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Jun 01, 2012

Physical simulation of manufacturing processes at UCT

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A thermal-mechanical test system, the Gleeble 3800, has been installed at the Centre for Materials Engineering at the University of Cape Town under the auspices of National Research Foundation special equipment award. The Gleeble 3800, worth $1.05-million, is a fully integrated digital closed-loop control thermal and mechanical testing system, which is able to closely simulate actual industrial metal processes, including hot rolling, forging and extrusion.

The equipment will place the centre at the forefront of research into the behaviour of materials during manufacture, enabling researchers to investigate novel materials processing and the processing of novel materials.

The direct-resistance heating system of the Gleeble 3800 can heat specimens at rates of up to 10 000 ºC/s, or it can hold steady-state equilibrium temperatures. High cooling rates can be applied to quench after testing. The high-compression capacity enables the simulation of the plane-strain condition in the roll-gap during metal rolling and, thus, provides a means to closely simulate the indus- trial process without the need for costly plant trials.

The research and training of postgraduate students will provide a knowledge base and a core of local expertise in the science that under- pins manufacture.

“By emphasising technical innovation in our student training, and interacting with local industries, we will develop skills in innovative manufacturing and production,” says Centre for Materials Engineering director Professor Rob Knutsen.

“It will provide opportunities for collaboration with the local metals-producing industries that have not been possible before owing to the limitations of existing equipment in South Africa. Examples include deformation and recrystallisation texture studies on stainless steels and aluminium, which are critical for developing and producing competitive commodity products.

“The research that will be possible with the use of the Gleeble 3800 will directly impact on the competitiveness and growth of the existing local metals-producing industries,” says Knutsen.

Further, a new research thrust, in the defor- mation processing of titanium alloys, has been initiated to foster the development of a titanium metal-producing industry in South Africa that will create additional opportunities for employment and economic growth. This activity is sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology through the national Titanium Centre of Competence.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
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