The CSIR hosted the first Advanced Metals Initiative (AMI) light metals conference, an international scientific event, at the end of October. The conference drew delegates from as far afield as Germany, Australia, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom, as well as representatives from both the research community in South Africa and industrial players.
Research and development on light metals, specifically aluminium, titanium and magnesium, as well as their applications, was the focus of the first Light Metals Conference. This event was held at the end of October and organised by the CSIR.
"The expertise and resources of universities and research institutions across South Africa have successfully been mobilised and aligned to result in one of the most vibrant research and development fields at present in the country," said Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, CSIR president and chief executive officer, during the welcoming address at the conference.
He referred specifically to the active support of the CSIR's executive management and the organisation's co-investment in the activities of the Light Metals Development Network and the Titanium Centre of Competence.
A decade in the making
This support goes back to the beginning of this decade when, in 2001, the CSIR in collaboration with the Automotive Industry Development Centre commissioned a survey on the need for R&D on the applications of light metals in our country. The message from the industry was a resounding "Yes, we need this!"
Mintek, and later Necsa, became part of the high level strategic planning group that deliberated on how this need could best be addressed. After Cabinet approved the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy in 2003, the AMI was established as one of the first implementation initiatives of this strategy. The first three pillars of the AMI were conceptualised, namely the Light Metals, Precious Metals and New Metals Development Networks.
In 2006 the CSIR was contracted by the Department of Science and Technology to establish and lead the Light Metals Development Network, with a focus on aluminium and titanium. During the first three years growing emphasis was placed on the establishment of a Titanium Centre of Competence.
A lively research field
"While previous AMI conferences included all the pillars of the AMI, this year's conference was the first with a focus only on light metals," explains the CSIR's Dr Willie du Preez, who was also chairman of the conference's organising committee. "The excellent reaction we received to the calls for papers proved that light metals development is a lively and active research field in South Africa."
Day one of the conference was dedicated to students in the form of a Student Seminar with 15 papers presented. Overall, the conference covered a range of R&D activities across the country on titanium, aluminium and magnesium alloys and their applications. Presentations on this work were further complemented by highly relevant keynote addresses of leaders in the industry and research community, both locally and abroad. Among these were Dr Willem van Niekerk, executive general manager: corporate services, Exxaro Resources; Prof Andrey Klevtsov, technical director of Rare Metal Industries; and Prof Reimund Neugebauer from Fraunhofer IWU, Germany.
The next AMI conference will focus on the New Metals Development Network, covering work being done in the field of zirconium, hafnium, niobium and tantalum metals. This conference is scheduled for 12 to 14 October 2011.