There is a substantial demand for stainless steel in South Africa, but owing to the global economic crisis experienced over the past 18 months, this demand has been subdued, says gas and welding equipment supplier Afrox’s Kim Brightwell, business manager for welding consumables.
He says this has been especially evident in the automotive sector where demand has dropped by up to 60%.
“When it comes to welding stainless steel, local supply is capable of meeting demand for covered electrodes for the more common grades, but local manufacturers need to import the more exotic grades as the volumes of these grades is relatively low,” says Brightwell. “Welding wire for stainless steel is a different story, as there is no local manufacture and it is all imported. Demand for this wire is only about 1500 TPA and does not really justify the capital required to set up a manufacturing line in this country.”
Afrox is the leading supplier of welding consumables in southern Africa, covering the full range of welding consumables for the stainless steel industry and exporting these products to 17 African countries. It was the first African company to produce welding consumables from specialised stainless steel alloys and has maintained its position as the country’s largest manufacturer of stainless steel electrodes since production began at its special consumables factory in Spartan in 1968.
While high volume products are manufactured at Afrox’s state-of-the-art electrodes plant at Brits, outside Pretoria, the Spartan facility produces smaller volumes of specialised welding consumables in 19 different grades of stainless steel electrode, with approximately five different diameters for each product. The factory, formerly owned by Oerlikon Electrodes, has the capacity to produce about 120 tons a month of all types of electrode.
The specialised manufacturing process is accredited to ISO 9000 and ISO 14000, with the main grades of stainless steel — 308L, 309L and 316L —carrying TüV approval.
Afrox has an exclusive technology agreement with Oerlikon which allows it to manufacture many of their products under license. Oerlikon is a global premium brand of welding consumables for applications ranging from mild steel to highly specialised material such as creep resistant, stainless and nickel based consumables.