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Increased demand, coupled with the need to reduce lead times to market, has seen Ringrollers, a DCD-Dorbyl Group company; invest in new equipment and processes. "We embarked on a phased expansion programme in 2007 and at the end of July 2009 we commissioned our new heat treatment facility as one of the phases," general manager Stephen Nel explains. "This is a significant investment and is in line with our drive to provide better service and lead times to customers."

Research into the heat treatment plant started five years ago because Ringrollers wanted to move away from the traditional oil quenching process. "The primary considerations for this move were environmental and safety but repeatability, and therefore enhanced quality, also played a role," Nel says. Ringrollers extended its facility by an additional 500m2 at the end of 2008 to accommodate the new heat treatment facility. To facilitate the movement of materials, a 20 ton overhead crane was installed. "We identified specialist international polymer heat treatment systems company, Houghton, as the preferred supplier for the polymer quenching technology," Nel says. "Use of this technology in South Africa has been limited, so Houghton was the ideal supplier."

Houghton assisted Ringrollers in identifying a company able to design and build the furnaces and the associated infrastructure and equipment. "They recommended Hi-Tech from Turin in Italy as their preferred supplier. Apart from being a leader in the designer of high-efficiency furnaces, Hi-Tech also has some unique material handling solutions," Nel says. An order for furnaces and materials handling equipment was placed with Hi-Tech in March 2008, while Houghton designed the quench tank and the agitators, the latter being essential to the polymer quenching process.

"Previously residual stresses were problematic and the new plant ensures that rings are kept flat during the entire process, which will allow us to deliver rings without residual stresses. This will ensure rings do not distort during the subsequent machining process," Nel says. Ringrollers, the largest manufacturer of rings in the Southern Hemisphere, is ISO 9001:2000 and OHSAS 18001 accredited and also carries accreditation from British Rail and Deutsche Bahn, as well as approved supplier status from numerous domestic and international companies.

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