Innovative gas application techniques used in the welding process are being introduced to the Eastern Cape market by national gas company, Air Products, as part of its new air separation unit (ASU) in the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ), which is due to be constructed over the next year.
This development is sure to guarantee peace of mind for the region’s growing manufacturing sector – led by an automotive industry that is dependent on gas for all manufacturing processes.
Air Products recently hosted a business breakfast with the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber giving insight into the advancements in welding technology and machinery in recent years. The presentation gave key industry business people wider knowledge of the correct combination of gases for the relevant process requirements.
According to Air Products, the first phase of its Eastern Cape investment will bring stability to the industrial gas supply chain for local industries, making massive strides in keeping the industrial growth on track in the Eastern Cape.
Josua Le Roux, Air Products General Manager of Central Services, said that the new plant will be the most efficient in the Eastern Cape, increasing its capabilities to service the growing automotive sector for years to come.
“We will be manufacturing gas on our site and storing it in strategic storage tanks to ensure the Eastern Cape’s peace of mind when Air Products delivers the true difference in customer service. We offer various modes of supply as a solution to accommodate the customer’s requirements which is best suited to their operation. We are offering our customers – and any future Eastern Cape investors and potential gas users – a tailor-made solution to best suit their needs,” said Le Roux.
Acknowledging the importance of product quality in the automotive industry, Air Products will introduce advanced new technologies at the new plant ensuring the highest quality of gas reaches every customer’s process.
“The automotive industry is extremely reliant on a continuous supply of shielding gas and there can’t be a situation where an automotive assembly line would be halted due to a gas supply shortage. Air Products has an in depth knowledge of the automotive component manufacturing process, so we understand the need for high quality shielding gas and the importance of a reliable gas supply,” said Le Roux.
Currently, Air Products makes use of an early warning monitoring system (Telemetary) that monitors gas consumption, gas levels in the applicable storage vessel which is also able to provide the client with a trend analysis for production planning.
The fabrication and automotive industry’s gas reliance is largely based on the process of welding, which includes:
Processing: Gas is used in fabrication, a process whereby base metals are joined together to form a component with certain mechanical properties depending on the service conditions the component. An example would be an exhaust system, catalytic convertor or petrol tank.
The process of assembly follows fabrication, where different components come together. Gas is used in the following fabrication processes: brazing, welding, soldering, laser cutting, profiling, and robotic welding. All those processes would use different gases in each application.
Shrinking: This is the process whereby a solid component is submerged in liquid nitrogen to shrink it, then fitted in place and later expanding to lock into position, an example would be mountings. Nitrogen is the most cost effect gas or liquid in comparison to its alternatives and also cools very rapidly.
Furnaces: Furnacing involved the complete opposite of shrinking, when gas is used to raise the temperature very rapidly. An example of its application will be in brake linings, clutch plates and ceramic substrate cones for catalytic converters. The gas used in this process would normally require oxygen, Liquified Petroleum Gas or propane as a fuel supply.
Aluminium Casting: This process is used for mag wheels and cylinder heads where nitrogen is used for the pulling process to extract the component from a mould.
Standard purging: Standard purging – which involves the use of nitrogen or argon – this is mainly used on enclosed pipelines and components. Nitrogen/Argon gas, at the required pressure, will be purged fed into either the line or component to ensure superior welding characteristics – a process known as ”purging’. Nitrogen/Argon is the gas of choice for standard purging as it is inert.
Air Products not only has shielding gases for welding applications, but also has a variety of other speciality gases that are available for the manufacturing industry in other sectors namely the manufacturing of tyres, remoulding of scrap metal, lancing, vacuum forming and blow moulding.
Site clearing has commenced in Zone 3 of the Coega IDZ in preparation for the construction phase and the plant is expected to come online in the third quarter of 2014.
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