Equipment from as far as the Congo, Namibia and Zambia is being sent to a South African CNC and lathe-repair company to have machines dismantled, cleaned, machining beds ground and scraped smooth, and the wear pads between the saddle and the machining bed replaced with a wear-resistant polymer known as Vesconite Hilube.
Second-hand conventional lathes are sometimes preferred to new lathes in Africa, because of the high quality of workmanship on the castings, which can last longer as they are well made and less likely to be damaged even with robust handling.
However, since these may require some care before they work optimally, they are sometimes sent for reconditioning to Atlantic Enterprises, run by machine tooling expert Henning Von Marschall.
Similarly, even where companies have opted for CNC machines, machine repairs may be more cost-effective than purchasing new CNC machines when the beds and wear pads are damaged.
As a result, CNC owners also revert to Atlantic Enterprises, where they have CNC machines that do not run on linear bearings.
Von Marschall was trained in Germany and has worked for global machine tool companies, including in Japan and Taiwan, so reconditioning of lathes and CNC machines is carried out to precision.
Vesconite Hilube wear pads, made from a thermopolymer developed in the 1980s, are an added feature that sets his reconditioning business apart.
While the exact details are proprietary, Von Marschall reveals that the OEM wear pads are first removed and the saddle surfaces cleaned and scraped of all debris.
The 2 or 3 mm thick Vesconite Hilube plates, that are bought in 1,000 mm lengths, are then cut to size and oil grooves ground into the plate with a lathe.
The plate is then cleaned and glued to the saddle with a slow-setting glue.
Von Marschall reports that Vesconite Hilube wear pads have several advantages over traditional materials used in the application: the OEM material tends to come off easily since lubrication gets underneath the OEM material and is also absorbed by the material; the OEM material is thinner than the replacement Vesconite Hilube, so it wears through more quickly and does not allow for the deep oil grooves that Von Marschall makes; the OEM material can become dry leading to increased wear; and, with Vesconite Hilube, the slides can be tightened more so the load meter is lower where Vesconite Hilube is used.
Von Marschall stresses the particular importance of having a thicker material into which grooves can be machined and, during reconditioning, will ensure that an adequate space is available for the new wear pads.
Atlantic Enterprises started operation in the 1970s, with Von Marschall taking the helm 14 years ago.