South Africa has the technological capabilities in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to compete with leading countries in the world in unlocking immense potential to create industries and opportunities for people.
This is according to Sechaba Tsubella, acting director for advanced manufacturing technologies at the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
Tsubella’s sentiments about South Africa’s capability in the 4IR were informed by reflection at the 20th international conference of the Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa (Rapdasa), hosted by the Central University of Technology (CUT), Free State.
“As an industry we are still growing. I am confident that we are the leading country in Africa,” said Tsubella.
The three-day conference focused on additive manufacturing (AM), commonly known as 3D printing, as the catalyst for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
It was held at the Emoya Estate in Bloemfontein from 6 to 8 November under the theme, “Creating the future of manufacturing – layer by layer,” with the sub-theme, “Establishing the 3D printing process chain.”
“AM is an emerging technology that is rapidly taking over from other manufacturing techniques,” said Prof. André van der Merwe, chairperson of Rapdasa at the Stellenbosch University.
“This requires us to focus on what has been done so far, where it should be going and how it is accelerating.
“We also need to look at how it can add value to the process chain to ensure the product is usable and customisable to the end user’s requirements.”
Van der Merwe added that a major challenge that came with a rapidly growing AM sector was skills shortage.
Technicians are still being trained in traditional ways of manufacturing, which creates a need for technician skills training and accreditation programmes.
“The learning needs to happen at school level. A suggestion was made that every school library should have an idea-to-product facility where learners can learn the basic principles of AM, and this can be done without changing the curriculum,” said Van der Merwe.
Participants from industry, research and development institutions, academia and government converged at the conference and showcased their work, shared knowledge and met with experts in the field.
Industries in the spotlight included the aerospace, sport and leisure, medical and biomedical, automotive and architecture industry.
The highlight of the conference was the 3D printing design competition aimed at creating awareness about and recognition for AM. The theme was “Design-ability” and focused on technology that can impact people’s everyday life and help promote a barrier free life.
The winners, who received 3D printers, were Eric Newby from the Free State (medical category), Zaahid Imraan from the Eastern Cape (transport), Jaco van Wyk from Gauteng (design), Marliza Visser from Gauteng (hobby) and Dr Sean Poole from the Eastern Cape (engineering).