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The centrepiece of the installation is a track-mounted Yaskawa Motoman MH50-20 robot with a 20 kg payload and a reach of 3 106 mm.
The centrepiece of the installation is a track-mounted Yaskawa Motoman MH50-20 robot with a 20 kg payload and a reach of 3 106 mm.

DCD Rolling Stock is in the process of re-establishing the glory-days of rail manufacturing in South Africa through a R240-million investment in a bogie fabrication facility. African Fusion reports.

Following the separation of DCD's military and rolling stock businesses into DCD Protected Mobility and DCD Rolling Stock, the rolling stock facility in Boksburg East is being recapitalised to take advantage of rail infrastructure expansions across Africa. Inspired by early comments made to justify the Coega harbour development, Petrus Mulaudzi quoted a response to the claim that the port could not be justified: "Build it. The ships will come! This clearly signalled an unshakeable faith in the value of building the port," he recalls.

"What you are looking at today is a 40 000 m2 manufacturing facility, purpose built for the railway industry. Eight months ago, this facility was busy with military work, which has now moved to a purpose-built site in Isando. This is an enormous opportunity," Mulaudzi said at the facility's opening.

DCD Rolling Stock's dedicated revamped facility is supported by "a team of skilled people who innovate, design, manufacture and support railway products": wagons, locomotives, bogies, coupling systems and, most recently, the newly developed JIKA passive hydraulic teering system for bogies, which significantly reduces wheel and rail wear. The new facility is designed to suit, in particular, the manufacture of the company's modern, bolsterless fabricated passenger coach bogie, as well as locomotive and wagon fabricated bogies, which use internationally proven concepts but are designed specifically to suit South African conditions, This positions DCD Rolling Stock to participate in both PRASA and TFR rolling stock projects.

DCD's new bolsterless fabicated bogie.
DCD's new bolsterless fabicated bogie.

Independent prototype testing conducted by Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) has confirmed that, compared with the existing Commonwealth bogie, DCD Rolling Stock's new bolsterless coach bogie has better running safety and ride quality characteristics and meets the specifications required by European UIC Code 518. The prototype also meets Transnet's RSE/TE/SPC/0076 specification.

Designed for speeds of up to 160 km/h and axle loads of up to 18,5 tons, the bogie has low life cycle costs, uses service-proven high reliability components and has been designed to contain noise levels as required in suburban areas. Other key features include reduced bogie mass, better parts availability, standardisation between trailer and motor coaches and a positively guided wheelset solution. The bogies are now currently being fitted to TFR test coaches to support the testing of all new locomotives.

Phase 1 of DCD Rolling Stock's R240-million investment programme involves the installation of four robot cells for automating less complex welding tasks. The centrepiece of the installation is a track-mounted Yaskawa Motoman MH50-20 robot with a 20 kg payload and a reach of 3 106 mm. A Yaskawa Motoman TSL-1000SD servo track and robot with bulk wire mounting allows the robot to move 10 m up and down the line to accommodate rolling stock component sizes.

On either side of the tracked robot is a parallel pair of Yaskawa Motoman headstocks (single axis positioners with 5 000 kg payloads) with mating tailstocks on movable floor slides. This allows mounting of new components on one side, while welding proceeds on the other.

Three further cells with 6,0 kg payload robots (HP20D-6s) and 1 915 mm reaches accommodate smaller componentry. These are coupled with Yaskawa Motoman's 2-axis tilt-rotate positioners from its MT1 range.

DCD Rolling Stock has invested in seam tracking laser vision camera systems to enhance end quality and expand fit-up tolerance.
DCD Rolling Stock has invested in seam tracking laser vision camera systems to enhance end quality and expand fit-up tolerance.

In addition, DCD Rolling Stock has invested in weld seam tracking vision systems to enhance end quality and expand fit-up tolerance. A Servo Robot, Power Trac seam tracking laser vision camera system has been chosen. The welding itself is done using SKS LSQ5 420A water-cooled welding power sources. And a Thielmann welding torch cleaning station, complete with wire cutter, nozzle reamer and anti-spatter spray unit, which keeps the systems calibrated and cleans the torches between jobs.

Mulaudzi says that "69 years ago, on 9 November, 1944, the first wagons were manufactured in South Africa by a company called Dorman Long Africa Limited, the predecessor to DCD Rolling Stock. We introduced this manufacturing capability into South Africa. Since then some 130 000 wagons and about 250 000 bogies have been produced, along with 7 000 bogies for locomotives; 222 complete industrial locos for the mining industry; and between 1975 and the late 1980s, 800 GE diesel locomotives.

"We are committed to rebuilding that capability and doing it with better technology and better skilled people. We have faith in the vision for industrialising the local economy and in the localisation drive in all sectors. For economic growth rail has to be central and if we work together, government with partners in the private sector, we can build 'SA Inc' and make a difference across our continent. That is what this investment is about," he concludes.

This article was originally published in in Crown Publishings' African Fusion 14 March 2014

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