Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011


at South Africa’s longest established independent steel and stainless steel service centre. For a reliable and full service in ferrous and non-ferrous metal, contact us on (011) 839 2917, email, fax to email 086 676 6905 or visit our website: Please call us to discuss your specific ferrous and non-ferrous metal requirements.


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Aluminium - light, strong and beautiful


Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011

Jan/Feb 2011

Tel: (011) 976 8600 Fax: (011) 394 2471 Email:

Puma Machine Tools

Cover Story
4 8 Cat Among the Pigeons Reduction to Ridiculous

29 Revolutionary Welding System

Software and Design Composite Materials
10 Perfectly Composed Composites

31 A Taste for Sight 34 SAIW News

12 Polyurethane Wear Protection

Industry News
35 International News 36 Industry News

TDM Today
(Tool, Die & Mould Making) 17 CEO’s Comments 18 The Myth of “Expensive” Moulds 20 Put on a Coat 23 TDM Powered Students 24 TDM News

Endorsing Bodies
• SAIMechE (SA Institution of Mechanical Engineering) • AFSA (Aluminium Federation of SA) • CorriSA • NTIP • TASA (Toolmakers Association of South Africa) • Intsimbi

Castings, Forgings, Furnaces & Refractories
25 The Heat is On


All rights reserved. No editorial matter published in “Advanced Materials Today” may be reproduced in any form or language without written permission of the publishers. While every effort is made to ensure accurate reproduction the editor, authors, publishers and their employees or agents shall not be responsible or in any way liable for any errors, omissions or inaccuracies in the publication whether arising from negligence or otherwise or for any consequences arising therefrom. The inclusion or exclusion of any product does not mean that the publisher or editorial board advocates or rejects its use either generally or in any particular field or fields.

The monthly circulation is 6 034
Proprietor and Publisher: PROMECH PUBLISHING Tel: (011) 781-1401 Fax: (011) 781-1403 E-mail: Website: Managing Editor: Susan Custers Editor: Raymond Campling Advertising Sales: Di Bluck

DTP: Zinobia Docrat and Sean Bacher Disclaimer Neither PROMECH Publishing nor its endorsing bodies are responsible for the opinions expressed by individuals.
Printed by: Typo Colour Printing Tel: (011) 402-3468

Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011



Cat Among the Pigeons
Some years ago when Puma Machine Tools took over the agency for Doosan Infracore it set the cat among the pigeons by selling high quality, technologically advanced machines at affordable prices backed up by a professional organisation.

Within the space of a decade the range of turning and milling machines has proven itself and when the Korean parent company underwent a merger to become Doosan Infracore the market eagerly awaited the arrival of a wider range of machines.

Puma power

Taking its name from probably the most successful range of turning machines the country has seen in recent times, Puma, the new distributors leveraged from an existing base. To date more than 600 machines are doing service in the country’s production houses and engineering rooms. Mike Lee, of Puma Machine Tools lets us in on some of the secrets of success regarding Doosan Infracore’s fast rise to the top of the sales charts locally. “Although the brand was built on its value for money offering some years ago, it is no longer the main motivation for buying machines from the Doosan Infracore stable. In most cases the decisions are based on careful buying decisions where money is well spent on good quality, reliable machines,” says Mike.


n similar fashion to the motor car industry in South Africa, the machine tool industry was introduced to Korean built machines about 15 years ago when Daewoo Machine Tools hit local shores at budget prices with promises of good quality and good production rates.

Wide range

Decisions are based on careful buying decisions where money is well spent

Puma Machine Tools leverages from the Korean company’s large product offering and is able to hold stock of a wide range of machines. This enables them to service clients requirements quickly without lengthy lead times and gives the company a definite advantage in the South African market.

Doosan Infracore’s

DNM range is a top


Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011

seller in South Africa


The legendary range of Puma turning centres established Doosan Infracore as a leading supplier of machine tools in South Africa. The MX series provides multitasking abilities and milling and turning abilities on a single machine

“Our complete range of machines is impressive, with certain machines in-stock ready to be installed by our team of service technicians. The complete range includes vertical and horizontal turning machines and machining centres, as well as horizontal boring mills and Swiss type (sliding head) turning centres. Doosan also has specialised production machines in the turning and machining fields to accomodate the customer’s needs. Each machine comprises of various options so you can order a machine to suit your requirements from the factory,” says Mike.

In the world of high-volume production, time is money
He adds that the Puma turning machines still account for a major share of the machines sold by Puma Machine Tools, but the DNM range of vertical machining centres has in recent times become the star of the show and captivated the market. It is currently one of the top selling machines in the country. DNM machines are considered to be standard machines for everyday production type applications and have found favour locally for their exceptional reliability and accuracy.

Advanced beyond price

Despite the affordable price-tag the DNM range has advanced features that give it a definite advantage over its rivals. “The features that set it apart from the competition are its rapid tool changing, linear motion guide way and the rigidity of the bed that gives maximum stiffness for precision work. This rigidity leads to better surface finishing and improved contour definition. It allows more accurate work in less time as well. In the world of high-volume production, time is money,” he says. High speed spindles are an option and offer the added benefit of effectively cutting hard metals or
Puma V550 vertical turning machine

Advanced Materials Today

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Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011


specialised materials. More advanced machines with capabilities for almost any requirement are also kept in stock and include turning centres for general engineering to advanced 4-axis turning centres for high production workshops.

Local solutions

Worldwide expertise

Doosan Infracore machines are manufactured with high productivity, reliability and ease of operation in mind. Together with high performance and the broad product range offered it has contributed to their local popularity. “We stock a wide range of Doosan Infracore machines to suit any application from small workshop environments requiring the bare basics, to large volume production lines in factories producing motor vehicles, aerospace parts and heavy engineering. “Our machines are currently used extensively in production plants, tool, die and mould making, precision engineering and general engineering works around the country. Where different or specialised applications are required the company readily calls on the global expertise of Doosan Infracore.

“Doosan Infracore in Korea has invested heavily in establishing an Optimal Solutions Centre (OSC) where technologies required in different fields are researched and developed. This centre includes the Die and Mould Technology Centre, Multi-processing Technology Centre, Reliability Research Centre and System Engineering,” Mike says.

Able to offer the complete solution to our customer’s needs
Over and above the research and development carried out by their Korean counterparts, Puma Machine Tools sales and service staff are able to offer the complete solution to our customer’s needs from standard machines to a complete turnkey project solution. “Whatever the application we have the machines, expertise and solutions to match the requirement,” concludes Mike.
Puma Machine Tools, Mike Lee, Tel: (011) 976 8600, Fax: (011) 394 2471, Email:

Lynx 220L: Designed to produce small parts with unsurpassed accuracy

Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011



Look at cost savings achieved when using effective nesting system software and the initial price tag can become ridiculously affordable. An effective system not only saves money on reducing material wastage when cutting sheet or plates, but reduces lifecycle costs and improves effectiveness from the start of the process to delivery.

Reduction To Ridiculous
This strategy has paid off for Mecad Systems who rank nearly all the country’s top service centres and fabricators as their clients on SigmaNest software.

ccording to Hannes Pretorius, product manager for SigmaNest software at computer aided engineering specialists, Mecad Systems (Pty) Ltd, fabricators and service centres stand to save as much as 10% on overall costs. He is even prepared to go “on record” with “Advanced Materials Today” to guarantee significant savings no matter what other software package they are already using. He explains that companies using manual techniques or OEM software bundled with machine tools often initially object to paying a premium for software. “This is where we like to reduce to ridiculous the price of our software when compared to savings,” he chuckles.



“In tough times effective nesting software is not a nice to have it is an absolute Hannes Pretorius necessity. It is not uncommon for our clients to recoup the outlay for the purchase of our systems within 3 months due to time and material savings.

Fabricators and service centres stand to save as much as 10% on overall costs
“Beyond that it allows more accurate quotations to be delivered quickly which means the client can be confident that they are not over or under quoting for a job, while getting the quotation on the desk of the decision maker quicker than through conventional means. “It is a fact SigmaNest integrates with: that buy- • Plasma ing is often done on the • Laser principal of • Oxyfuel the buyer • Waterjet taking the “first most • Router s u i t a b l e ” • Punch/combo quote, rather than the • Knife best quote overall. With SigmaNest the client’s quote will probably arrive well before competitive quotes anyway and it will be realistic,” explains Hannes.

Nesting software minimised waste when cutting

All-round package

In fact it is the main strategy that is used by the company to drive the software into the market. The team from Mecad Systems systematically go about showing – and proving – how reduction in material alone will pay off the capital outlayed to buy their system. But, according to Hannes, the real coup comes when they show would-be clients how the system can be used to automatically generate quotations that are 99% accurate within minutes, or how it speeds the operation of the machines through more effective routing of cuttings paths.

SigmaNest provides optimal cutting patterns


Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011


What is nesting

In its basic form nesting software is a CAD/CAM designed to numerically control cutting machines to work out the most efficient layout when cutting steel or other materials. It will group the shapes required into the smallest possible area to minimise wastage.

Nesting software is a CAD/CAM designed to numerically control cutting machines
SigmaNest and other advanced nesting International users software suites on • 1 Caterpillar the other hand do this and a whole • 2 Winnebago lot more. Mecad’s • 3 Boeing offering will not • 4 AM Castle only nest or group the shapes, but will • 5 Chicago Bridge and Iron route the cutter to the quickest path. It will automatically assess off-cuts and if suitable, will recode them and book them back into stock. Then, the clever package can automatically batch different jobs to sheets of the same material to ensure every last piece is used effectively. It keeps track of the stock and can be used to generate highly accurate quotations using the materials available or in stock.

An operator’s view of SigmaNest software

Software history

SigmaNest has its origins in South Africa when Ben TerreBlanche started SigmaTEK Systems International here in South Africa before moving to the United States. Worldwide the company has gone from strength-tostrength and supplies several manufacturing optimisation suites to blue chip companies including design CAD/CAM systems nesting and efficiency software. Local agent, Mecad Systems (Pty) Ltd shares similar origins, Local users having also been start- • Macsteel VRN ed by Ben to represent • Trident Steel the parent company • Kulungile Metals Group locally. Today Mecad Systems employs a • VR Laser Services highly skilled team of • Laser Sprint mechanical engineers with vast experience in manufacturing process optimisation.

Home and dry

So, while some production managers slave over drawing, quotations and hot machines after hours, others are relaxing at home safe in the knowledge that their nesting software has production efficiency covered.
Mecad Systems (Pty) Ltd, Hannes Pretorius, Tel: 086 111 2236, Fax: 086 509 3329, Email:, Web:

Cutting efficiency is improved with SigmaNest

Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011



Perfectly Composed Composites


Composite materials are becoming increasingly commonplace in our modern society with uses as diverse as aircraft manufacture, ladders and large scale chemical process structures.
we decided to take it as a challenge to improve our products way beyond overseas competitors and at the same time reduce our price in order to still compete. “We bought, built, customised and designed software systems that give us a tremendous edge and in the process developed new techniques that enable us to save considerable amounts of weight while producing products that are up to 30% stronger than the commonly available equivalents.” New pultrusion techniques pioneered by Opticore are for obvious reasons trade secrets, but although Pierre will not be drawn on exactly how the weight savings and strength improvements have been achieved, he does concede that the new technology enables them to use far greater precision throughout

his is because the properties of the material can be formulated to achieve different desired characteristics such as corrosion resistance, non-conductivity of electricity or high strength and weight benefits.

Developed new techniques that enable us to save considerable amounts of weight
“Advanced Materials Today” speaks to Pierre Naudé, director of Opticore and investigates the many uses of the company’s pultruded products. Pultrusion is the process of pulling composite fibres through a thermoset resin bath and die-forming it to the desired shape and dimension. Opticore produces and markets an extensive range of profiles such as rods, strips and tubes, as well as channels, angles and profiles in different shapes and sizes as required. Colour pigments can be added and is often specified in order to denote certain uses or property grades for different manufacturing processes. The Pretoria based company is one of few suppliers in the country, but doesn’t have the easiest of times competing with imports from around the globe. The South African product is in many instances of superior quality, but cheap options are freely available and often find their way into the local manufacturing industry stock shelves.

Industries served by Opticore:
• Construction industry • Decking • Electrical environment • Marine / coastal applications • Military • Mining • Road marking • Trucking industry • Corrosion resistant equipment

Bull by the horns

“We are not phased and rather than bemoaning the fact that cheap imports are flooding the market,


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Jan/Feb 2011


the process and more accurately assess requirements and predict outcomes.

Lighter and stronger

“We have developed techniques that allow us to use less material to achieve desired results. In fact, if we compare standard products, our new lighter products are still considerably stronger,” he adds.

Quick turnaround times can be specified and development and prototyping is possible using the latest technology
Composites can be structured using various different fibre types and resins to achieve desired characteristics for a wide range of applications. Opticore products have found favour in the mining, energy, chemical industries as well as coastal applications where the benefits of composites overcome challenges posed by environmental or other factors that preclude traditional materials. It is the ability to compose differing fibres and bond those using different types of thermoset resins that make the product unique. It enables designers, manufacturers and builders to be the master of their own ingenuity because there is always a composite solution suitable to meet the challenge. Some of the outstanding properties achievable include: • • • • • • • • Electrically non-conductive Chemical and corrosion resistance Impact resistant UV radiation resistance Transparent to radio frequency High thermal insulation ability Flame retardant if required Versatility

Home advantage

An advantage of South African manufacture of the product is that quick turnaround times can be specified and development and prototyping is possible using the latest technology. Opticore has also extended its service to include design, as well as the virtual modelling to determine products characteristics before they are physically manufactured. The company also has resin transfer, dough, sheet and injection moulding, as well as filament winding processes to supplement its pultrusion business.
Opticore, Pierre Naudé, Tel: (012) 804 3036, Fax: (012) 804 2806, Email:, Web:

Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011



Polyurethane Wear Protection

Plant developers seeking the shortest possible time to a return on investment would do well to factor into their calculations the probability of premature plant wear.

Santosh Gunpath of Urethane Moulded Products

remature abrasion is regarded by many plant managers as the Number One problem facing plant operation today, causing unpredictable downtime and delayed return on investment.

Protection Today

The properties of polyurethane, its chemical composition and its suitability to an array of applications are often misunderstood. It is often perceived as a plastic, which it is not. Rather, it is an organic polymer containing the “urethane” group that is core to the chemical structure and normally grouped with rubbers, as both are elastomers and made from reacting a polyol with a di-isocyanate. Chain extenders are added to increase the molecular weight of the pre-polymer in order to form a usable elastic polymer.

To realise the full benefits of this material, plant managers need to work closely with a reputable polyurethane supplier
Figure 1: urethane group

Materials that can protect against asset wear should therefore be carefully considered. Polyurethane wear solutions are among the most effective of these, helping not only to meet the plant’s projected time to break-even, but also substantially reducing the expenditure required to operate the plant.

Variations of its composition make it suitable as a tough, abrasion resistant and load bearing material for the mining industry and, due to its chemical resistance, as a versatile material for the chemical industry. Its advantages include: • • • Good physical properties Tensile and tear strength elongation Rebound, chemical and solvent resistance (most important for the minerals industry)

Abrasion resistance

The polymer backbone chemistry influences these properties and it is the expertise and responsibility of the urethane supplier to select the most appropriate one for the customer. For example, polyether based polyurethanes with a polytetramethylene glycol polyol backbone have superior physical and mechanical properties over a polypropylene glycol polyol, delivering superior performance in applications that require high wear resistance. The organic structure of these polyols is shown in Figure 2. Polyester based polyurethanes, on the other hand, result in strong, tough oil resistant materials, but

Figure 2: polytetramethylene glycol (below) and polypropylene glycol (above)


Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011


lack hydrolysis resistance when compared with polyether. The three main isocyanates, these being toluene (TDI), diphenylmethane (MDI) and 1,5 naphthalene (NDI) diisocyanate, form the rigid phase of the polyurethane. Different isocyanates result in materials with differing properties with regard to hydrolysis, temperature and abrasion resistance. To realise the full benefits of this material, plant managers need to work closely with a reputable polyurethane supplier during both the design and operational phases of plant development, to develop wear solutions using urethanes with proven performance characteristics. This is because if not selected correctly, a polyurethane will not perform to the standard promised. In the recent past, for example, inexperienced vendors lacking an understanding of the complex nature, chemistry and production methods of this product have made unrealistic promises that have not been fulfilled. However, reputable vendors in the market are well

documented and well known. In applications not suited to polyurethane, all of them are usually able to recommend and supply suitable alternative products. The question is often asked as to what the temperature limitations of polyurethanes may be. Graph 1 illustrates the properties of polyurethane from -80 to +130 deg C.

Premature abrasion is regarded by many plant managers as the number one problem facing plant operation today
When production chemistry is scientifically matched to the application, polyurethanes can play a key role in helping plant managers, foremen and boilermakers protect plant from downtime due to either erosive or abrasive wear. It is the latter which is of primary concern to the metals industry. Graph 3 illustrates the comparisons (Böhm 1990) of abrasive wear of three common materials often considered instead of polyurethane: Impact angle has a major effect on erosive wear.

Graph 1: Effect of temperature on Polyurethane

Graph 2: Abrasive wear comparisons

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Graph 3: Effect of impingment angle on erosive view

Graph 4: Pipe ling wear test -16mm ore @3m/s

At 30 degrees, the wear on polyurethane is about 10 times greater than at 75 degrees (Hutchings and Deuchar 1987). This effect is illustrated in graph 2 and shows the importance of proper polyurethane selection.

Pipeline Protection

With process plants today being designed for higher throughput, the life expectancy of modern mining plant is tending towards brevity, depending on the size of the ore body and level of development.


Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011


Equipment is being designed for a certain life expectancy and no more. For this reason, engineers are moving away from traditional steel pipes towards more cost effective alternatives. However, steel pipes still have a place in plant sectors subjected to very high abrasion, for example tailings lines in mining, and ash removal lines in the energy sector. Pipe-lining is an aspect of wear protection that has been proven to be cost effective in terms of proofing the pipe against wear, so that the pipeline can have a durability correlating with the projected life of the plant. The most cost effective lining material on the market today is polyurethane, but for the lining to meet expectation, its composition and the actual lining of the pipe must be undertaken by a competent company. Competing products in the market include basalt and high density polyethylene (HDPE) but, applied correctly, a polyurethane lined pipe can outperform these rivals by a factor of three when conveying air, water, reagent, mine tailings and other process media. Graph 4 shows a test conducted at a phosphate plant in South America for a pipe lining application yielded the following results with <16mm ore pumped at 3m/s. The results indicate that polyurethane, in this application, outlasted HDPE by a factor of 24. Conservatively, if a steel polyurethane lined pipe commands a 41% premium over its closest rival, HDPE, the total life cycle cost (LCA) over a given period works out to approximately 47% that of HDPE. This assumes polyurethane is a minimum of 3x more wear resistant and does not take into account polyurethane’s superior performance with high velocity, large particle sizes and on bends. Redline polyurethane, in particular, allows a thinner lining, or a range of thicknesses to suit either the internal pipe diameter or the specific wear protection required, and delivers benefits that include a very low coefficient of friction, shatterproofing and immunity to thermal and external shocks.

General Protection

Polyurethane wear protection also plays a role in chutes and other steel channels of rectangular or multi-angular section. Wear protection for these shapes is achieved by Armadillo, which delivers a life-cycle cost advantage of 30 percent and more. Product characteristics include impact resistance, abrasion resistance, excellent tear and cut properties, and a low coefficient of friction that substantially assists in chutes and bins. For small chutes, bins and launders, Armadillo sheets are cut to size and either installed as a permanent liner or fabricated as a drop-in design for ease of replacement.

With downtime and lost production, asset protection is critical to maximize plant availability
Pipe lining, or wear protection in general, has benefits in addition to the protection of specific assets. With downtime and lost production leading to major loss of revenue, asset protection is critical to maximize plant availability. The myriad wear protection materials on the market all promise to be the latest and greatest. Plant engineers can therefore be forgiven for their reluctance to change, not knowing which new innovation will be the answer to their wear problems or which will result in costly wasted effort. Working with an experienced wear protection company that acts as a consultant rather than a “seller”, the customer can benefit substantially by applying the best solution for its particular application. Users must remain alert to the fact that polyurethane is a chemical with numerous variants, and that the incorrect grade of material will have disastrous consequences. They should also work to narrow down the choice set of possible polyurethanes, and then undertake field tests to determine which one will deliver optimum results.
Urethane Moulded Products, Santosh Gunpath, Tel: (011) 452-1000, (011) 609 6477, Email:

Advanced Materials Today

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Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011

Produced by: PROMECH PUBLISHING, P O Box 373, Pinegowrie, 2123 Republic of South Africa Tel: (011) 781-1401 Fax: (011) 781-1403 Email: Website: Managing Editor Susan Custers

The TDM sector’s Skills development intervention programme, branded the TDM-Powered Programme, developed and rolled out through the National Tooling Initiative (NTI),is proving to be successful in the preparation of students for the new Competency based Apprenticeship pilot programme launching in January 2011.

CEO’S Comments
nership investment in to the tooling sector more than 25 years ago, as a key strategy to developing its manufacturing sector.

Editor: Raymond Campling
Advertising Di Bluck Circulation Catherine Macdiva DTP Zinobia Docrat/Sean Bacher Disclaimer PROMECH Publishing does not take responsibility for the opinions expressed by individuals. Printed by: Typo Colour Printing Tel: (011) 402-3468/9


f the 175 students on the pre-apprenticeship pilot, 32 students (18%) dropped out of the course mainly as a result of finding jobs or due to personal financial problems. Of the remaining 143 students only one student failed to qualify on the course, giving a 99% pass rate. This is very positive indications of the effectiveness of the programme, taking into account that the students did international standard examinations and work pieces from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) in the USA. In the process they also successfully completed 3 modular units of their Apprenticeship. 15 of the students achieved an average score in excess of 90%. 13 of these students are from disadvantaged communities that include 3 female students. All these students will progress onto the Apprenticeship Programme starting in 2011. Students on the new apprenticeship can first qualify as Metal Machinists where after they can continue to qualify as Tool, Die and Mouldmakers and move onto specialization qualifications towards becoming technicians, master artisans and engineers in the Tool, Die and Mould manufacturing sector.


All rights reserved. No editorial matter published in “TDM Today (Tool, Die & Mould Making)” may be reproduced in any form or language without written permission of the publishers. While every effort is made to ensure accurate reproduction, the editor, authors, publishers and their employees or agents shall not be responsible or in any way liable for any errors, omissions or inaccuracies in the publication, whether arising from negligence or otherwise or for any consequences arising therefrom. The inclusion or exclusion of any product does not mean that the publisher or editorial board advocates or rejects its use either generally or in any particular field or fields.

The NTI and TASA showcased South Africa as a new destination for tooling sector investment, outlining TASA and the NTI’s key programmes, aimed at achieving the same result that Portugal can boast with.

Dirk van Dyk

15 of the students achieved an average score in excess of 90%
Several international (EU based) tooling companies are embarking on a business case analysis with the NTI targeting the launch of pilot projects early in 2011. TASA and the NTI also attended the ISTMA (International Specialised Tooling and Machining Association) Europe board meeting, as well as the ISTMA World Assembly, where international business conditions and key strategies for the sector are developed. From these meetings it was clear that EU based tooling companies are experiencing order book growth with Germany leading the pack with full order books, especially for the automotive sector. All the EU based countries are however experiencing price and payment term pressure, requiring focused attention on more specialization, leaner manufacturing and investment in technology. Jan/Feb 2011

Euromold 2010

The Localisation Project of the NTI, focusing on the localization of high level tooling suppliers to the Automotive sector, exhibited at the Euromold 2010 exhibition in Frankfort Germany. The show featured 1384 exhibitors from 38 countries, with Turkey as the Partner Country for 2010. The Portuguese Prime Minister José Sócrates visited EuroMold on Thursday, Dec. 2nd, 2010. He confirmed his support for the Portuguese moldmaking and tooling industry. Portugal has been a leader in cluster development and started public private part-

Advanced Materials Today




Part 2 of 3: This is the second of 3 parts. Part 3 will be published in the Mar/Apr 2011 issue.

The Myth of “Expensive” Moulds

In the last issue Bevan Davies, chairman of the Toolmakers Association of South Africa (TASA) Gauteng and a director of the National Tooling Initiative Programme (NTIP) shared his experience on the debate of “cheap” tooling versus “expensive” tooling using experience gained over 30 years as the owner of Conver-Tek.
cost of some of their new “Expensive” 96 cavity hot runner syringe component moulds that I had the privilege to see running, the CEO said that the brief to their long standing, respected, and trusted mould maker was simple:

Bevan Davis

n this issue he uncovers the truth and presents documented costs and cost savings over a 17-year period.

“When in USA some years back I was fortunate to be invited under strict security to visit a large medical company that was producing precise medical plastic components against an emerging cheaper Chinese medical supply market.

There is no such phenomena as an upfront “Cheap” priced tool to handle these requirements
“To compete against the pricing pressure from China we need to build the best quality, design, fastest running low maintenance moulds to suit the most cost effective machines with quick inter changeable inserts and spares to the tolerances needed and we’ll pay whatever is fair and reasonable”. His philosophy like ours was that a quality high spec “Expensive” mould that works to the highest efficiency was actually “Very Cheap” in the long term when analysed against cheap upfront mould costs out of China. They were and still are competing directly with China on cost with superior quality. We adapted to this quality tooling philosophy from as early as 1985 and remain convinced of this strategy. Compared upfront, the “Cheap” versus “Expensive” Mould: • Doesn’t give the volumes needed to fulfil peak demands • Has fluctuations in quality • Has varying sizing and tolerance because of varying process conditions which change due to cooling and internal mould dimension changes during production • Needs ongoing mould repairs after repeatable production • Results in field or functional product failures which are very expensive with huge added cost implications • Results in excess downtime and costs to repair and fix out-of-spec moulds. Wear and tear is an increasing ongoing cost • Require standby moulds and machines to compensate for the above

“This factory had the best built and designed tooling, production processes, production machines, quality control, and packaging which was untouched by hand. To remain competitive they simply had no option but to do it better, smarter, cheaper and faster with new ideas and innovations. When enquiring about the

CAD/CAM design and development, prior to toolmaking process using rapid prototyping

View of Toolroom with CNC milling and spark erosion machines

• Require fitting in bigger machines than is necessary because of mould design and build


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Jan/Feb 2011


• Guarantees ongoing scrap production • Creates runner wastage resulting in ongoing added cost to handle, separate, regrind and re introduce • Adds labour cost for handling, regrind, admin, storage etc as a hidden variable cost • Causes colour contamination and varying mechanical product problems due to added regrind of scrap • Causes persistent product failure due to sizing and out of spec melt flow indexes when using regrind, which change mould settings and product quality • Results in financial officers being given the run around by production management writing off real hidden costs and not accounting for real losses on Finished grown product in rapid prototyping machine. Product grown in down time, extra machine time, spare tools, bigger two halves machines and extra labour which are added costs • Expected guarantee on tool with projected repair and to the final product moulded cost maintenance bills against volumes anticipated • Causes real added costs that become more problematic when a few critical components are as- Given the above and assuming the product demands sembled as a unit and tight tolerances and quality large volumes of quality product then there is no such phenomena as an upfront “Cheap” priced tool is demanded to handle these requirements. • Real costs are disguised because either the budget for “Expensive” tools was not motivated, or the How “Expensive” is a Good Quality Tool versus an procurement department were part of the “Cheap” initial “Cheaply” purchased Tool with ongoing repairs, tool process. Either way the costs are real, which downtime, scrap issues etc? determines the success or failure of a project Bevan Davis, Tel: (011) 827 2460, Fax: (011) 827 2498,

“Cheap” OR “Expensive” Tool?


Developing trusting relationships are critical with competent Toolmakers that have a confirmed track history of moulds produced for a similar scope. Always check the credentials and speak to clients that can confirm the success of tools built by the toolmaker. A full understanding, assessment and careful analysis of the product design is paramount 1. Functions needed or expected from the product 2. Cosmetic requirements versus function. Can compromises be made 3. Building or growing of prototypes to qualify the design and or function 4. Quality features needed in categories from critical, important, nice to have not important 5. Best material fit for purpose versus cost and performance 6. Tolerances needed, and fit for use requirements 7. Life span of the product and possible changes needed during the process 8. Immediate, middle and long term market volume needs 9. Cost price pitch expected by client and his expectations of his selling price versus market acceptance • Realistic delivery time needed to design, build and prove a quality mould Advanced Materials Today Jan/Feb 2011



Put on a Coat
Extending the life of cutting tools can have a positive effect on the profitability of an operation and save a fortune over time.


n the current trying economic times “Advanced Materials Today” speaks to David Risk of Somta Tools to find out how companies can squeeze more life out of the tools while maintaining high quality finishes.

application of coatings to new or reground tools speeds up metal removal and as a result improves production.


SOMTA products are available with Balzers Balinit coatings
The initial question seems trivial when David starts explaining some of the options and processes involved in applying coatings. More astonishing is that the

“We invested a lot of time and money into finding coating systems for our range of production tools. The criteria was to find a system that not only protects the cutting edge, but enhances overall performance. “Oerlikon Balzers PVD Rapid Coating System, was chosen as it met all our needs. Today, several years later the technology is used far more widely and we offer regrinding and coating services to machine tools users around the country, regardless of whether they are using Somta tooling or not. They can be used on all high speed steel (HSS) and solid carbide cutting tools,” says David.

Tooling manufacturer

The company is a leading manufacturer supplier of drills, reamers, milling cutters, end mills, taps & dies, toolbits, custom tools and the regrinding and surface coating side of the business has added a new dimension to help meet clients needs. “As manufacturers of tools we know that the principle behind cutting edge material design is to combine the highest fracture resistance in the bulk substrate and the best wear resistance in the coating. “For this reason the full SOMTA product range is available with Balzers Balinit coatings to extend cutting tool life,” explains David. He continues that in the coating process, the cutting tool is covered by a very hard thin surface film, usually built up from metallic ceramics. These ceramics are typically much harder than the substrate material of HSS or Solid Tungsten Carbide.


Typically, one can expect longer tool life in the order of 2-10 times compared to uncoated tools, depending on the application, coating type, operating speeds, feeds and work materials. For best results, it is important to match the surface coating to the tool substrate and the work piece material. Main benefits of coating include: Increased hardness and residual compressive stress ratio • Improved fidelity of edge geometry • Excellent coating adhesion • Uniform wear behaviour

Oerlikon Balzers PVD Rapid Coating System


Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011


• • • •

Greater thermal and chemical resistance Dry machining Higher cutting speeds and feeds Less cratering

• Better sliding properties due to higher surface quality • Improved chip flow • Lower susceptibility to cold welding • Enhanced work piece surface quality • • • • • Greater wear resistance Lower tooling costs Increased tool service life Fewer tool changes Extra regrinding cycles
BALINIT A (TiN) – A general all-purpose coating widely used for cutting and forming in a variety of industrial applications. Excellent for drilling and tapping on most material types


A thin film coating is applied under vacuum conditions. The tooling is given a negative bias, and an ionised gas with positive charge at high temperature is introduced into the vacuum. The positively charged ions are attracted to the negatively biased cutting tool, and a strong mechanical bond is formed on the surface of the tooling. The PVD coating process is generally carried out at relatively low temperatures of between 450-500˚C. At this low temperature, there is no reduction in hardness of the HSS or solid carbide substrate.


When enough heat is generated at the cutting edge, the Al in TiAlN reacts with oxygen in the air to create a thin layer of Al2O3 at the cutting surface. As this layer is created and worn away during the cutting process, it acts as a heatsink which protects the cutting tool during the cutting operation, and extends tool life.

Coatings description

Somta primarily offers two main types of Oerlikon Balzers Balinit coatings in its range of cutting tools: BalinitA (TiN) and Balinit Futura Nano (TiAlN). BalinitA (TiN) is a general all-purpose coating widely used for cutting and forming in a variety of industrial applications. It is good for drilling and tapping on most material types. Balinit Futura Nano (TiAlN) is a universal high performance coating for drilling, milling, reaming and turning. It is also suited to dry machining and performs well on the most demanding machining applications. It features a remarkably tough multilayer structure and as a result, coated tools have

BALINIT FUTURA NANO (TiAlN) – A universal high performance coating for drilling, milling, reaming and turning. Also suited to dry machining. Excellent for the most demanding machining applications

increased metal removal rates with extended life under critical machining applications.

The PVD coating process is generally carried out at temperatures of between 450-500˚C
Coated speeds
Generally, operating speeds will be higher for coated tools, with feed rates kept constant. Speed increases gained with coated tooling compared to uncoated tooling for the different coatings of 50% higher speeds at a similar feed rate as uncoated for BalinitA (TiN), while Balinit Futura Nano (TiAlN) delivers Advanced Materials Today Jan/Feb 2011



Go get it

PVD (Physical Vapour Deposition) coatings are applied using a vacuum coating chamber. This increases the life and productivity of production tools saving companies a fortune. The use of PVD coatings saves companies money in three ways. Firstly, PVD coated tools can be run faster, reducing cycle times and enabling the production of more components in less time. Secondly, PVD coatings reduce wear and pickup reducing downtime due to tool replacement. Finally, PVD coatings reduce the need for cutting fluid. Cutting fluids cost companies today up to 15% of their total production costs. PVD coatings can be run dry or with very limited amount of fluid.

75% higher speeds at the same feed rate. Reground and recoated tools offer the same performance as coated new tools, which is a major benefit if service life and cycle time are to be maintained in production lines.
The Balzers coating facility is also available as a value added service for those applications in which coated parts can offer the user extended life, lower wear and reduced operating costs

Typically, one can expect longer tool life in the order of 2-10 times compared to uncoated tools
Resharpened Somta tools recoated with Balzers coatings have a longer aggregate service life. The coatings reduce tool costs, resharpening costs, tool changes and scrap.
Coating - Technical Parameters Product Name BALINIT® A

Other applications

The coatings can also be used on applications with wear parts, sheet metal work, cold forming pressure die casting and plastic processing.
Somta Tools, Tel: 0800-331-339, E-mail: tech@somta., Web:

Coating Microhardness Friction Coeff Max Appl. Material HV* against steel (dry)* Temp. ˚C TiN 2300 3300 0.4 0.30-0.35 600 900

Coating Detail Gold-yellow monolayer Violet-grey nanostructure


Before Regrinding

After Regrinding

BALINIT coatings used on cutting tools are also used for other applications with wear parts, sheet metal work, cold forming pressure die casting and plastic processing


Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011


TDM Powered Students
Overcoming hardship is nothing new to many of the students undertaking the pre-apprenticeship programme of the National Tooling Initiative (NTIP) at training centres around the country.


fter all the programme was initiated to get students, especially those from rural or disadvantaged areas, to a level where their English communications and Mathematics skills is at least on par with fellow students when entering the NTIP’s apprenticeship programme. But in the case of two students at the South West Gauteng College it is a case of following their dreams no matter what obstacles come in their way. Letitia Adams (20) of Eldorado Park and George Rensburg (24) of Ennerdale, are making the most of the opportunities afforded to them. “Advanced Materials Today” caught up with them on a recent visit to the college where we found out a little more about what makes these two remarkable students “tick”.

ested in engineering and I am taking this as an opportunity to fulfil my dream. That’s why I am adamant to finish the entire apprenticeship and become a toolmaker. “Being a girl in man’s world comes with some challenges, but as soon as the men see that I can do anything they can they respect me for who I am and accept me as an equal,” she laughs. Letitia’s long-term goal is to gain experience as a toolmaker and one day open her own toolmaking business. “My lecturer, Roger Skidow, initially inspired me to join the programme and with his assistance I am confident I will go all the way to reaching my goals.”

Programme was initiated to get students to a level where their English and Mathematics skills is on par with fellow students
Designer student

Letitia Adams

Information Technology specialist, George, decided to change his career focus and become a toolmaker. Despite running his own IT repair and installation business he put it on the backburner to study as a toolmaker. Although the lack of income from the business is a hindrance it is a sacrifice he is prepared to make in order to meet his goals. This creative-minded student has planned his path to success and he has it already mapped out. “First I want to qualify as a toolmaker and then use my IT skills to study design. In that way I will - one day - be able to open a business and get involved in both design and conception of products and be able to make it to specification using my toolmaking skills,” he says. “I have an enquiring mind. Even as a child I would always take things apart to see how they worked. Later I started designing and building things so the career path that I am taking now would be ideal for me to live out my dreams,” he adds. George says he has found the pre-apprenticeship programme to be challenging. He plans to stick to the task and is confident that he will go on to finish the three year apprenticeship pilot and go on to fulfil his dreams.
National Tooling Initiative Programme, Carlos Barbosa, Tel: (012) 643 9360, Fax: (012) 663 9418, Email: carlosb@

Girl power

Letitia’s father was laid-off some time ago and she needs to supplement her family’s income in order to keep the family afloat. As a result she works evenings at a call centre - after a full day of studies at the college. Yet, despite long hours with little rest, she has become one the college’s top students and one of the programmes shining lights.
George Rensburg

“I was always inter-

Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011


Bigger, better Afrimold 2011 Reverse Job Fair
The AfriMold tool, die and mould-making exhibition which made its debut in Sandton last year is posed to triple in size in 2011. The organisers have already confirmed sales of more space than the total for the inaugural show in August 2010. Exhibition director Ron MacLarty is looking forward to a highly successful event at the Sandton Convention centre from 2729 September 2011. Following a visit in December to sister exhibition EuroMold in Frankfurt, Germany - the AfriMold team received high numbers of international enquiries. “The global tool, die and mould-making industry is focused on new and innovative trends in part design and manufacture, with specialist companies actively looking for significant growth in niche applications,” says Ron.

The National Tooling Initiatives Programme (NTIP) gave students that are part of its pre-apprenticeship programme the opportunity to “interview” prospective employers and find out more about the type of work they will be doing in future. Ten companies made presentations to the 41 students at a Reverse Job Fair that was designed to find the most likely fit for the students to ensure they get experiential training in the line of work they are planning to pursue. This allowed companies to share their Mission, Vision, Values, Working Methods and product ranges with the students. After this the students were prepared for the interviews as they had done extensive research on the companies using the internet and other sources. They all had a good idea of what each company was doing. The 41 students eventually were offered 51 positions - this oversupply of opportunities is rather unique for persons who have no work experience. Both the employers and the students were extremely happy with the outcome and all the parties are satisfied with the outcome. The NTIP Project Management, teaching and support staff expressed their thanks to the companies that are participating. Reports from the other provinces indicates the same placement successes have been achieved. All the South African students are now in OTJ positions until the end of the year. Monday 20th September was the first working day for the students. It can be reported with pride that all the student arrived at work on time properly kitted with safety gear.

Retecon at the show

Toolmakers Association of South Africa, Priscilla Smith, Tel: (012) 644 1581, Email:, Web:


“Today it is all about customisation and limited production runs of specialist hi-tech parts. Greater design freedom has been created with the revolutionary introduction of threedimensional printing units to make both prototypes and finished parts more quickly and effectively.” Universities in Europe are turning out great designers and excellent engineers as was clearly visible at EuroMold. Ron adds, “A significant Chinese contingent was at the show, the Chinese Government is clearly actively encouraging the full development of their tooling industry, which is exactly what the South African government should be doing locally.” AfriMold 2011 will be placing additional emphasis on the local motor and packaging industries. Tooling and design play a critical role in these important industries. The venue will again be the Sandton Convention Centre and Ron says the addition of a second floor to triple the size of AfriMold 2011 will be strongly considered. TASA involvement “We are also delighted that the Toolmakers Association of South Africa (TASA) will be increasing its involvement in AfriMold. Many of the inaugural exhibitors from last year are doubling the size of their stands for the 2011 event. “Additional exhibitors who adopted a “look and see” approach in 2010 have now signed up to participate in 2011 following the “buzz” created in the industry by the show’s debut.
AfriMold, Ron MacLarty, Tel: 072 353 6699, Email: ron@afrimold. com, Web:


Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011


The Heat is On

Critical processes in foundries can rely on precise temperature control and maintenance of critical temperature where it is needed. In instances like these, when the heat is on, it pays to have heat containment systems that perform to specification every time.


nternational manufacturer of foundry supplies and heat containment and insulation products and systems, Thermal Ceramics, supplies product to local foundries in the local industry. It’s clients range from foundries, mines and steel mills to petrochemical plants and general industry.

Specialist field

“Thermal Ceramics products are used in a variety of applications across different industries in critical processes where quality is vital. We sell high quality products at a competitive price,” says Michelle Botha, Thermal Ceramics sales manager. She explains that heavy products are not viable to import due to the low cost relative to weight which makes it uneconomical. In addition many of the products are specialised with a high degree of customisation to clients’ process requirements. Due to specific material compositions or shapes and sizes it makes the local supply from Thermal Ceramics a more viable solution than supplying from abroad. That is why the Springs factory of the giant multi-national company plays a pivotal role in keeping local industry running.

Thermal Ceramics products are used across different industries in critical processes where quality is vital
“Advanced Materials Today” visited its manufacturing facility in Springs to find the factory is burgeoning with business from all forms of industries - especially mines and the energy sector - at this moment in time. It is the broad spread of industries making use of thermal products that makes the company resilient and able to weather downturns 67542 KEW Foundry in the market. Ad.fh11 5/3/10 9:17 AM Page 1


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Advanced Materials Today Jan/Feb 2011



Constant improvement

Thermal Ceramics is headquartered in France with manufacturing facilities around the globe. It invests considerable effort into its research and development operations both internationally and locally. A result of this in South Africa is that it enables the company to constantly improve its offerings to customers and stay ahead of the game. Thermal Ceramics provides insulation and refractory technology including fibre, insulating firebricks and others. Each product line has a number of wellknown global brands. These include fibre brands like Superwool, Kaowool, Cera, Pyro-Bloc and FireMaster. Insulating firebrick in straight, slab or custom shapes include K, JM and TJM. General purpose and special duty dense castables include Tri-Mor, Kaolite, Firelite, Kaocrete and Firecrete.

carbide based refractories using silicate, alumina silica, silicon oxynitride and beta silicon carbide bond systems. As with silicon carbide refractories, the base grain for Morsil nitride bonded is refractory grade alpha silicon carbide. The alpha silicon carbide crystals impart high thermal conductivity and refractoriness, low thermal expansion and outstanding abrasion/ erosion resistance.

Many of the products are specialised with a high degree of customisation to clients’ process requirements
To manufacture Morsil nitride bonded, graded alpha or electric furnace silicon carbide crystals and fine silicon are formed into shape, and fired in a pure nitrogen atmosphere at approximately 1420ºC. The result is a refractory consisting of a mixture of alpha silicon carbide grain in a matrix of alpha and beta silicon nitride, with minor amounts of residual silicon and silicon oxynitride. Due to the fact that the bond phase grows within existing porosity, there is little dimensional change upon firing and a net weight gain occurs. This bond is mainly responsible for the extremely high modulus of rupture and outstanding oxidation and corrosion resistance of Morsil nitride bonded silicon carbide. With easy access to cheaper imports the company differentiates its offerings by upholding strict quality controls.

Silicon Carbide

In South Africa the company is well known for its Silicon Carbide. The local silica operation is the only one of its kind on the African continent and fulfils a large majority of the requirements for the local market. It produces two main forms of Silicon Carbide, self bonded and nitride bonded. Many bonding systems are available that interconnect the alpha silicon carbide grains and in the case of self bonded refractories, it is mainly in a matrix of silicon and aluminium-silicon glass. The bonds in self bonded refractories have been carefully formulated to give specific properties and subsequent performance criteria in any specific application.

Properties of Nitride bonded Silicon Carbide:
• High wear resistance, • High decomposition temperature,

• High strength, even at high temperatures,

Nitride Bonded

The silicon nitride bond phase in these refractories is the key to their superior performance in demanding applications. The Morsil nitride bonding system allows nitride bonded refractories to out-perform other silicon

Thermal Ceramics, Michelle Botha, Tel: (011) 815 6820, (011) 365 8513, michelle@

• Oxidation resistance even at very high temperatures, • Corrosion resistance, • Thermal shock resistance due to the strength of the Silicon Nitride bond and the low thermal expansion coefficient, • Very low thermal expansion, • High thermal conductivity, and • Good tribological properties.

Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011



Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011


Revolutionary Welding System

One of the most innovative recent developments to take place in the South African welding and cutting industry has been released into the local market.
An increasing number of fine-grained structural steels are being used for construction of structures, apparatus, and equipment increasing the importance of pre-heating prior to welding.


he Lindoflamm special torches and burners from Afrox’s parent company, The Linde Group, is a first for South Africa. The special torches and burners provide optimal heat transfer to the work piece, reducing gas consumption, improving productivity, quality and therefore total cost, as well as enhancing safety on the factory floor. Afrox’s Johan Pieterse, Business Manager, Process Development explains: “Our parent company’s research and development activities focus not only on improving existing customer processes, but also on completely new technologies.


Lindoflamm technology offers the fabricator a number of advantages that improve quality, productivity, safety and reduced process costs. An important characteristic of acetylene is the high heat intensity in the primary flame. This results in a focused flame, pre-heating only in the weld area, increasing the speed at which the weld area is heated as much as two thirds faster than other fuel gases, and could save as much as 32% on total process cost. Working conditions are also improved, since less heat is reflected, improving operator comfort. Due to this reduction in heat reflection, gas consumption is much lower.

An important characteristic of acetylene is the high heat intensity in the primary flame

Lindoflamm is a perfect example of this, offering pre-heating, flame straightening and heat treatment solutions for manufacturers and fabricators working to the highest industry standards.” Johan says pre-heating is a critical requirement in the fabrication industry and plays a very important role in the integrity of the weld. It prevents failures such as hydrogen-induced cracking, as well as common failures in the heat-affected zone.

Water content

Another important characteristic is lower water content (4%), compared to as much as 30% in other fuel gases, which reduces the risk of inducing hydrogen in the weld area and is an important factor in quality enhancement. The mixture of compressed air and acetylene, coupled with the focused flame, reduces the risk of surface damage. Acetylene is also less dense than air, compared to other fuel gases that are denser than air, reducing the risk of accidents and incidents when working in confined spaces. “This is the safest solution,” concludes Johan. “Lindoflamm torches, burners and nozzles are all applicationspecific designs, ensuring that particular needs are met.”

Flame straightening

The heat of the welding in the heat affected zone causes steel structures to distort during the cooling period of the weld. This is Advanced Materials Today Jan/Feb 2011



a common defect in welding and although the weld sequence can be designed to minimise the effect of distortion, it still has an effect. The Lindoflamm flame straightening process uses oxygen and acetylene to heat localised areas of the work piece rapidly into the plastic temperature range. A restriction of heat expansion results in an upsetting in the heated zone. During the cooling down period, a shortening results around the heated zone, resulting in straightening of the work piece. “The correct torch must always be used for flame straightening,” he says. “Work involving thick wall components can only be carried out successfully if high output torches are available. This often means special designs.
Pre-heating of fine-grained structural steels is vitally important

Pre-heating is a critical requirement in the fabrication industry
“The use of manually guided special high output torches is a standard application in steel construction and heavy machinery building. “For mass production, mechanised flamestraightening torches have been developed. These torches are employed, for example, in the fully automated manufacture of thick-walled, longitudinal seam welded pipes for offshore oil drilling and production. Distortions in T and double T members, caused by longitudinal shrinking of fillet welds, can also be removed with mechanised torches during the welding process.”

Distortion can be minimised when using Lindoflamm processes

Flame hardening

In flame hardening, localised portions of the work piece are quickly heated to a temperature above the GOS line in the iron-carbon diagram. The heated region is immediately quenched, undergoing a transition to the structure present in hardened steel. The base material remains unaffected and unchanged in form. Torch designs of proven value for flame hardening have a water spray integrated into the nozzle immediately behind the flame front in the direction of motion. Afrox is the leading supplier of welding consumables in southern Africa, offering an extensive product range covering most material that can be welded, from normal carbon steel to the more specialised type of material such as stainless steel, nickel based alloys and hardfacing alloys.

Support service

A team of local and global experts supports the Lindoflamm processes including trials, burner designs, installation and commissioning as well as training.
The correct flame must always be used for flame straightening to avoid distortion

Afrox, Linde Group, Johan Pieterse, Tel: (011) 255 5771, Email:


Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011


A Taste for Sight

When a person’s world turns to darkness and they lose the ability to see or if they were born blind it spells a lifetime of dependency on others. Now a new invention is casting a glimmer of hope for the unsighted with new technology that allows blind people to “see” with their tongue.

n invention by one of the world’s most respected scientists in the field of medical rehabilitation, the BrainPort, relays images from an “ordinary” miniature video camera to a probe that relays impulses to the extra-sensitive surface of the users tongue. Dr Paul Bach-y-Rita had worked on the project in many guises since the 1960s and the years of work culminated in the BrainPort that was produced just three years before his death in 2007. He worked tirelessly on providing a better quality of life for people that had lost certain functionality and pioneered devices that could assist people that had lost their sense of hearing, touch and even the sense of balance.
BrainPort relays images from a mini camera to a electrodes on the tongue


Relays sensory messages from the tongue that are processed by the visual cortex of the brain
Train the brain

His belief that the brain could be retrained to use different paths to provide the same outcome was often met with scepticism from other learned quarters, but despite this he soldiered on to develop numerous devices that proved otherwise. He was of the opinion that you see with your brain, not your eyes, and that the eyes merely deliver impulses that are decoded and delivered by your brain. This led to research and ongoing development by himself and others at the University of Wisconsin in the United States. Among his first developments, in the early days in the 1960s, was a grid of touch sensitive pins that relayed images from a camera and pressed the shape of an object onto the users back. Later Advanced Materials Today Jan/Feb 2011

BrainPort will help the blind to get around without a white cane



that are processed by the visual cortex of the brain. In theory, his followers believe, that the brain will reproduce images in the mind of the user. This is done by electrical stimulus delivered to individual electrodes to form the pattern viewed by the camera. According to users it feels similar to soda bubbles from a fizzy drink on the tongue when first used. But, after a few minutes of use the brain learns to interpret the patterns and intensity to reveal images and, for the first time, unlock the dark world of the blind. sound devices were used in a similar way relaying a series of sounds to form a visual image. Construction of the unit is unremarkable in terms of materials used, the complexity of the device comes in the electronics and programmes that it operates on. The electronics convert images to impulses through an array of electrodes on a small grid that is also known as the tongue display.

Reading braille

Brain vision

The BrainPort was the culmination and relays sensory messages from the tongue

The device makes use of a small video camera with a 3 - 90° field of view
Sensory display

The tongue display itself is often referred to as the lollipop and is a flat, square plastic mouthpiece about 2,5 cm in width. It is inserted into the mouth and placed on top of the tongue, where the moist surface provides perfect conductivity for the electrodes. The device makes use of a small video camera with a 3 - 90° field of view. In the same way as a television interprets the signals from the camera and displays the image by lighting-up individual pixels, the BrainPort stimulates individual electrodes to varying degrees.

Test for yourself

To imagine how effective it can be close your eyes. Now take the point of your pencil and trace the outline of your computer screen or desk or whatever is in front of you. Obviously the visual imagery is still in your mind’s eye, but you get a sense of how the technology can be effective. If for example you were blindfolded in an area that you were not familiar with and someone or something else traced the images on your tongue you would find it vaguely useful. The high-tech tongue display unit used by BrainPort goes beyond merely the outlines and delivers between 150 and 600 pixels or individual points of stimulation to your tongue. And your tongue can distinguish far more that that.

Colour images

These test units are effectively the equivalent of a very low resolution black and white image and development of higher


Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011


resolution tongue devices are already in progress, there is even talk of delivering colour images via the tongue. It is said that the brain’s ability to interpret input is not necessarily linked to the organs that deliver the stimulus. For example, the ears, eyes, nose, tongue, and skin are just inputs that provide information. When the brain processes this data, we experience the five senses, but where the data come from may not be so important. At the moment the BrainPort device is worn on the belt or around the waist with wires connecting the tongue display to the control unit. The camera is housed in a pair of sunglasses and is no more obtrusive than a user wearing an Ipod and listening to music.

before, even reported being able to watch the traffic go by and although he could only make out the occasional bumper or wheel, he claimed to have images in his mind that closely resembled real eyesight. This was after using the device for 10 hours and considering human beings take months and years to coordinate their senses, the users “sight” will get better the longer they use it.

There is even talk of delivering colour images via the tongue
Changing lives

Infinity and beyond

In future, plans for a wireless unit are being developed and even with current technology the whole device could be completely concealed with the wireless tongue display held discreetly in the mouth. In the US it has received a lot of media attention and test results indicate that the blind test subjects are, at the least, able to distinguish shapes, numbers and letters. Others report a real sense of sight and have a perception of depth and distance that allows them to reach out and accurately touch objects seen through the device. One individual who had lost his sight forty years

Science fiction may have dreamed up seeing devices many decades ago, but the BrainPort is an actual working unit that has potential to changes the lives of blind people around the world in the near future. In fact its effectiveness has also been noted by other agencies such as military and fire departments that have identified its potential for seeing through smoke or at night using infrared cameras. For the blind there is hope though and its developers, Wicab, plan to have the device tested and brought to market in the next few years following testing by the country’s Food and Drug Administration.
Wicab, Email:, Web:, South African National Council for the Blind, Tel: (012) 452 3811, Web:

The South African National Council for the Blind has a number of other hi-tech devices that can assist blind people. They offer installation and training on these devices: Computers • Screen readers • Enlargement software • Braille Embossers • LV Keyboards and keyboard stickers • Braille translation software • OCR (Optical Character Recognition) programs • Scanners • Large Screens • Notebooks • Electronic Enlargement devices • Head sets and other accessories • Mainstream, software • Note takers

Fact about blindness
Did you know? Unlike sighted people, it has been found that when the blind read braille their visual cortex of the brain is active. This is said to prove that senses are interchangeable.

Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011



Young Welder Winner
East Cape Midlands FET College International Welder in training, Chris van Zijl has won the Young Welder of the Year 2010 competition and will represent South Africa at the 41st WorldSkills Competition to be held in London from 05 – 09 October 2011.

High standards


e also won the Carbon Steel Category by achieving the most marks on the pressure vessel and was the only competitor whose vessel was able to withstand the required pressure test. West Coast FET College’s Houston Isaacs, who came second in the pressure vessel section and won both the Stainless Steel and Aluminium categories, was the overall runner-up. The competition is run biennially by the Southern African Institute of Welding (SAIW) at their headquarters in Johannesburg.

SAIW training manager, Etienne Nell, says that the standard was exceptionally high this year compared to previous competitions. “We made some changes to the entry conditions which resulted in a record number of entries from almost all regions in the country. After a careful selection process, 17 competitors, including two young women, took part in the finals. I am pleased to say that we witnessed the highest quality of welding in the history of the competition,” Etienne says. The chairperson of the judging panel, Eskom’s Morris Maroga, concurred. “I was very pleased by the excellent overall standard, which, I believe, augurs well for the future of South African welding. I encourage our youth to take advantage of the wonderful career opportunities that welding offers,” he said.

I encourage our youth to take advantage of the wonderful career opportunities that welding offers
The competitors had to show mastery in four welding processes – shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), gas metal arc welding (GMAW) and flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) – on carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminium.


Chris van Zijl from the Eastcape Midlands FET College won the Carbon Steel category and was the overall winner of the 2010 Young Welder of the Year Competition

The fact that both the winner and runner-up came from FETs, as in many previous years, is significant, says Nell, because these FET institutions are accredited by the SAIW as authorized training bodies and use internationally approved training methods. “I grew up on a farm and helped my father weld from when I was very young. He taught me to do everything in life to the best of my ability and I am extremely proud to be the top young welder in the country,” says Chris. The sponsors of the 2010 competition were: Abicor Binzel, Afrox, Aluminium Federation of Southern Africa, Air Products South Africa, Arcelor Mittal, Bohler welding, ESAB, Goscor Arc Welding Solutions, Hulamin, Lincoln Electric Company, Macsteel VRN Steel, Sassda, S.A. Welding and Welding Alloys South Africa. The main prize sponsor was merSETA.
Southern African Institute of Welding, Jim Guild, Tel: (011) 298 2100, Fax: (011) 836 4132, Email: guildj@, Web:

SAIW’s young welders


Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011

International News
Plastics industry upbeat
The positive market trend felt in the immediate run-up to the world’s biggest trade fairs for the plastics and rubber industries also characterised the course of K 2010 Düsseldorf and made for an excellent mood amongst the 3,102 exhibitors. Companies reported an overwhelming volume of contacts, a marked willingness amongst trade visitors to invest, promising new customer contacts and many, also sometimes quite spontaneous, business deals.

place in January at the Moscow exhibition centre Krasnaja Presnja gave a representative cross section of the range on offer, encompassing the areas of machinery and equipment for the plastics and rubber industry, processing and recycling machines, tools and peripherals, measurement, control and testing equipment, raw materials and auxiliary materials, rubber and plastic products, logistics, storage technology and services. It was clear that although most Russian companies are still cautious when it comes to predicting how business will develop in future, they are planning investments and gradually modernising and increasing capacity. Some sectors of the plastics industry, such as the market for plastic film, are already experiencing strong growth, with new production facilities being built, which are expected to increasingly displace imports.

A rubber robot seen at the k 2010

The verdict from Ulrich Reifenhäuser, Chairman of the Exhibitor Council for K 2010, was positive about the outlook. “K 2010 was held at the right point in time and has provided all areas of our industry with new impetus. The many and sometimes quite unexpectedly specific contract negotiations entered into at the trade fair speak for themselves!” Delighted by the good results Werner Matthias Dornscheidt, CEO & President of Messe Düsseldorf, said: “Registering 222,000 trade visitors K 2010 has clearly exceeded expectations in the sector and it seems a given that the crisis now finally is drawing to an end! The next K Düsseldorf will be held from 16 to 23 October 2013.

Future aluminium technology

Russian bears take cover

The 7th International Congress on aluminium technologies “Aluminium Two Thousand” to be held in Bologna, Italy, this year from May 17-21 is already obtaining a great response from speakers with a record number of 100 papers around the world. Emerging countries will be prominent where the use of aluminium is increasing at a rate of two-digits every year. Ecology, efficiency, energy saving, productivity, automation and quality are the six key factors that will determine the competitiveness and the future of all the companies in the aluminium field in the coming years. It is not possible to survive in the industry in the 3rd millennium in a strongly competitive environment without improving these six key factors. The technical program is available on-line at and a full schedule of plant tours (manufacturing plants for aluminium extrusion, casting and finishing, motorcar and motorcycle factories) and the social programs are available. Advanced Materials Today Jan/Feb 2011

Following a serious slump, the Russian economy is gradually becoming more bullish sending the bears for cover. The production volume of the manufacturing sector saw a year-on-year increase of over 14% in the first half of 2010, with especially strong growth in the chemicals, rubber and plastics industry. This was good news for the exhibitors at Interplastica 2011, the international trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry, with their confidence reflected in the number of registrations and visitors. With vendors from about 30 countries, the fair, which took


Industry News
Moving machines
Tough economic times call for innovative ways of moving machines. Last year, Craft Machine Tools decided to forego the traditional ElectraMining exhibition and host its own internal trade show to introduce customers to the range of new and used machine tools available from its group companies. After the event it was clear that the amount of qualified leads generated was similar to big national and international events, but without the financial outlay for the stands, machine transport and staff.

The Aluminium Two Thousand Congress is promoted by the most important European organizations in the aluminium field and also by the engineering department of the University of Bologna, specialised in extrusion research. There will be two special events – the Extrusion Workshop (by the Engineering Department of Bologna University and New Products Exhibition.
Aluminium 2000, Interall, Email:, Web:

Danny Thompson of Thompson Machine Tool Group displays a machine at the annual open day

“We like to try different things and find new ways of reaching out to our customers. We have always fared very well at the major exhibitions, but this year thought we would bring the event closer to home and invite our customers on a one-on-one basis,” says Danny Thompson, director of Thompson Machine Tool Group. “With less manufacturing activity in the market the call for machine tools is far lower than pre-recession and the market is very competitive. By hosting our own exhibition we were able to meet customers and potential customers in a relaxed environment and spend the amount of time necessary to help them make an informed decision,” Danny says.
Thompson Machine Tool Group, Danny Thompson, Tel: (011) 845 2030, Fax: (011) 845 2041, Email:, Web:

Precision tooling

First Cut, a supplier of cutting consumables and capital equipment to the southern African market, is introducing a broader range of precision measuring tools to the market through its long-standing agency for Moore and Wright.


Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011

Industry News
Moore and Wright manufactures a range of high-end precision tooling, including calipers, micrometers, dial gauges and three-point bore gauges for the industrial, automotive, mining, aerospace and general mechanical engineering sectors. “The company is currently launching a new line of precision entry-level tooling for the market, which is in line with individual or small business budgets. As with the professional range the new tools are accurate and user-friendly, thereby allowing a wider market to benefit from the products,” explains Steve White, Chief Executive of Moore and Wright UK. According to White, the three-point digital bore gauge range is capable of measuring from 6-100 mm, with diameters above 100 mm available on request. The ergonomically designed pistol grip body and LCD display unit with rotating display for easy reading at any angle, make the gauge extremely user friendly.

The extruder that was built by CFAM at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University for R2.3 million. It would have cost R12 million to import

velopment that started in 1998 as a research project,” says Prof LJ Grobler, head of the CFAM on the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University. “Over the years CFAM has built up the knowledge and experience to locally manufacture twin-screw extruders that compete with the best in the world.” An extruder is the heart of a manufacturing process as through it raw materials result in a final product. It therefore creates jobs upstream and downstream in many industries such as the food, feed, polymer, compounding and powder coating markets, to name but a few. It is the ideal opportunity for women empowerWhite adds: “Moore and Wright has recently updated and improved on the entire range of products in the precision tool range in order to bring higher quality technology to the South African market while maintaining extremely competitive pricing. “ First Cut stocks the entire Moore and Wright precision tool range nationally, and has a trained and experienced sales staff to assist customers with the choice of the product most suited to their application and requirements.
First Cut, Andrew Poole, Tel: (011) 614 1112, Email:

Largest twin-screw extruder for Africa

The largest twin-screw extruder, built and developed in South Africa, was unveiled on the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University (NWU) recently. The Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (CFAM) Technologies, developed and built the extruder on the Potchefstroom Campus at the NWU for Feedpro. The extruder can be used across a number of industries including the plastics and chemical industries. “This extruder is the product of 13 years of deAdvanced Materials Today Jan/Feb 2011


Industry News
ment and the creation of sustainable BBBEE manufacturing plants using a locally manufactured extruder.
CFAM, Prof LJ Grobler, Email:, Danie Vorster: Email:, Web:

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Cutting-edge technology


Fax No: (011) 781-1403

Advanced diamond-based technology that ensures pinpoint accuracy in industrial cutting, was recently introduced to the South African market by Diamond Products. The new technology introduced to the South African industrial market by Diamond Products can significantly improve the lifespan and speed of cut. Diamond Products, a specialist in the manufacture, assembly and sales of diamond tools and equipment for heavy industries, has acquired exclusive local distribution rights to world-renowned ARIX Technology - a process of controlled deposition of diamonds onto a substrate, at predetermined positions. ARIX Technology places diamond grits with precision into three-dimensional patterns on blades and drills, in order to ensure the maximum performance of tools, in applications ranging from mining to construction. Diamond Products director Brian Clark points out that ARIX Technology is only applied to the higher-end of Diamond Products’ range of equipment, which is custom-built for the most challenging tasks. What’s more, he notes that ARIX Technology has been proven to increase the lifespan of diamond tools by 400%, while achieving cutting speeds of twice the industry-standard - making it perfectly-suited to the harsh South African conditions.
Diamond Products, Tel: (011) 552 8310, Fax: (011) 552 8312, Email:, Web:

From:......................................................................................... (insert your name) Title: .......................................................................................... Company: ................................................................................. Address: ................................................................................... .................................................................................................... ......................................................................Code: .................. Telephone: (.......) .................................................................... Fax: (.......) ............................................................................... Email:........................................................................................

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ARIX discs


Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011

Advanced Materials Today

Jan/Feb 2011


AfriMold exhibition
Materials Design Simulation Visualisation

International Trade Fair for Moldmaking and Tooling, Design and Application Development

27 - 29 September 2011, Sandton Convention Centre
AfriMold – the ONLY event in Africa showcasing technology and solutions for the tool, die and mould-making industries

Plus 3 day technical conference
Engineering Virtual Reality Processing & Finishing Quality Assurance & Automation Machine Tools Tools

If you operate within any of these sectors you need to exhibit at AfriMold!!!!

AfriMold Product Range


Rapid Prototyping & Tooling Patternmaking & Prototyping Moldmaking & Tooling

The organisers of AfriMold are pleased to announce that the exhibition is poised to triple in size in 2011. The 2010 inaugural exhibition attracted more than 2 100 quality trade visitors. R6.5-million worth of business was concluded AT THE SHOW!!

Don’t miss out. Space is limited and selling FAST!!!
Endorsements Plastics Institute of Southern Africa (PISA)

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Advanced Materials Today Jan/Feb 2011

Ann Evans +27 (0) 82 336 6791

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