As a means to add value to the casting industry in South Africa, the Metal Casting Technology Station (MCTS) – located at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) – provides technical services such as testing, failure analyses, research and development (R&D) work in laboratories, as well as product development.
Former MCTS station manager Farouk Varachia says the station provides two key functions for the industry – technology transfer, and providing a platform for small and medium-sized businesses to have access to university facilities.
He explains that technology transfer, which includes technology demonstration and applied research, entails using the university’s resources, including professors and lecturers who provide a service for the industry.
“The MCTS uses students to form part of the projects that it undertakes in industry. “This provides a platform for young engineers to become more involved in projects and provides access to industry- related projects.
“This access allows businesses to be able to complete R&D work using university facilities, as well as providing access to new technologies,” Varachia adds.
He explains that the MCTS tries to access and implement the latest technologies regarding castings at the university. Where technologies cannot be implemented because they are too costly, the MCTS identifies partners or other universities that have the technology, enabling access to the entrepreneur.
“The industry is made aware of new and available technologies through technical meetings that the South African Institute of Foundrymen holds, as well as technical workshops and conferences that the MCTS manages.”
An example of a new technology is embracing new added manufacturing as well as three-dimensional (3D) design, says Metal Casting Conference core committee member Dalmari McQueen.
“The foundry processes are using traditional methods, which involve pattern making; however, this new technology eliminates pattern making and directly moulds with the robot into the sand.”
For businesses that need small volumes, and prototypes which are typically valves and aftermarket products, McQueen adds that this technology is an ideal process to shorten the lead time.
“There is definitely a business opportunity for foundries using new technologies. Foundries who embrace the technology will be able to react to the market faster and without needing to manufacture a pattern first,” she enthuses.
She adds that 3D technology has been developed, but this technology will be transferred to the South African industry only within the first half of 2017.
MCTS Graduate Programme
Varachia says the MCTS will also undertake a graduate programme for experiential learning where students will be placed at a company as part of their practical training.
He enthuses that two years ago, the MCTS placed graduate engineers from South Africa in Germany, where they completed their master’s course.
He adds that these students are now back in the country and have been placed within the industry, which means that the industry is now also benefiting through these students.
The MCTS has also been instrumental in working with the Department of Engineering and Metallurgy to introduce a master’s course at UJ in foundry technology which will be offered in 2018. This course is a dual degree course between UJ and the University of Freiberg, Varachia adds.
The MCTS has ISO9001 accreditation, and is the first unit within the university to have this accreditation.
“We are also looking at ISO7225 accreditation. These accreditations add further value in being able to provide a professional service for the industry,” Varachia concludes.