The University of Johan-nesburg’s (UJ’s) Metal Casting Technology Station (MCTS) is using the art of metal casting to unlock the potential of small local businesses in South Africa. Through an initiative called the Community Casting Project (CCP), funded in part by the National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN), the MCTS finds ways to empower local jewellery manufacturers with casting technology, giving them the opportunity to turn their craft into a commercially viable business.
The CCP is aimed at help-ing rural and peri-urban women and youth at different centres that are linked to local job creation initiatives. The project leaders are called in to assess the women’s work and determine ways to inter-vene with the appropriate technology.
Under normal circumstances, craftwork, such as jewellery making, becomes an expensive trade because of added costs as a result of the time needed to make items. One of the many ways that the CCP assists is by transferring mould making and pewter casting skills and technology to speed up the manufacturing process. The items can then be reproduced at a faster rate, making the business a viable one.
It also turns the products into saleable items. “With rapid technology, these women can make better, more intricate items,” says MCTS station manager Farouk Varachia. “What we would like to do for them is give their products added value.”
The CCP also provides the women with better materials such as pewter and silica-based raw material, which is the main ingredient of glass products. This enables the women to branch out into making other products, like ornaments, further empowering their businesses. “It opens up new and more profitable markets,” says Varachia.
The MCTS was established on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology, in 2004, under the UJ Faculty of Engineering as a nonprofit outreach institution. It is funded by the Tech-nology Innovation Agency and provides technology transfer assistance to small, medium-sized and microenterprises in the metal casting industry.