AM in Africa

Yesterday, I recently returned from my 22nd visit to Africa. Twenty of them have been to South Africa where additive manufacturing activity is the strongest. In fact, I estimate that 99% of AM work on the continent has occurred in the country. Some limited activity is underway in Botswana, Egypt, Namibia, and Nigeria. Adoption has been especially strong at Central University of Technology, Vaal University of Technology, Stellenbosch University, and North-West University—all in South Africa.

The Government of South Africa has been supportive of AM, with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) doing the most in a hands-on way. Among the companies that are leading the way is Aerosud, an 800-person supplier of parts and assemblies to Airbus and Boeing. Many other companies are benefiting from AM parts, but they do not own high-end equipment. A reseller network of companies for AM products has been in place for many years.

Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein was the first to install multiple high-end industrial machines in South Africa. Its world-class Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing (CRPM), shown in the following two images, continues to have the largest commercial impact in the country. Last year, the CRPM completed 580 projects consisting of ~13,500 AM parts. Twenty-five percent of the projects were medical cases, most of high complexity. The centre received ISO 13485 quality certification for medical devices in 2016, which has contributed to its capabilities.

 

 

CUT and its impressive CRPM served as host to last week’s three-day course on design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) conducted by Wohlers Associates. Twenty-five engineers and others participated, and many were advanced in their knowledge and experience in AM and DfAM when they arrived. Wohlers Associates has conducted many of these courses, the first in August 2015 for NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. One exercise involved the redesign of a manifold by the participants on the first day. Five of them were manufactured in titanium and delivered for inspection by the third day. Thanks to our good friends at the CRPM for helping to make this happen.

 

 

The previous images show the conventional manifold design (left) and five versions of the manifold produced by AM. One of the primary objectives of this hands-on, DfAM exercise was to reduce weight and substantially reduce or eliminate the need for support material, which can add substantial time and cost to a part. We are thankful to those who participated, for how engaging they were, and for their favorable feedback. It was one of our very best three-day DfAM courses. Thanks also to CUT and its CRPM for organizing the event and serving as such great hosts.

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