South Africa’s public and private sectors are stepping up investment in 3D printing technology as the country seeks to identify future markets and products that will allow it to compete globally.
South Africa has invested $24.75 million of public funds since 2014 on 3D printing research and development, according to a report in 3D-ers.
The government’s Additive Manufacturing Strategy is part of South Africa’s effort to introduce and capitalize on new manufacturing technologies.
Additive manufacturing is the industrial version of 3-D printing, according to MIT Technology Review. It is already used to make some niche items such as medical implants, and to produce plastic prototypes for engineers and designers. (You can read more about modern 3D printing technologies and their applications at 3Dhubs.com.)
Research and development in additive manufacturing isn’t limited to prototyping and product development, said Garth Williams, director of advanced manufacturing at South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology.
“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,” Williams said.
But it’s appeal is also strong among individuals like South African artist Rick Treweek, who is taking advantage of 3D printing to create inventive pieces that explore the merging of art and technology. Treweek’s Art Machina exhibition in July featured all 3D printed pieces, according to a report by 3D Printing Industry.
South Africa’s 3D printing efforts have focused on advancing the technology in the field of titanium medical implants and aerospace parts, as well as polymer additive manufacturing for design.
The investment has provided South Africa with world-class capabilities, positioning it to participate in areas of high growth potential such as aerospace applications and medical and dental devices and implants, South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology said in a statement.
Additive manufacturing will also help South Africa improve traditional manufacturing sectors with shorter lead times, increased structural complexity for parts, design freedom, toolless manufacturing, articulated parts, customization, and materials.
Just over a quarter of respondents in a KPMG survey said they have already invested in additive manufacturing and 3D printing, and an additional 27 percent say they will definitely invest more in the future, Mining Review reported.
Senior mining and metals executives said they plan to invest significantly in developing new manufacturing technology for greater efficiency and performance, according to survey results from big four auditor KPMG International’s 2016 “Global Metals & Mining Outlook.”
Investment in 3D printing tech isn’t new for South Africa. The country has been investing in the technology for the past 20 years, according to the government. In addition to its $24.75 million investment since 2014 in additive manufacturing research and development, the government plans to spend $2.12 million on a collaborative research and development program for 3D printing infrastructure.
Participating in the collaborative additive manufacturing program include South Africa’s Vaal University of Technology, which focuses on tooling and casting; Stellenbosch University; and Bloemfontein’s Central University of Technology Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing, which works with in the medical sector and develops plastic and metal 3D printing materials.