Easy Way Gadgets expands into laser and high definition cutting and bending
Easy Way Gadgets’ operations in Vereeniging, Gauteng have evolved as the company has steadily grown since its inception in 2006. The company occupies four facilities in the Duncanville industrial area, giving it 2 000m² of manufacturing space, eight times the size of when the company opened for business.
The company’s growth is the result of owner Rickus Senekal’s background of a love to make things. This passion has now developed to include designing his own special purpose machines, tooling and jigs that he uses in his business.
Owner Rickus Senekal in front of his new Microstep PLS gantry plasma with a Hypertherm HPR 260XD plasma source and a micro-punch marking unit, which is currently being installed. The 2D machine cuts up to 64 mm for mild steel, and 50 mm for stainless steel and aluminium, and has been supplied by Knuth South Africa
Senekal’s first experience in the forming industry began with a joint venture with his father in 2002 when they purchased the first waterjet cutting machine to be supplied in South Africa by Knuth South Africa. This led to Rickus eventually taking over the machine and starting his own business.
The Knuth Hydro-Jet 3015, with a bed size of 3 000 x 1 500 mm, has been the backbone of the business for the manufacture of the friction components, such as slip clutches for the mining industry, and wear parts. The company has diversified somewhat since those early days.
Senekal’s first experience in the forming industry began with a joint venture with his father in 2002 when they purchased the first waterjet cutting machine to be supplied in South Africa by Knuth South Africa. This led to Rickus eventually taking over the machine and starting his own business
“With waterjet cutting equipment, shops are no longer limited to the world of metal fabrications. They can search for new business in areas that were once considered unrealistic,” said Rickus.
“Simply put, a waterjet is capable of cutting almost any 2-D material, usually up to 300 mm thick, but thicker materials are possible if the operator goes slowly enough. The waterjet’s small-diameter cutting stream—approximately 1.016 to 1.27 mm—allows it to produce tight corners with very high tolerances. Also, waterjet is a “cold” cutting process that produces no heat-affected areas or burned edges. These factors mean that there is little or no secondary operation required for most applications. Exotic materials such as titanium, Hastelloy, and other alloys are cut easily with no need to predrill holes,” explained Rickus.
The company’s first high definition Microstep MG Gantry 3D plasma cutting machine, equipped with a 3D rotator facility and Hypertherm’s true hole cutting technology
“But it doesn’t end there. A waterjet can cut both hard and soft materials, including titanium, stainless steel, aluminium, munitions, exotic alloys, composites, stone, marble, floor tile, glass, gasket, foam, rubber, insulation, textile, and food. The soft materials are cut with water only, while hard materials require a stream of water mixed with fine grains of abrasive garnet.”
“In this day when fabricating shops are looking for protection from the ups and downs of being too closely linked to one manufacturing segment, shop owners should see waterjet cutting machines as a key to diversification. These shops could be cutting glass, stone, and foam materials just as easily as cutting metals.”
“We have cut a variety of these materials on the waterjet before and will do so in the future if required, however the core of the business is metal forming.”
New machines, new technologies
By 2009, the impatient and energetic Rickus grew disillusioned with his slow financial progress and knew that if he were to succeed he would need to offer more than just waterjet cutting. And so began a cycle in the history of Easy Way Gadgets, which has seen the company grow its services to include laser cutting, plasma profiling, bending, robotic welding and light fabrication.
Since then virtually annually a new machine has been ordered and put into production. The first to arrive was a Balliu 3,5 kilowatt laser with a bed size of 3 000 x 1 500 mm, in 2009.
The Balliu 3,5 kilowatt CO2 laser with a bed size of 3 000 x 1 500 mm arrived in 2009
“Both waterjet and laser cutting have their niche in their own segments of the cutting market. The same goes for plasma cutting. There is overlapping of the three technologies whereby they can cut the same material, but the question heard in the metal fabricating world is what metal cutting technology makes the most sense? Unfortunately, the answer to the question cannot be covered in one simple statement. The answer depends on the metal being cut, the metal thickness, how the customer defines a quality cut, and how fast the job has to be accomplished. With so many variables, what’s a metal fabricating shop manager to do when he is seeking out an honest comparison of the technologies?”
“Machine manufacturers realise the confusion that may confront fabricators, and that’s why a direct comparison of the metal cutting technologies makes so much sense. Same parts, same cost scenarios, and different results—all meant to give metal fabricators a much clearer view.”
“Our first press brake to arrive was a 160 ton ACL that can handle applications in bend lengths up to 3 200 mm. On order are two more ACLs from Standard Machine Tools but this time they are 50 tonners with bend lengths of two metres.”
A machine to carry out a unique beveling process, while at the same time completing the weld prep was designed and built by Rickus Senekul
“When it comes to bending sheet metal, there seems to be a “dark magic” to producing quality parts on a press brake. Successful press brake operators have been thought to possess some kind of “secret knowledge.” However, many times operators can’t answer why a process may work other than to reply, “It’s the way we’ve always done it.” But with an understanding of the math, the equipment, and the tools of the trade, you can master the basic concepts to bending with precision.”
Plasma profile cutters
“Before going big we tried our hand on a small 130 amp demo model with a bed size of 1 000 x 2 500 mm and a tube cutting facility. It was actually purchased for a specific project. We put through 400 tons of 16 mm mild steel just for this project before ‘retiring’ the machine but it gave us the confidence to purchase a bigger size machine, which we have subsequently done.”
“The ‘baby’ is now coming out of ‘retirement’ because we have come up with an idea where we will use it in a mobile situation.”
Rickus Senekal designed and built his own special purpose machine and the jigs required to keep the components of left and right side frames for wagon bogies in place. He calls it simply his U- forming bending press but on closer inspection you realise there is more to it than simply meets the eye
Even though Easy Way Gadgets had been planning to purchase a bigger plasma cutter, a contract to supply a sub contractor involved in the Kusile Power Station accelerated the company’s decision. A Microstep MG Gantry 3D plasma cutting machine, equipped with a 3D rotator facility and Hypertherm’s true hole cutting technology, was the company’s next big capital purchase.
The gantry type Microstep MG machine provides a wide variety of applications including bevel cutting with plasma and oxyfuel, pipe, profile, dome or elbow cutting, drilling with automatic tool exchange, plate positioning with a laser sensor and micro-percussion marking. The machine cuts up to 150 mm thick with oxyfuel, with the Hypertherm 400XD plasma source up to 80 mm and has a working area of 2 500 x 6 000 mm.
For the power station contract Easy Way Gadgets was cutting 80 mm plate.
Light fabrications ready to be delivered
Currently being installed is a Microstep PLS gantry plasma with a Hypertherm HPR 260XD plasma source and a micro-punch marking unit. The 2D machine cuts up to 64 mm for mild steel, and 50 mm for stainless steel and aluminium.
The new machine has been purchased to give the company more capacity and also enable it to cut larger size plate. The bed size of the new machine is 1 500 x 13 000 mm.
All the plasma profile cutters and the laser machine have been supplied by Knuth South Africa.
Variety of components and subassemblies
Although most of the work at the company initially involved the manufacture of friction and wear parts, the extra equipment and disciplines has enabled Easy Way Gadgets to offer services that will entail manufacturing a variety of components and subassemblies for different industries, but still not shipping directly to end users.
One such subassembly is for the railway industry whereby the company manufactures the left and right side frames for wagon bogies. Once the material is cut it then has to be welded. However certain of the components in the subassembly are required to have a U shape. In this application tight tolerances are needed, unlike general plate work.
The left and right side frames for wagon bogies
Unable to find any machine locally or internationally that would give him the tight specification, Rickus designed and built his own special purpose machine and the jigs required to keep the component in place. He calls it simply his U- forming bending press but on closer inspection you realise there is more to it than simply meets the eye.
The company has a regular contract to supply these side frames and today is supplying on average 120 pairs a month.
This is not the only special purpose machine that Rickus has designed and built himself. Another one involves a unique beveling process, while at the same time completing the weld prep. In total Rickus has designed and built 10 of his ‘own’ machines that are used regularly on the shop floor.
Various plates cut to size
This is one shop where the owner has recognised that he did not want to be just a cut and supply business. Adding extra disciplines, capacity and moving into light fabrication has enabled the company to now have a process capacity of approximately 1 000 tons a month. They design components for clients, read drawings (DXF, DWG, STL, CDR and some other files) and maximize efficiencies using propriety software such as Sigmanest, Rhino and Inventor. The staff compliment has also increased to employ 30.
A big advantage for the company is that it is not just restricted to cutting materials such as mild steel, aluminium and stainless steel. With the waterjet cutting machine it can cut a host of materials and thick pieces of metal. Now with the new machine it can also cut large pieces of metal.
For further details contact Easy Way Gadgets on TEL: + 27 (16) 455 4052 or visit www.ewg.co.za
The company’s first press brake to arrive was a 160 ton ACL that can handle applications in bend lengths up to 3 200 mm. On order are two more ACLs from Standard Machine Tools but this time they are 50 tonners with bend lengths of two metres