services to ensure that all diesel engines and components are remanufactured to OEM specifications. “We can assist in the remanu- facturing of damaged engine parts through the implementation of our salvage processes, which enable us to repair a damaged component so that it can operate as a new component.”
The company’s engine-testing service enables customers to build their electronic engines, place them on a test bench, physically start and run the engine and, thereby, acquire all the diagnostics, communicate with the engine and ensure that it is performing to specification.
“This allows customers to sort out all problems and ensure that the engines are in working order; rather than failing to do so, and taking them to remote locations, only to realise that it has an electronic fault which cannot be fixed by on-site technicians, as they will not have access to the required technology,” Yorke concludes.