The future of aluminium use for signage, display, presentation, packaging, storage and promotional gift purposes looks bright, owing to the versatility, recyclability and ecofriendliness of the metal, reports South African aluminium fabrication and finishing specialist Metal Graphics.
However, Metal Graphics director Clare Griffin says, although the current uncertainty in the South African mining sector has not affected the aluminium price, the industry is, nonetheless, extremely volatile owing to the global economic uncertainties and, therefore, an increase in price is expected in the next few months. To mitigate the possible negative impact of a high aluminium price, Metal Graphics buys in bulk to gain a better price advantage over its competitors.
But, she adds, while all manufacturing has been under pressure in the last few years, owing to the economic environment, aluminium has lots of potential for growth.
Griffin says, despite aluminium products, such as diaries and files, being more expensive than their conventional counterparts, which are made of plastic, steel or leather, they are much more durable. Aluminium is light and strong as well as corrosion and crack resistant, and there has been a trend towards the clean, industrial look, which supports companies’ aims of reducing their carbon footprint and becoming more environment friendly.
Aluminium, she points out, is the third-most-abundant element, after oxygen and silicon, as well as the most abundant metal resource globally, and is, therefore, readily available.
She adds that, although large amounts of energy are required to smelt and make aluminium products for use by manufac-turers, it is still environment friendly, owing to its durability and long-lasting characteristics. Further, aluminium is very light and, there-fore, requires less energy to move.
Griffin highlights the ease with which prod-ucts are manufactured using aluminium, as it folds and bends more readily than other metals, such as steel. Therefore, she notes, less energy is required to manufacture aluminium products, saving money on production costs. She adds that some aluminium products are manufactured by hand as the material is so easy to work with.
“New products, ranging from trophies to tool boxes, are developed daily using aluminium, as each customer has his or her own specific preference. “More advanced and efficient manufac-turing technology is continuously being introduced, which also enables a plethora of new ideas to be brought to life, making the possibilities that aluminium offers endless,” says Griffin.
She states that Metal Graphics has invested in digital printing machinery, both flat bed and roll-to-roll, as well as engraving and embossing machinery that enables it to mark and brand the product for its clients. “We will be investing in a laser cutting machine within the next year,” she adds.
Metal Graphics acquires all its aluminium from local suppliers. The aluminium is delivered to the company in variable sheet sizes that are used to manu-facture a variety of products using computer numerically controlled punching, bending, routing and machining as well as pressing and guillotining.
Griffin explains that any aluminium waste, resulting from the manufacturing process, of which there is little, is not thrown away as aluminium is 100% recyclable. This aluminium waste of about 2 t to 3 t is sold to authorised scrap merchants so that it can be recycled into new sheets of aluminium and manufactured into new aluminium products.
Besides aluminium, Metal Graphics also works in other flat sheet materials, including chromodek, steel, dibond, romark, perspex, acrylic, abs, medium-density fibreboard, supawood, plywood, hardboard, foam, rubber and cork.
The products made by the company are predominantly used for signage, display, packaging and storage, presentation and promotional purposes, “although the scope is endless and we manufacture for any industry”, the Metal Graphics website states.
The company mainly services the advert-ising, marketing, events and promotions, shop-fitting, signage and construction industries, as well as interior, architectural and product designers in various African countries, such as Namibia and Mozambique, with Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania also showing an interest in the company’s products.