An exceptionally versatile welding and metal-cutting service and sales centre, using Russian equipment designed especially for the space race, is operating north of Auckland at Albany. It is believed to be the only one of its type in the Western world, with another being in Moscow.
The Multiplaz-3500 is a multi-function device for plasma welding, cutting and soldering, compact and easily carried in a small bag, which can generate plasma from water and alcohol.
This advantage obviates the need for gas or compressed air and is being described as an international first for the metal-working industry.
Vladimir Voronkov, managing director of Advanced Plasma Technology, says: “This is completely new technology – immensely powerful and ideal for an amazing variety of jobs that would normally require a number of different machines.
“It would be quicker for me to say what it cannot do rather than what it can.
“Yet it is so easy to operate that people with absolutely no experience of welding can be using it after just the briefest of demonstrations.
“It is also safe and environmentally friendly, emitting only oxygen, which makes it ideal for working in enclosed spaces without ventilation such as basements or places without windows.
“That, of course, was part of the original target as this device was created by the Soviet Union for use by the military and in outer space. It has proved invaluable for maintenance and repairs in submarines and army tanks as well as far away in outer space.
“When everything changed in Russia this invention became available for public use and our company has the distribution rights for Australia and New Zealand. We can also supply the Pacific Islands and even have customers as far away as South Africa.
“Our service centre here at Albany, where we give demonstrations and advice as well as do repairs, is the only one outside Moscow.”
The range of tasks performed by the little Multiplaz 3500 does astonish users. It can weld giant beams to hold up roofs, for instance, yet is sensitive enough to work efficiently on the slimmest and most delicate of materials.
It can also cut any non-combustible material including concrete and ceramic.
That is why it is attracting fast-growing interest from creators of fine art as well as engineers, builders and farmers.
Tauranga sculptor Matthew Brauchi and his mother Susan recently switched to using it for their in-demand Wildlife Bronze Artwork.
“Many of their works are so big that they are made in pieces, sometimes hundreds of pieces, which are then welded together,” says Mr Voronkov.
“But they were not happy with the welding because their vision of the finished work was not the same as that of the welder.”
“So we decided to try doing it ourselves,” says Mr Brauchi. “It was hugely daunting as I had no previous experience in welding and we knew that the dangers of mistakes in an under-floor garage environment could be disastrous.
“When we came across the Multiplaz it almost seemed too good to be true and I am usually wary of ‘do-all’ solutions but this is amazing.
“One of my early challenges was to braze the legs of a bronze giant weta on to the body. It was a bit of a nightmare for a novice – with the body being one large lump of heat-dissipating bronze and legs being so delicate that they melt easily with too much heat and precious detail is then lost.
“Using arc mode on the Multiplaz, I started a small arc on the body and then pulled back, losing the arc and using only the jet on the leg. I used a low temperature silver solder rod which produced awesome joints that fettled and took patina well. Absolutely great!”
That was also the verdict of John Borrows of Auckland’s Mission Bay who uses the device while making intricate models of planes and ships.
And the ease of operating the Multiplaz astonished a farmer who arrived at Albany with a ‘wreck of a tractor wheel’.
“The rim had been completely destroyed and, well, it was just a ruin,” says Mr Voronkov.
“He asked if we could fix it and I offered to show him how to do it himself. He was not a welder but, because this is so simple to use, I had to spend only a few minutes showing him what to do. It then took him under an hour, here in our place, to restore the wheel. He could hardly believe it.
“We never know what to expect here next – because the word has got around about the versatility of the Multiplaz.”
That was shown, typically, shortly after the farmer left with his wheel.
The next customer had an antique rifle which was falling apart with age. Fixing that took just over half an hour.
For more information:
Advanced Plasma Technology