3D Printing — A South African Update

South Africa’s Engineering News reported last week on the exciting developments in 3D printing that are taking place in that part of the world. While they did headline with the dreaded “R” word and, in my opinion, over-hyped where we are with 3D printing for consumers, the article points to the great work that is being undertaken on the African content, particularly for industrial applications.

Specifically with the work of the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the National Laser Centre (NLC) is undertaking research work focusing on metal laser additive manufacturing (LAM) processes and systems and the production of fully dense metal components with a view to advancing local manufacturing industry.

According to Joanne Taylor: “The goal of the CSIR’s additive manufacturing programme is to advance the knowledge, capabilities and economic opportunities for South African industry. LAM is key in the beneficiation of South Africa’s titanium resources and efforts are in place to establish a viable titanium component manufacturing industry that will enable the local aerospace industry to have a competitive international advantage. The CSIR is focusing its resources on LAM to identify critical components and industries that can benefit from the technology.”

A programme resulting from this initiative is based on high-speed, large-area selective laser-melting to develop new equipment that is capable of building aerospace components up to 2 m x 0.6 m x 0.6 m (xyz).

Another programme coming out of the CSIR is dedicated to developing an ultra-high-speed LAM process.

According to Francois Prinsloo, Contract R&D Manager at NLC: “Successful completion of the CSIR’s initiatives will enable a new knowledge base and capacity that will generate sustainable opportunities in additive manufacturing [in South Africa].”

However, beyond the industrial scale 3D printing developments in South Africa, there are initiatives looking further afield to communities and individuals. Similar to global developments along these lines, there is a view that innovation is promoted by taking this technology out to communities and schools — even in rural areas. VUT operates Idea 2 Product Lab, which utilises affordable and customisable technology to fulfil this objective.

Deon De Beer has been on the South African 3D printing / Additive Manufacturing scene from the earliest days, as part of the The Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa, which was launched in 2000 to establish a community of practice. He says, “South Africa had a late start with rapid prototyping on 3D printers. The first system was available in 1990 and it had increased to only three systems in 1994.”

However, despite this, De Beer thinks that things are looking good from a South African 3D printing perspective with a bright future.

Source: Engineering News