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South African manufacturer celebrates a legacy of excellence in the mining industry

Thos Begbie

5th July 2023


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Middelburg-based copper castings producer Thos Begbie has cemented its position as a leading manufacturer of water cooled copper and other components for the pyrometallurgical industry worldwide. With a rich history spanning over decades, Thos Begbie has weathered numerous challenges while providing exceptional service to the mining sector in South Africa.

Established in 1887 by Sir Thomas Begbie as Begbie's and Holleman Foundry and Engineering Services, Thos Begbie started as a pioneering venture in foundry engineering. Despite facing market fluctuations and adversities,  the company has consistently adapted and thrived. Originally based in Johannesburg, an explosion prompted Thos Begbie to relocate to Middelburg. Since then, the company has focused on producing ferrous and non-ferrous components primarily for the mining industry.

Today, Thos Begbie stands as a global leader in manufacturing water cooled copper components for the smelting industry.

“Our unparalleled expertise, combined with a stable and dedicated workforce, has enabled Thos Begbie to perfect our products and serve in a niche market. Thos Begbie remains the sole supplier of these copper components in Africa, affirming our position as industry leaders in the pyrometallurgical sector,” says Thos Begbie MD Joubert Groenewald.

The company's commitment to delivering sustainable value to customers through innovation and collaboration sets it apart from competitors. Thos Begbie prides itself on being the preferred global supplier, consistently meeting customer demands with cutting-edge solutions.

Thos Begbie encompasses five divisions within its organisational structure: a fabrication and refurbishment facility, a pyrometallurgical components manufacturing unit (foundry), a fettling workshop, a general engineering division, and a quality inspection department.

Thos Begbie sales manager Scott Paterson says that at the core of Thos Begbie's operations lies the production of copper cooling elements. The coil manufacturing facility is the birthplace of these castings, where cooling element coils are manipulated, formed, fabricated, and subsequently cast in sand moulds with molten copper. The facility specialises in forming copper cooling elements using Monel, stainless steel, or copper tubing.  In addition, Thos Begbie excels in plate cooler hard facing with Hastelloy and Inconel overlay welding, significantly extending the lifespan of furnaces.

The foundry, equipped with a gas-fired furnace capable of casting up to 17 t and an induction furnace with a capacity of 2.5 t, plays a crucial role in the manufacturing process. With two overhead cranes capable of lifting 15 t each, the foundry ensures the smooth handling of massive moulds and castings.

Thos Begbie's meticulous moulding process uses a silica-based sand with a resin mould. Emphasising mould hygiene and the recycling of used sand, the company adheres to environment-friendly practices. After casting, the sand is recycled, comprising 70% old sand and 30% virgin sand, contributing to cost competitiveness and sustainability.

The final step in the casting manufacturing process is the general engineering department (GED), where the casting is given its final character according to the drawing specification received from the customer.

The machine shop hosts several CNC automated machines, six of which are horizontal milling machines, including a 12-t Doosan as well as three Victor work centres, which perform the plate cooler and smaller copper block machining.

The GED also includes a CNC lathe machine as well as various other small machines that focus on sockets.

Thos Begbie also boasts a CNC deep hole drill, or honing machine.

“We can stack plate coolers five at a time, and a predetermined program will machine all the default drills in one setting. This enables cost-effective quoting as well as reducing the time it takes to drill each plate individually, by at least two-thirds,” Paterson explains.

To ensure high standards of quality, Thos Begbie's quality inspection department conducts non-destructive testing on every product, adhering to strict specifications in accordance with their internal QMS and manufacturing specification, customer requirements and ISO certifications. The company prides itself on its flawless ISO 9001 certification, achieved through comprehensive internal QMS implemented throughout the organisation.

Graphite Freezeline Solutions

Graphite Freezeline Solutions (GFS) joined the Thos Begbie Group in 2017. GFS specialises in engineered graphite products for the South African and international markets. The unique properties of graphite, such as non-wettability, high thermal conductivity, and resistance to various metallurgical process substances, make it an ideal complement to copper castings. GFS collaborates seamlessly with Thos Begbie's copper manufacturing operations, sharing the same ISO-certified quality system.

GFS manager Hercules van der Merwe emphasises the advantages of GFS's integration into Thos Begbie's manufacturing facility. “With the ability to source graphite and carbon from any supplier worldwide, we can ensure compliance with our clients' specifications, while maintaining exceptional quality control and efficiency,” he says.

As a strategic partner, GFS upholds the Thos Begbie values and objectives, delivering engineered graphite products that enhance the company's reputation as a world-class manufacturer, foundry and heavy engineering firm.

With an illustrious history spanning more than a century, Thos Begbie continues to thrive, providing unrivalled copper castings and components to the pyrometallurgical industry. Through innovation, collaboration and a commitment to quality, the company remains at the forefront of its field, poised for further growth and success in the years to come.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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