Germiston-based large-engine remanufacturer Metric Automotive Engineering has invested in new equipment to extend its services to larger engines for the locomotives industry, says operations director Andrew Yorke.
Initially, Metric Automotive Engineering undertook engine component remanufacturing for off-highway truck engines for mining clients. These engines are typically large-capacity heavy-duty diesel engines, with cylinder configurations of up to V16, and internal engine components being several metres long and weighing hundreds of kilograms.
He tells Engineering News that Metric Automotive Engineering decided to start with locomotive engine component remanufacturing in mid-2014, as part of the company’s natural progression: “We had the equipment and expertise to service large off-highway engines, so the new equipment will help us extend our service offering to the larger locomotive engines.”
The new equipment includes a crankshaft grinder capable of grinding crankshafts of up to 4.7 m long and weighing up to 5 t. This grinder was commissioned about a year ago. “The commissioning of this crankshaft grinder had a lead time of about two-and-a-half years, owing to its custom build and inherent requirement for fine-tuning,” he adds.
Yorke notes that crankshafts of this size require special compensators to suspend the crankshaft between two chucks while it is being ground, adding that these kinds of compensators are not available in South Africa and had to be sourced from Italy. The compensators also assist in preventing deflection in the form of bowing and sagging, as the crankshaft spins on the machine. The compensators also help to remove ovality and taper.
He notes that the crankshaft grinder is the largest new automotive grinder to be brought into South Africa in 35 years and that, while Metric Automotive Engineering knows of a similar-sized crankshaft grinder being used in South Africa, it is considerably older and subsequently far less precise, owing to its extended use.
Yorke further notes that Metric Automotive Engineering uses softer-than-normal grinding wheels to grind crankshafts, owing to their improved ability to produce better engineered and longer-lasting crankshafts. He says it is common in the industry to use hard grinding wheels, which can be used to grind more crankshafts and are cheaper than soft grinding wheels.
However, while the softer grinding wheels are more expensive, Yorke believes that the cost is justified, as it ensures that clients are provided with quality-controlled products, which will lead to greater efficiency and longer life spans.
These custom-built soft grinding wheels also produce significantly less heat, which, in turn, mitigates grinder burn and chatter; it also helps prevent flaws from forming in the crankshaft. “We take a knock in using more grinder wheels, but our products are guaranteed to be 100% in order,” he notes, adding that Metric Automotive Engineering can also polish crankshafts.
It can also remanufacture high-tolerance engine components, which is especially relevant in an industry that is increasingly seeking ways to decrease engine tolerances to improve engine efficiency and reduce emissions.
Meanwhile, Yorke emphasises the comprehensiveness of Metric Automotive Engineering’s service provision, highlighting the company as a “one-stop shop for engine remanufacturing”, whereas the local competition can offer services only on single components or portions thereof, such as half an engine block.
He further notes that this leads to several service providers at different facilities having to perform engine remanufacturing. This, in turn, causes several problems, most notably warranties that are divided among the service providers, which brings with it several unnecessary complications and room for error, as well as the associated shifting of blame among them and a subsequent lack of accountability. “This is likely to increase costs and extend delays as the components will have to be worked on at different facilities,” he adds.
Further, Metric Automotive Engineering is hoping to acquire certification from some of the major locomotive original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs), such as General Electric, to ensure it remains at the forefront of engine remanufacturing services for the locomotive industry, Yorke states.
This certification will enable Metric Automotive Engineering to be a trusted service provider for locomotive engine remanufacturing in South Africa, crating opportunities for more work and extending the company’s expertise and skills in the servicing of large locomotive engine components.
“We are chasing the major locomotive role-players, such as Transnet and the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa, to get their approval, which Metric Automotive Engineering aims to use to attract more business. We aim to get their approval as quickly as possible,” says Yorke.
He notes that to be certified as a trusted third-party service provider for locomotive OEMs, the OEMs need to send auditing officials to inspect and report on Metric Automotive Engineering’s capability and workmanship.
Yorke points out, however, that Metric Automotive Engineering benefits from its existing ability to perform work on off-highway truck engines.