This brotherly enterprise started life in 2011, in a modest factory in Cape Town’s Parow Industria. While the business is still in its original home, space is becoming tight, and expansion into a larger factory is now under serious consideration.
The latest news from this dynamic duo, just 18 months after opening their doors, is the purchase of a Haas DT-1 router. This high-accuracy CNC milling machine – featuring an engraving bed of 500mm x 400mm and a spindle speed of 12 000 r/min – is helping to speed service delivery and to handle the sheer volume of business the company enjoys.
This, however, is the second CNC machine in operation at Bros Engraving, so let’s backtrack to the beginning of the story.
South Africa’s first customised CNC router
When Bros Engraving started, CNC equipment was at the top of the shopping list.
Marius explains the background: ‘Owing to the high cost of purchasing branded CNC equipment suitable for fine engraving, we ordered a customised CNC router from Uni-Cam, a Cape Town-based engineering company. This customisation required an enormous R&D effort from both companies to ensure the required level of accuracy.’
According to Marius, the resultant machine was a South African first. ‘It was certainly the most accurate router ever produced by Uni-Cam,’ he adds.
Its accuracy and high-quality production were underscored by positive response from customers and a significantly augmented workload within the first 12 months of operation.
‘The accuracy of the machine’s high-speed cutting surface meant unmatched turnaround times,’ Marius now relates, ‘allowing us to receive and process an order, manufacture the die, invoice and dispatch the product (nationally) before the end of the day (if required).’
Now the latest Haas machine, representing cutting-edge CNC enhancement technology, is providing an additional competitive edge. ‘We can engrave twice as fast, saving our customers time and money,’ Marius reports.
‘We didn’t opt for an entry level model but focused on the best that money can buy. With twice the spindle speed and twice the engraving area, helping us to fulfil our mantra – bigger, better, faster!’
Today, Bros Engraving has a myriad customers countrywide, supplying dies to printers such as Colourtone Aries for big-name liquor brands, and Printafoil for upmarket cosmetics packaging.
Major custom also comes from the book printing sector, particularly for CNC-engraved debossing blocks for products such as diaries. ‘Our blocks are engraved straight down 3mm or 4mm so there’s no angle. This in turn means there’s minimum spread when foiling,’ Marius explains.
Marius is keen to reiterate the countrywide service offered by Bros Engraving.
‘Some 47% of our customers are outside Cape Town,’ he stresses. ‘We courier around ten parcels daily to major centres. We charge R50 for overnight delivery to big cities or R100 to regional towns. A customer can sign off an order before 14:00 and receive his blocks by 11:00 the next morning. It’s that simple.’
When asked why printers would turn to Bros Engraving rather than using local suppliers, Marius replies: ‘There are three reasons – price, speed and quality.’
So far as cost is concerned, Bros Engraving supplies magnesium blocks at R2.20/cm2 with a minimum charge of R220, and brass blocks at R4.00/cm2 with minimum charge of R400 (excluding VAT).
‘Even adding courier charges, we still supply the most competitively-priced product around,’ Marius insists.
As to speed, Marius maintains that next-day service is pretty impressive!
In fact, Bros Engraving makes a same-day delivery to one Johannesburg customer on a weekly basis and, confirms this customer: ‘We’re getting our blocks faster than a local film supplier can get positives and negatives to us!’
On the topic of quality, Marius has this to say: ‘We have spent crazy money on our latest CNC vertical machine centres. CNC-machined blocks are far superior to chemically-etched blocks. We can engrave to any depth and to multiple depths. We’re able to produce sharp, smooth, concave or convex engravings – the list is endless. However, we concentrate on supplying foiling and embossing blocks in either magnesium or brass.’
In Marius’s view, CNC-machined magnesium and brass dies are the environmentally-friendly choice when it comes to foiling and embossing dies. No caustic acid is involved in their production, and chip waste is recycled over and over again.
Marius and Jaco are grateful to their customers who have helped to establish Bros Engraving as a key player in the industry.
One such customer was their very first (and not even in Cape Town!). ‘News of our establishment spread fast and Theo Halgreen of Classic Finishers in Port Elizabeth decided to give us a chance. As a sign of things to come, that first order was for a combination foiling and embossing block with counter force, ensuring that we started off with a highly-specialised order, and the way we intended to continue!’ Marius happily relates.
Asked about future expansion plans, Marius replies: ‘We’ve been taking things slowly but we’re receiving more and more requests to expand our lines to include rotary hot foil cylinders. This wasn’t something we planned when we started the business and it would require another major investment in additional CNC machines.
‘However,’ he concludes on a bullish note, ‘give us another year or two and we’ll be servicing Cape Town’s premium label printers!’
PPM will be watching with interest.