Installation of the new tandem horizontal boring mill – which can perform multiple tasks simultaneously – will be complete and fully operational by July, enthuses project services corporation Hydra Arc.
“The machine, which is being manufactured by Czech Republic-based machining manufacturer TOS Varnsdorf, is fully automated and programmable and can easily accommodate small, detailed and intricate work, as well as heavy pieces,” says Sky Hill Heavy Engineering supervisor Mark Green.
Manufacturer Sky Hill – which forms part of the Hydra Arc group of companies – machine shop superintendent Gert Swanepoel adds that the machine is housed inside bay four of Sky Hill’s fabrication facility in Secunda, Mpumalanga, and can automatically do a tool change in the milling head. He notes that this is quite rare in these types of machines.
“The horizontal boring mill also includes a cutting fluid tank with a capacity of 10 000 ℓ, with a high-pressure coolant of 120 bar. This helps for chip removal and tungsten carbide inserts last longer,” he explains, adding that the spindle diameter is 150 mm, with a maximum speed of 2 500 rpm.
One of the biggest milling heads on the machine weighs 1.2 t and the two rotary platforms can handle 60 t and 40 t each respectively.
“Machine tool supplier Machine Tool Promotions is overseeing the installation at the Sky Hill facility and worked with our fully trained staff to ensure that installation is done in adherence with all safety standards and according to the exacting requirements of the installation, every step of the way,” Swanepoel explains, noting that three electricians, as well as two mechanical and several installation engineers from the TOS Varnsdorf factory have also been involved in this process.
He adds that Hydra Arc has been “hands-on” since the tandem boring mill’s inception, during procurement and the installation process.
“Hydra Arc played an integral part in the installation process, such as laying the precision foundations – which alone took more than 18 months – and fabricating some key elements necessary for the installation of the machine.”
Meanwhile, Swanepoel notes that extensive research and development (R&D) were invested in the machine development.
“One of the biggest challenges with the R&D was to get both machines of the boring mill to work together. Either machine can work the full 33 m of the X-axis travel individually or both machines can work on 16 m travel on the same axis simultaneously.”
One of the biggest challenges in the industry is exporting big work pieces such as this, owing to the lack of machine capacity in the country.
Swanepoel further adds that work needs to stay in South Africa to help grow the economy, noting that the installation of this machine will help that process, which will allow for more work to be done locally.
“With the expansion of our machine shop, at the end of June, we hope to attract and train young learners and experienced machinists to assist in filling this gap, thereby addressing the skills shortage and simultaneously empowering learners with new, in-demand skills that are so desperately needed in our country.”
Hydra Arc believes that, once the installation is complete, that the company will be able to offer a service that no other company can, and accommodate big-scale projects that previously would have been completed internationally.