The range of advanced machines in the Rapid Product Development Laboratory (RPDLab) in the Department of Industrial Engineering can be utilised in the fields of reverse engineering, computer-aided design, quality control and rapid product development. This well-equipped Laboratory places it in an excellent position to make a giant contribution towards the tooling industry in South Africa.
The RPDLab already works closely with the tooling industry to expand skills and expertise and to improve competitiveness of manufacturers in especially the small, medium and micro industries. This is done by presenting workshops, industry days and short courses, as well as carrying out research and providing services to industry.
In 2004 the Toolmaking Association of South Africa (TASA) was established as a representative body for the South African tool, die and mould making industry. TASA was the big impetus behind the creation of a national programme aimed at strengthening the above-mentioned industry in South Africa. This is in line with the focus that the National Development Plan places on manufacturing in industry.
On order to expand expertise in the tooling industry, TASA provided a mandate to the National Tooling Initiative (NTIP), a non-profit initiative, to develop short courses for training and to establish centres where training can be presented. The excellent machinery and expertise in the RPDLab makes this facility ideally suited to be set up and operated as such a centre. Therefore, the RPDLab has become involved in the NTIP programme and is currently being organised and equipped to train artisans and toolmakers for industry. Future prospects include the presentation of two two-year programmes comprising tailored modules for the training of Master Artisans and Masters in Tooling.
The RPDLab has several partners, the two most important probably being the Institute for Advanced Tooling (IAT) and Fraunhofer IWU. The Institute for Advanced Tooling (Western Cape) is housed in the RPDLab and also contributes towards the acceleration and expansion of research and development in the tooling industry. Cooperation between industry and the RPDLab and its partners is excellent. This cooperation implies, firstly, that the RPDLab and its partners do not compete with industry, but that they specifically support industry with design, manufacturing and research. Secondly, the RPDLab provides industry access to its expensive machinery, which the small, medium and micro industries cannot afford to acquire.
Dr Tiaan Oosthuizen heads the research group in the RPDLab. The cutting-edge machinery in the RPDLab comprises a Hermle C40 5 Axis Milling Centre, an M2 Laser Cusing Machine, a DMG Mori 3 Axis CNC Milling Machine, an Agies Charmilles CUT20 P EDM Wire and an Agies SPU EDM Spark.
The demanding Mission Statement as cited requires – apart of well-educated people – an adequate technological base. In accordance with these requirements following state-of-the-art equipment was acquired:
All this equipment was acquired directly through the DST from the IAT-Programme or – since 2009 – through TIA from its Technology Station Programme (TSP). The total value of this technological equipment exceeds R 15 000 000. In combination with the available high-end hard- and software including various measuring equipment for reverse engineering and part inspection acquired by the RPD Laboratory over the years mainly through various THRIP projects, these technological base provides all necessary pre-conditions for high-level manufacturing research and industry support. Two EDM machines, funded by the National Tooling Initiative Programme (NTIP), are due to be installed in February 2015 in the new CNC- Laboratory. In this way these facilities will be elevated to a Technological Research, Training and Demonstration Centre for Advanced Manufacturing with an Emphasis on the Tooling Industry.
As a result of the establishment and development of the IAT-SU the Faculty of Engineering and its Department of Industrial Engineering as well as the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Mechatronics in particular gained direct access to this, on the international scale, state-of-the-art technological base for advanced manufacturing. It not only enabled the actual research but became also catalyst for large collaborative projects on national level, as well as attracted vital international cooperation. It this way the SU established itself as the leading University in South Africa in manufacturing related research with a particular focus on machining and additive manufacturing. Most projects were funded directly by DST or its agencies such as TIA, NRF or CSIR and can be summarised as follows:
As can be seen from this summary, the equipment related total amount of funding received to date is exceeding R 18 Million. Some further R 7 000 000 has been confirmed over the next three years period. All this funding has been used for project execution including student support.
The academic output with regards to knowledge generation, including contributions from Department of Mechanical Engineering (Dr D. Blaine & Dr T. Becker) can be summarised as follows:
Of a specific interest is the CIRP Collaborative Article “Effect of cutting edge preparation of coated tools on their performance in milling various materials” published in the CIRP Journal of Manufacturing Science and Technology. It has altogether 26 co-authors and its value from a credit point of view is very small. However, it shows the quality of our research on the international scale, which has to be fully credited to the quality of our equipment as well to the way of experiment design and execution. Another CIRP collaborative article, this time on Additive Manufacturing is due to be published later this year.
Journal Papers (peer reviewed)
Peer-reviewed Conference Proceedings
Keynote or Plenary Lectures at Conferences
Theses and Dissertations Passed for Higher Degrees
BSc Eng Final Year Projects
The academic output regarding human capital development, again including postgraduates from Dr D. Blaine, can be summarised as follows:
A full list of the related Academic Output categorised in Knowledge Generation – peer reviewed journal articles, conference proceedings as well as MSc/PhD dissertations, and HCD – MSc and PhD degrees, is shown here.
MSc Eng Graduates
Currently registered students – expected graduation date