While we were in Cobalt, Ontario, we had an opportunity to take a tour of the Wabi Iron and Steel. Founded in 1907, Wabi Iron & Steel Corp. has evolved into a leading manufacturer of loading and conveyance systems for the mining industry and one of North America’s premier producers of general and abrasion-resistant castings in iron and steel. During the glory days of Cobalt they developed products and supplied one of the most prolific mining camps in the area (Silver Cobalt Camp) and by the 1940’s they were manufacturing products for many Northern Ontario mining operations and began shipping worldwide.
The Wabi has two divisions, each responsible for crafting precision equipment and products for specific purposes. The head office, fabrication facility, machine shop and foundry are located in New Liskeard, Ontario and by having the entire operation in one place they can maintain control over the entire manufacturing process and ensure quality workmanship on each and every project. David Perry (Foundry Foreman) has spent around 25 years working at the Wabi and has overseen thousands of projects over the years and was happy to give us an in-depth look at the operation from start to finish.
Our tour started in the fabrication shop where the staff was hard at work grinding steel, welding pieces together, cleaning products and fabricating specialty items with the plasma cutter. We also had the opportunity to capture some of the men putting the finishing touches on the products that came from the foundry in order for them to be shipped out. Starting the tour in the fabrication shop gave us but a mere glimpse into the Wabi world and how the operation works from start to finish.
The next part of the tour brings us to the pattern facility and sand molding facility where they design wooden patterns to make sand molds that will later be used to produce castings in the foundry. Sand castings are optimal for production as they can be used to produce a wider variety of metal components with complex geometries. Many of these components, such as mining wear parts, must be resistant to heat, friction and mechanical stress to maintain optimum performance. The casting process involves the use of their induction furnaces, molten metal, and the sand molds. The metal is melted in one of the four induction furnaces and then ladled and poured into a small opening at the top of the sand mold.
Now that we understood how these intricate molds are produced, we made our way over to the foundry where we witnessed many of the above mentioned castings being poured. The poured castings are then placed into one of the heat treatment ovens to harden the steel. Once the steel is hardened and cooled the sand molds are broken away from the newly formed machinery; which range from pump parts to mining wear parts. As wear solution specialists, the Wabi produces long lasting, abrasive resistant products that meet or exceed current applications for aggregate, mining, tunneling and mill processing industries.
The Wabi produces castings ranging in weight from 50 to 8,000 lbs, and work with over a hundred different alloys including alloy steel, chrome iron, grey iron, Ni-hard, steel, and stainless steel. Since they control the entire manufacturing process in one facility, the superior qualities of their products are able to remain consistent. Their advanced manufacturing technologies and fabrication processes enhance production efficiencies which results in improved quality and reduced product costs.
Finally, once the castings have been removed from the sand moulds and then cooled, they are brought over to a prepping area. In this prepping area, any last burs and excess steel from the casting process are grinded away. Once the machinery is all prepped a monitoring process is used which is accomplished using Non-Destructive Testing methods. One of these is Ultrasonic Testing equipment. Ultrasonic Testing, which uses high frequency sound to conduct analyses, detect flaws, and make measurements. This testing and reporting can recommend various options to better predict wear and avoid downtime issues.
Overall our tour through the Wabi Iron and steel was incredibly fascinating and an opportunity to have a look at the manufacturing process that goes into mining equipment. It offered us an entirely new perspective on the amount of work involved in building the equipment to make modern mining practices viable. The mining industry relies heavily on companies like the Wabi to design new technology that solves industry wide day to day problems and produce quality products consistently to ensure the safety and efficiency of the workers in the mining industry.