NASA Engineering SA reaches 40-year milestone

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All assembled rockdrills are tested to make sure they meet the new Noise Attenuation legislation
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Whenever you come across the word NASA you immediately think of the US government agency that is responsible for science and technology related to air and space. NASA stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration and is very much part of the Space Age, which started in 1957 with the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik.

One of the recent purchases is a Takisawa NEX 110 CNC turning Center with a 560mm maximum swing, a 350mm maximum turning diameter, a 635mm maximum turning length, and a 75mm bar work capacity supplied by 600SA Machine Tools

Mechanical engineers are vitally important to NASA’s operations and space projects. Whether it’s designing mechanical ground support equipment, developing shutter mechanisms for space telescopes, or testing engine components, there are literally hundreds of jobs you could be asked to work on. You certainly won’t get bored working at NASA and you’ll also get a chance to work with cutting-edge technology and be exposed to the latest materials, research, and engineering concepts.

Upholding the same principles, culture, and ethics as the US space agency, is South Africa’s NASA Engineering SA. The word NASA in South Africa is different, purely an amalgamation of the middle name of the two founders. And the distinction is that the local company is focused on manufacturing their own products and spare parts for the mining, quarrying, and civil engineering industries. With an excellent machining reputation that spans nearly 40 years, the company has been engaged in the manufacture and machining of components for OEM products that are also involved in the above industries. NASA Engineering SA also manufactures specialised equipment for the trucking and food processing industries.

A 100% final inspection is carried out on all products to ensure a consistent supply of NASA quality

“Right from inception in September 1981, NASA decided that quality precision work with reliable deliveries was a critical factor and up until the present, this mission has been met time after time. We have and continue to use state-of-the-art equipment to successfully compete in the marketplace. Our sound business ethics, quality work, and solid dedication have resulted in very successful partnerships with the major mining and manufacturing companies,” said founder and Director Jose Valentim.

“Although the company started off as a general engineering machining shop it soon became clear to us that if we wanted to become a player in the industry, we would have to manufacture our own products and we chose pneumatic and hydraulic rock drilling equipment as our primary groups.”

“Historically, we had been producing components for the OEM mining supply companies Seco (Steel Engineering) and Boart, so we had a connection with the mining industry and this influenced our decision.”

Handheld rockdrill equipment
Rockdrills, or more commonly referred to as jackhammers, are compressed air-powered, handheld machines that are typically operated by a crew of two men. The machine is commonly mounted on an airleg which is a pneumatic leg to assist in providing thrust to the rockdrill. Water is fed through the machine and down the length of the drill steel, emerging at the bit. The primary functions of the water are to remove the “cuttings from the drilled hole, provide cooling, and to, importantly, suppress dust. Rockdrills are typically used to drill holes of up to 3m in length in both development and stoping. A drilled development round is normally 2m in depth.”

Components machined by NASA Engineering

NASA Engineering have over 40 CNC machines on the machine shop floor. The majority are made up of Takisawas and Quasers. These CNCs are used for turning, milling and grinding

“We have been manufacturing a range of standard rockdrills for blast hole drilling in development ends and narrow vein stopes. Typically the S215 Rockdrill is the industry standard in South Africa and the region for stoping with the more powerful S25 Rockdrill being used in development. The S215 is lightweight and its high-performance makes it ideally suited to both drilling and manipulation in low stoping height conditions.”

“Our S21B “Blower” Rockdrill is a tough, reliable drill suitable for drilling in quarrying and civil engineering practices. Whilst designed for “dry drilling” applications, it can be adapted for water flushing. The S21B Blower rockdrill can also be used in stitch hole drilling and block splitting in the dimensional stone industry and in blasthole drilling in quarries and civil engineering sites.”

This year the company purchased a Quaser MV215CPL, a general-purpose vertical machining center, supplied by 600SA Machine Tools

All assembled rockdrills are tested to make sure they meet the new Noise Attenuation legislation

“The NB35 Breaker is the perfect companion for the quarry, dimension stone, mining, and civil engineering fields. It is a heavy-duty, hard-hitting rotational breaker capable of cutting tarmac and breaking up reinforced concrete, brickwork, and roadways on demolition and construction sites.”

Long-hole mounted drifter rockdrills and the ancillary equipment
The S36IR 114mm Independent Drifter, combined with a Cradle Mounted Screw Feed System and Remote Control is the pneumatic machine of choice for long-hole drilling. By design, the rate of rotation of the drill rods can be controlled independently of the percussion. This setup is capable of drilling 51mm (2”) holes beyond 60m in-depth in any direction. Such holes can then be reamed to a larger size (up to 114mm (4 ½”) for drainage and communication links between the levels underground.

The S36IR is also used in larger development ends and for rock-support (roof-bolting) applications, raise boring, and shaft sinking.

The S36IR has been fitted to tracked rigs for open cast mining and quarrying applications.

Founder and Director Jose Valentim

The assembly department

“The S36 Konkola is a powerful 114mm drifter type rockdrill with reversible ratchet ring / rifle bar rotation mechanism. It is designed for long-hole drilling in underground mining applications where ease of access is restricted.”

“Because of the nature of applications where handheld rockdrills are used, and to alleviate the application of the rockdrills and to make the drilling operation more manageable, we also manufacture the NASA Retractable Airlegs. These are designed for use with the NASA S215 and S25 range of handheld rockdrills, but may be used with any drill of similar characteristics. They are designed to provide thrust to the rockdrill during the drilling operation and to automatically retract on completion of each drilled hole. The rockdrill and airleg combination work reliably in the rugged environment of underground mining and are used in both stoping and development drilling applications.”

“We also manufacture four models of Hydraulic Drifters for the different mining applications as per client requests.”

“We also have cutting and bending equipment, and a comprehensive welding facility (including MIG/TIG). In this department, we manufacture components for our rockdrills and ancillary equipment as well as other components that assist our clients in their endeavours, such as shank adaptors and water boxes.”

The first CNC machine NASA Engineering purchased just under 40 years ago was a Takisawa TX 2 lathe. That machine still operates today

“Over 25 years DTH Hammers used in water exploration and open cast mining are also one of our lines of production and the sizes manufactured ranges from 3” to 12” using different types of drilling bits and a working pressure of 14 to 30 bars.”

“We are a major supplier in South Africa and export into Sub-Saharan Africa, to include Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia and Botswana. We also export to Canada in North America and Peru in South America.”

Manufacturing facilities
“Besides manufacturing the prime equipment that we sell we also manufacture the full range of replacement components and spares. We have over R35million of spares in stock and will always have multiples of components so that we can offer a fast turnaround service.”

“Virtually half of the materials that we machine are forgings and the others are mainly made up of rolled bars and castings. There is, however, a big shift from castings to solid steel blocks or billets because of the high rejection rate on castings due to porosity.”

The company will machine and assemble components for clients that are not in the mining industry

“Taking this into account we have over 40 CNC machines on our floor. The majority are made up of Takisawas and Quasers. These CNCs are used for turning, milling and grinding.”

“Amongst them, we have Quaser double pallet machines and a number that have 4th-axis machining capabilities and live tooling.”

“There are other conventional machines for turning, milling, grinding, gear cutting, slotting, deep-hole drilling and broaching that have been automated to improve production efficiencies.”

“The first CNC machine I purchased just under 40 years ago was a Takisawa TX 2 lathe. That machine still operates today.”

“The newest machines that we have purchased this year are a Quaser MV205CPL, a general-purpose vertical machining center, and a Takisawa NEX 110 CNC turning Center with a 560mm maximum swing, a 350mm maximum turning diameter, a 635mm maximum turning length, and a 75mm bar work capacity. Both machines have been supplied by 600SA Machine Tools.”

“We also have cutting and bending equipment, and a comprehensive welding facility (including MIG/TIG). In this department, we manufacture components for our rockdrills and ancillary equipment as well as other components that assist our clients in their endeavours, such as shank adaptors and water boxes.”

NASA Engineering have over 2 800 line items and are regarded as a repetitive CNC milling and turning machine shop and will keep multiples of components and spares to assist in quick supply to clients

NASA Engineering does its own deep-hole drilling

“Virtually half of the materials that we machine are forgings and the others are mainly made up of rolled bars and castings. There is, however, a big shift from castings to solid steel blocks or billets because of the high rejection rate on castings due to porosity.”

“Besides the supply of poor castings being very costly these load shedding (power) occasions are costing us enormously not only in time but also damage to material and tooling. We have lost six shifts over a two-week period and at over R200 000 per shift that is adding up to a sizeable amount.
This, coupled with an acute shortage of raw materials (particularly alloy steels), and there is nothing that business can do.”

“The cost of material has also rocketed and supply is a challenging exercise. For instance, we placed an order with ArcelorMittal in March 2020, it took 13 months for receipt of delivery for that order. It is not acceptable and it is killing manufacturing in South Africa.”

Amongst the CNC machines NASA Engineering have a number of Quaser double pallet machines and a number that have 4th-axis machining capabilities and live tooling

About 50% of the components that NASA Engineering machines are forgings

“With these obstacles that are put in front of us we are being stretched and our ability to survive is becoming more and more difficult. And this is not even taking into account the tragic COVID-19 pandemic.”

Quality control facilities
“In accordance with our in-house quality management system, we have written procedures covering all the aspects within our operations to ensure consistency of all products that we manufacture.”

“All the components manufactured by us are individually and thoroughly checked during the manufacturing process. A 100% final inspection is carried out on all products to ensure a consistent supply of NASA quality. We have over 2 800 line items and are regarded as a repetitive CNC milling and turning machine shop so we are inspecting hundreds of components every day.”

Safety, health and environment
“On our assembled rockdrills, we have worked closely over the years with the major mining houses, the Minerals Council and the DMER on Noise Attenuation and all our equipment is well within the new legislation of 107 dB(A), which is set to be enforced in 2024.”

100% proudly South African
“The Mining Charter stipulates that a minimum of 70% (by value) of mining goods must be manufactured or assembled in South Africa. This requires that at least 60% of local content be used during manufacture or assembly. We are way above that and are virtually 100% local content. If it is a component that we do not manufacture then we will source it locally.”

“At the moment we employ 104 staff, we occupy 8 000m² with 5 500m² under roof.”

For further details contact NASA Engineering SA on Tel: 011 908 4534

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