The CSIR-Aerosud team that works on the Aeroswift project. The team is made up of researchers and engineers from both the CSIR National Laser Centre and Aerusud.
Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom (second right), recently visited the CSIR for the launch of the additive manufacturing capability. The Deputy Minister is flanked by CSIR CEO Dr Sibusiso Sibisi (right), Hardus Greyling, CSIR National Laser Centre Operations Manager (left), Dr Ndumiso Congo, Manager of the CSIR National Laser Centre, Dr Paul Potgieter from Aerosud and Dr Daniel Esser of the CSIR.
The establishment of a local additive-manufacturing capability shows how partnerships – between government, industry, science councils and universities – can accelerate technology development and its integration into global supply chains, said Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom. The Deputy Minister was speaking at the launch of Aeroswift, a titanium additive-manufacturing project and the inauguration of the Aerosud Innovation Centre.
Additive-manufacturing is the process of joining materials to make objects from three-dimensional data, one layer at a time.
“My department,” he added, “will continue to support projects like the additive-manufacturing venture, as part of our Titanium Industrial Development Programme.”
According to the Deputy Minister, the launch of the project is a milestone for the attainment of the objectives of two of the department’s key initiatives, the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy and the Advanced Metals Initiative. Titanium additive-manufacturing is an important technology building block of the Titanium Industrial Development Programme, noted the Deputy Minister.
He continued, “Over the past five years, the DST has supported the development of capability for a successful titanium metal industry in our country. This development of a titanium industry across the value-chain – from the raw mineral to primary metal powder and ultimately to the forming of components – is one of the initiatives in a portfolio of industry development opportunities that the DST is championing.”
He said that this was not only crucial for the development of our country's aerospace industry, but also for enabling his department to achieve the objectives of government’s New Growth Path, the National Beneficiation Strategy and the Industrial Policy Action Plan.
South Africa is the second largest supplier of the mineral ore that can produce titanium metal but adds little value to the mineral before export. Titanium is a sought-after metal especially in the aerospace industry where aircraft and satellites need to be lighter in weight to consume less fuel. The CSIR has developed a novel process whereby titanium metal powder can be produced from the country’s abundant mineral resource. Currently, the primary titanium process is being commercialised and a pilot plant will be built during this year.
Titanium additive-manufacturing is an important technology building block of the DST's titanium strategy. The production of titanium near-net-shaped parts directly from titanium powder is the ultimate goal and competitive advantage on which the strategy is based. “We understand that additive-manufacturing involves using laser technology to join multiple-layered cross-sections of a material to make complex three-dimensional parts, such as those used in aircraft,” he said. “This technology has the potential to introduce major efficiency improvements for the aviation industry, offering the possibility of vastly reducing material waste, compared to the conventional process in which parts are machined from a solid piece of material.”
“Key to the development of the department’s titanium strategy are the expertise and resources in the national network of universities, science councils and private sector companies collaborating in the centre of competence on titanium,” noted the Deputy Minister.
Additive-manufacturing is where we break new ground, said CSIR Chief Executive Officer, Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, adding, “This is a watershed moment; it represents the essence of what the CSIR is all about.”
CSIR National Laser Centre Manager, Dr Ndumiso Cingo, said, “I can hardly contain my excitement. Today is the dawn of a new era for us and our partners in industry and academia.”
One of the projects with the potential to make the country a frontrunner in additive-manufacturing is project UMUVI – an isiZulu word for ‘wasp’. A wasp basically constructs its nest from wood pulp or mud using additive-manufacturing principles. CSIR Laser Materials Processing Manager, Dr Federico Sciammarella, said that the centre’s shared vision was to stimulate jobs in South Africa through laser-based additive-manufacturing.