South African manufacturer Pratley has received an extensive revamp of its two main test and research laboratories. According to CEO Kim Pratley, this has bolstered its unique position among electrical-equipment manufacturers globally with the capability and facilities to manufacture base polymer materials in house, in addition to the end products.

The two fully-equipped laboratories at the Krugersdorp head office are staffed by qualified, world-class scientists and technicians. One of these laboratories is dedicated to electrical testing and, says the company, has more state-of-the-art equipment than the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) itself. Other accredited laboratories have even approached Pratley to make use of its  equipment.

Equipment ranges from a salt-spray tester for corrosion testing; an environmental chamber that ages materials at different temperatures and humidity; a dust chamber to look at the ingress of dust particles into electrical enclosures; impact testers to gauge the impact resistance of electrical equipment; water ingress equipment to determine the level of water-tightness; and tensile-strength testing equipment.

The chemical research laboratory is divided into two main focus areas, namely inorganic and organic materials. The former mainly involves mineral analysis, while the organic materials side focuses mainly on polymers and adhesives.

“The synergy with our electrical-equipment manufacturing side is because modern electrical enclosures are based on plastics and rubber, which are polymers. Essentially, adhesive science is a specialised polymer science,” Pratley explains.

“We have a cross-pollination with our research and development capability, which represents a major competitive advantage and makes us unique among similar companies worldwide.”

He adds: “For the size of our company, we probably spend proportionately more on research and development than any other manufacturing company in South Africa.” This ranges across the various divisions of Pratley, from adhesives to electrical, and minerals.

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