Agitator and pumps manufacturer AFX Mixing and Pumping Technologies, a division of AFX Holdings, has used the mining downturn to focus on its research and development (R&D) initiatives.
AFX director and pumps specialist Toby Frostwick says, while the company’s commitment to its R&D outcomes and continuous product improvement has never waned, the downturn has allowed it a little more time to test different materials, rubber compounds and new designs. “A seemingly small design change still requires months of testing, with the downturn allowing time to tweak products ahead of the mining industry’s expected upturn.”
He notes that recent reports from market analysts and price trends signify an improvement in the global mining industry, citing the increased gold price and renewed enthusiasm for base metals. If these trends continue, capital expenditure of mining companies is likely to increase on the back of renewed exploration and/or expansion projects that were previously put on hold.
Frostwick adds that this will obviously have a positive effect on companies that supply mines, including AFX, which will open a new R&D testing facility at its Johannesburg plant by mid-2017. The facility will feature a client-training facility and a materials laboratory.
Like most companies, AFX is always looking for new market opportunities. Frostwick recalls an instance where a client used the company’s versatile AFX025 peristaltic pumps – which were being used to pump shotcrete – to temporarily replace its struggling mine dewatering pumps.
He notes that, of late, there have been several instances of companies replacing centrifugal dewatering pumps with peristaltic pumps, as they can perform similar functions. As such, it would not be a stretch for AFX to begin marketing dewatering pumps, which would enable it to enter a previously unapproached market.
A carefully designed and manufactured hose element is the most vital component for the performance, durability and efficiency of any peristaltic hose pump, says Frostwick, adding that “if you have a poor hose, you’ll have a poor pump”.
The hose in a peristaltic hose pump generally fails because of mechanical stresses and rubber fatigue. AFX hoses are specifically designed and manufactured to enhance fatigue resistance, resulting in a long service life.
AFX uses design tools – such as finite element analysis, supported by physical tests and theoretical calculations – to design its hoses, which are “designed to perfection – from the position of these reinforcing layers, the braid angles, cord thickness to the thickness of the surrounding rubber,” comments Frostwick.
Each AFX hose is built under stringent quality control measures using high-quality, compounded rubbers, reinforced with individual layers of braided nylon that are carefully set at optimum angles.
Rubber compounds are carefully blended and calendared under strict control for each batch of hoses. This ensures that only the “freshest” material is used, as experience has shown that this is the only way to produce a reliable peristaltic hose, Frostwick says, adding that AFX uses a fully automated system to precisely measure the ingredients of the compounds. This ensures that a much higher-quality product can be produced than using a hand-measured approach.
Machinery using the latest laser alignment technology produces the AFX hose. Curing of the finish of the built hose is achieved in specially built autoclaves, where only one hose length is cured at a time to ensure precise curing for the specific-sized item.
Once cured, the hoses’ outer diameter is precision-machined to exacting tolerances, guaranteeing a perfectly sized hose. An accurately sized hose ensures perfect compression, which eliminates internal slip, subsequently increasing pump efficiency, explains Frostwick.
He notes that AFX is one of only a handful of global pumps manufacturers that machine its hoses, adding that, while other manufacturers believe this to be unnecessary, “you wouldn’t trust a shaft that hasn’t been machined, so you shouldn’t trust a hose that hasn’t been either”.
The tolerance and specifications of AFX hoses, which the company also supplies to other manufacturers, are one of the best in the industry and exceed those of competitors, Frostwick states.
He emphasises that AFX consistently surpasses International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) requirements under ISO 1307 and DIN7715. “The ISO standards are not good enough. They are just a benchmark that other companies aim to achieve.”
AFX hoses, produced in 12 standard bore sizes from 10 mm to 150 mm, consist of a three-layer elastomer. The wetted layer of the AFX hose is available in natural rubber, nitrile buna rubber (NBR), food grade NBR, ethylene-propylene-diene monomer and CSM (Hypalon). Hoses are selected according to the liner material most suited to the pumped process fluid.