Photonics prototyping facility
Photonics is revolutionising the 21st century with its novel and influential technologies. Even though it is a driving force in accelerating economic growth, South Africa and the rest of Africa have a miniscule market share of this growing economy. One of the major contributing factors to this lack of impact is that, frequently, many invented photonics technologies are not commercialised, let alone prototyped in Africa. The barriers to cross this innovation chasm are a lack of a skilled workforce – scientific and business expertise needed to industrialise technologies – and a lack of funding to develop the necessary infrastructure and facilities.
The Photonics Prototyping Facility (PPF) at the CSIR is aiming to address this problem by providing world-class facilities, technical support, equipment and scarce skills to assist in industrialising these untapped technologies. The PPF supports the development of photonics-based products, specifically the prototype-development phase, to test the market for acceptance of the planned product. Several economic sectors make use of these technologies, including industrial manufacturing, energy, lighting and displays, information and communications, defence, security and sensors, and life sciences. Through the PPF programme, the CSIR makes a range of expertise and skills available to develop these prototypes.
PPF infrastructure/tools and processes for SMME support
Technical expertise for photonics prototyping:
The PPF has capabilities to support:
- The design and development of portable photonics-based point-of-care diagnostics for HIV and TB;
- The design and development of a range of compact laser sources;
- The design and development of laser-based systems for manufacturing, 3D printing and other materials processing applications;
- The development of laser-based devices for detection and illumination applications, specifically lidar and other atmospheric monitoring applications;
- The development of photonics-based sensor products, for application in a wide range of applications; and
- Mechanical, electronics and industrial design capabilities to support prototype development.
Through the PPF programme, stakeholders will have access to the following facilities and skills:
- World-class laser, optical and workshop facilities: Three class 1 000 clean rooms fully equipped to support photonic-based product development;
- Technical support: Electronic, mechanical and industrial design, as well as mechanical manufacturing facilities;
- Equipment: Optical components, diagnostic equipment and other specialised components – consideration will be given to the purchasing/accessing of unique pieces of equipment for selected stakeholders;
- Scarce skills: Knowledge and experience in optics and photonics, and assistance with photonics-related prototype design and testing; and
- Access to CSIR expertise in the form of licensing advice, laser engineers, optical engineers, systems engineers and industrial engineers.