Foundry Generation Forum boosts skills and competitiveness of foundry industry

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A group of managers in the foundry industry and related support institutions recently reported significant productivity improvements, substantial cost savings and an overall improvement in the competitiveness of their respective foundries as a result of interventions emanating from the maiden year of the New Foundry Generation Forum, including simulation software and 3D printing.

The New Foundry Generation Forum (NFGF) was launched in 2013 to boost young leaders in the foundry industry and is a programme of the National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN,) an initiative of the DTI.

During this year, NFGF members participated in front end technologies and functional design training hosted by the Vaal University of Technology, Southern Gauteng Science and Technology Park at Sebokeng. Feedback was shared today on three specific workshop modules held to demonstrate the latest technologies and how participants have applied them in their own workplaces.

Steve Jardine, NFTN Project Leader, says that the availability of simulation software and 3D printing at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) is a major boost to the competitiveness of local foundries and related sectors. “Through the NFGF, we aim to equip and develop the next generation of foundry leaders. By exposing participants to front end technologies and more importantly, to the logic around functional design, foundries have been equipped to better understand and engage their customers. Ultimately, the impact is improved competitiveness,” he says.

VUT acts as the Hub for the National Simulation Network (NSN,) which provides a way for South African foundries to enjoy the benefits of simulation software at lower costs through links with institutions countrywide, which will serve as regional satellite facilities.

“The reality is that many companies in the foundry sector are SMEs. For small businesses, the costs of simulation software are prohibitive,” says spokesperson, Jan Jooste, Director of Innovation at VUT who heads up the VUT simulation facility. “But the benefits offered by simulation software are impressive, given the complex nature of production processes and the importance of integrated design.”

One of the participants was able to scale down a large component to allow simulation and 3D printing, which Jooste says, marks the first time this has been achieved.

The facility is a partnership between the Department of Science and Technology’s Technology Localisation Implementation Unit (TLIU), hosting institution VUT, four regional universities and software and implementation partners Ametex/MAGMA. 

Programme Manager Richard Beän, who is responsible for the TLIU’s sector wide initiative, says that foundries should take advantage of access to this technology. “The software can accurately describe the quality of a cast component upfront before production starts, allowing for the casting method to be efficiently designed at this stage. This benefit not only reduces pre-production sampling costs, but it also leads to energy, material and tooling savings as some of the NFGF members told us today,” explains Beän.

For a number of participating foundries, the simulation and technology programme provided the first opportunity to work with their customers during the product development stages.

“The ability to engage meaningfully with customers at earlier stages of the process has significant benefits for both customers and for foundries to allow for greater transparency and reliability during the production stage.This is the first time that industry training has been offered on all of these advanced manufacturing platforms as a series (Computer Aided Design (CAD,) Idea 2 Product, Simulation, EOS, Fortus, Voxel Jet and Tooling Platforms),” concludes Jardine.

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