The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) plans to showcase its casting, powder consolidation and related manufacturing technologies and products at this year’s National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers (Naacam) Show, which will be held from March 12 to 14 at the Durban International Convention Centre, in KwaZulu-Natal.
This is the second time that the CSIR will exhibit at the biennial event. CSIR research group leader Dr Sagren Govender, who leads the Advanced Casting Technologies research group in the Light Metals Competency Area (CA) tells Engineering News that he anticipates establishing closer relationships with the manufacturing sector and original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs). He also notes that he looks forward to attending a seminar on the new automotive industry incentive scheme, if a presentation is to be held on this topic.
The Light Metals CA research team comprises highly experienced and qualified researchers with access to advanced infrastructure for innovation in materials science and manufacturing.
According to Govender, the Light Metals CA develops a fundamental understanding of the materials and manufacturing technologies and, with that knowledge, assists the local industry in optimising or improving manufacturing processes.
Govender explains that the manufacturing processes that the Light Metals CA currently focuses on are powder consolidation and casting technologies. The powder metallurgy technologies (PMT) research group focuses on consolidation of metal powders into shapes. The results obtained from the research can be applied to the general powder consolidation industry to help companies localise manufacturing for components produced using these technologies.
On the powder consolidation side, Govender says that the two technologies, press and sinter (P&S) and metal injection moulding (MIM), which are the focus of the PMT research group, are very relevant to the automotive industry. “P&S involves compacting the powder into a shape and sintering at high temperature to consolidate into a solid. For metal injection moulding, the powder is mixed with a binder and is then injected into a shape in a steel mould. This is followed by a debinding and sintering process.” Both these processes are suitable for high-volume production with P&S used extensively in the production of less complex small engine components, while MIM is used for complex metal components.
The advanced casting technologies research group focuses on investment casting and permanent mould casting. The CSIR has industrial scale investment casting; high pressure die-casting (HPDC) and gravity casting facilities that offer it the capability to perform fundamental and applied research and development (R&D) on these technologies. While permanent mould casting (HPDC and gravity casting) is used extensively in the automotive component manufacturing industry, investment casting can be used for volume production of complex shape components, like turbines for turbochargers, and product development.
The CSIR provides technical advice to local manufacturers, in particular the foundry industry, regarding localisation. “If there are components that can be manufactured locally, the knowledge that is generated from our research activities provides us with the capability to assist companies with the implementation of new technologies to localise manufacturing or to improve/optimise manufacturing processes to facilitate localisation,” adds Govender. Localisation refers to the manufacture of components/products within South Africa.
For example, the CSIR currently provides technical support and advice to KPL Die Casting regarding component localisation. In return, the CSIR benefits from the use of one of KPL’s tilt-casting machines for R&D.
Govender adds that to localise manufacturing in the automotive industry, local manufacturers have to satisfy the OEM quality requirements. CSIR can provide technical support to do some of the testing required to meet OEM requirements. Tests include materials testing and mechanical testing, which reveals the properties of a material under dynamic or static force.
“Within our mechanical testing laboratory, we can provide materials properties testing, component level testing and subsystem assembly level testing. The mechanical testing laboratory which is ISO 17025 accredited for several test methods will ensure that all tests are done in line with this standard,” notes Govender. CSIR can also provide support in related welding technologies, and evaluation of structural and component failures to resolve production-related problems.