Govt debuts 3D printing strategy
As part of the objective to create new manufacturing industries, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has launched SA's Additive Manufacturing (AM) strategy.
Also known as 3D printing, AM is the process by which digital 3D design data is used to build up a component in layers by depositing material.
According to the DST, the strategy aims to identify future market opportunities and products in which AM technology development is required to position SA as a competitor in the global market.
SA began investing in AM technology in the early 1990s. The public sector has collectively invested around R358 million in 3D printing R&D and systems since 2014, says the department.
The DST's director in advanced manufacturing, Garth Williams, says additive manufacturing is a technology that straddles the current and fourth industrial revolution.
Williams says AM can be deployed within industry in a standalone fashion for product development, prototyping and manufacturing of structural parts and assemblies. "It is also a digital technology alongside other fourth industrial revolution technologies such as big data, the industrial Internet of things, cyber security, autonomous and collaborative robots, and augmented reality."
The DST had also committed R30.7 million towards a collaborative R&D programme in AM research, development and innovation projects and infrastructure.
"This programme focuses on R&D and innovation support in AM of titanium medical implants and aerospace components and polymer AM in design. It also seeks to increase the adoption of AM as an accepted and viable manufacturing technology," says the department.
It adds: "This investment has imbued SA with specific world-class capabilities, positioning the country to participate in sub-sectors with high growth potential in AM, such as aerospace applications and medical and dental devices and implants."
According to Hardus Greyling, operations manager of the National Laser Centre at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, 3D printing has grown very rapidly in SA over the past two decades.
"AM is a technology that is rapidly growing in usefulness and capability, and SA is no exception," he says.