Sep 7, 2016 | By Benedict

Garth Williams, Director of Advanced Manufacturing Technology at South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology, has detailed South Africa’s investments in 3D printing over the last few years. The public sector has invested around R358m ($26m) in AM research and development since 2014.

Project Aeroswift

According to Williams, investments in additive manufacturing made by South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology are expected to leverage around 380 million rand ($27m) in industrial co-financing, while creating around R110m ($8m) in revenue and supporting at least 80 small, medium, and micro enterprises by 2019. The country’s public sector has collectively invested around R358m ($26m) in additive manufacturing research and development since 2014.

Some particular areas of interest for the Department of Science and Technology include the development of titanium medical implants and aerospace components, polymer additive manufacturing, and design for additive manufacturing. The department has committed R30.7m ($2m) to a collaborative research and development program focused on these three areas, as well as the more general goal of increasing the end use of 3D printing technology within manufacturing.

One of the Department of Science and Technology’s most exciting additive manufacturing challenges at present is Project Aeroswift, a partnership between Aerosud ITC and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research National Laser Center. Since 2012, R107m ($8m) of Department of Science and Technology money has been invested in this project, which is aiming to develop a commercial, large-scale, metal 3D printing system. The system will have a 2m x 60cm x 60cm build envelope, will print titanium and other metal parts for the aviation industry and others, and will purportedly print much faster than comparable systems.

In Bloemfontein, the capital city of the Free State of South Africa province, an additive manufacturing strategy for South Africa was recently launched. The strategy consists of an R&D program geared towards 3D printing research, development, innovation, and infrastructure, and identifies four priority areas: the medical and aerospace markets, new material and technology development, technology to improve competitiveness in traditional manufacturing, and a small business support and development program. “The investment has imbued SA with specific world-class capabilities, positioning the country to participate in sub-sectors with high growth potential in AM, such as aerospace applications and medical and dental devices and implants,” said the Department of Science and Technology in a statement.

The Industrial Development Corporation’s (IDC’s) new industries strategic business unit has said that it will attempt to align its additive manufacturing industry development efforts with the new strategy, as it aims to leverage the additive manufacturing industry and technology development work already performed by the department. This will, according to the IDC, lead to faster and more widespread adoption of AM technology, creating jobs and promoting global competitiveness. According to Williams, it is hoped that other government departments will also align their investment plans accordingly in order to maximize the effectiveness of the strategy.

The South African private sector has also been making strides in additive manufacturing, with several independent 3D printing service bureaus opening in recent years. At these bureaus, designers and engineers can access high-end 3D printing equipment and receive advice from professionals in order to improve their own business operations through rapid prototyping, limited-run production, and other means.

Despite the growth in additive manufacturing across both the public and private sectors, Williams has warned that South Africa cannot afford to make errors. “As a late adopter of additive manufacturing technologies, SA needs to invest wisely,” the Director of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies cautioned. “It is imperative for the public and private sectors to coordinate and synergize efforts in the identified niche areas where we have or can create a competitive advantage.”

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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