Mechanical Technology Archive

There is an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation in the corridors of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) discipline of Mechanical Engineering, as students and staff alike prepare for the annual Mechanical Engineering Open Day, taking place on Friday, 28 October 2016 at the Unite School of Engineering building on the Howard College Campus.

This highlight of UKZN Mechanical Engineering’s academic calendar showcases the best of innovative student engineering. Final-year Mechanical Engineering students will display their projects for public viewing and students will be on hand to explain their project designs to evaluators, sponsors, parents and the general public.

The projects simulate a professional working environment in which students have to apply their engineering knowledge to achieve specified project objectives whilst keeping within low-cost budgets. The technology demonstration prototypes that they have produced within a nine-month period encompass a wide variety of engineering sub-disciplines; including vehicle design (electric, air, land, water), green energy technologies, renewable energy harvesting systems and industrial machines.

Assessment of the projects is structured in accordance with the Engineering outcomes required by the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).

“The focus of this Open Day is to highlight the hard work and technical achievements of our final-year students,” said Academic Leader for Mechanical Engineering at UKZN, Professor Glen Bright. 

Discipline demonstrations and postgraduate research will also be on show.  Some of the dynamic, interactive displays available for hands-on testing by the public include the UKZN pedal bus and the rally car simulator. There will be technology demonstrations throughout the day, showcasing the rocket display unit, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flights and a mobile robotic display.  Standing exhibits will include Mechanical Engineering’s restored Model T Ford, Baja Bugs, and Hulamin (UKZN’s sleek solar car that travelled the length of Australia during the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge).

“We want the public to feel, touch and experience engineering,” said Professor Bright.




  • Wing-In-Ground Effect (WIG) Flying Hovercraft – A first in South Africa

A full-scale prototype of a land vehicle that has the ability to fly over obstacles such as rivers, rocky terrain and small valleys.  The vehicle is designed and manufactured with a hovercraft base for amphibious surface operation. It utilises the ground effect phenomenon for low altitude flight. This hovercraft is unique in that it has two built-in motions, allowing it to fly/ hop and to hover. The vehicle will be tested by remote control.

  • ASReG Balloon Drone

A remote controlled balloon drone for indoor use and wind-free outdoor conditions. The drone utilises lighter-than-air lifting gases in addition to motorised propulsion.

It has a hybrid drive system and relies on the phenomenon of buoyancy together with motorised propulsion to maintain flight.

Following the tragedy of the German Hindenburg airship which caught fire in 1937, the use of motor technology in hot air ballooning ceased. And so it is interesting to see a part of this technology making a come-back by its use in this balloon drone.

Like most drones, the ASReG balloon has been developed for use in reconnaissance missions, e.g. this could be used to monitor poaching activity at national parks. 

  • Mamba Electric Vehicle – A full size electric sports car

Students have designed / adapted aspects of the car, such as aesthetics and body panels, steering, suspension, braking, composite moulds and process, battery and motor cooling, motor transmission, seatbelts, some of the aerodynamics and the interior.

  • Automated Desktop Injection Moulding Machine

The research, design, construction and testing of a low-cost desktop injection moulding machine. The machine is one of the main technologies used in industry in the production of plastic components, i.e. keyrings, pens, buttons, etc.) The minimum cost of the machine is around R300 000. The students managed to design and construct a low-cost version for only R15 000. If commercialised the product could well promote job creation, as Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) could then have easier access to the machinery used in the plastic production industry.

The machine features a plunger type injection system with operating temperatures of up to 270o C.

  • Amphibious Vehicle

Students were tasked to research, design, construct, assemble and test a land propulsion design as well as a water propulsion system. Both were to be integrated into a waterborne platform.  The transition from terrestrial to water propulsion mode was accomplished electronically.

  • Development of a Single Point Incremental Metal Forming Process

This project involves the development of a single point incremental metal forming process (SPIF). It is essentially a computer controlled machine that shapes sheet metal into profiles that can be used for products, e.g. toasters, car doors, etc. The project is unique in that it does not resemble the usual mechanical process used by industry and has been developed at a low-cost.

  • Crash Test Dummy

Most crash test dummies available on the market are expensive and the low-cost ones are not able to show external and internal injuries that a person can sustain during the accident. The aim of this project was to design and manufacture cost-effective crash test dummies that are capable of showing the visual impact of the accident. The skeleton frame of the dummies has been constructed with materials similar to that of the human bone in terms of density and strength and is covered in materials with similar properties to human flesh and skin. The dummies are equipped with sensors to detect and record data about the dynamic behaviour of the dummy during the crash. The captured data can be analysed to determine the probability of injury.

A live crash test to demonstrate the capabilities of the dummy has been arranged to take place at a separate venue on the day.

  • Design of a Solar House

Students have designed a solar house design which takes advantage of a building’s site, climate, and materials to minimise energy use. The home is designed to reduce heating and cooling loads through energy-efficiency strategies and then meets those reduced loads in whole or part with solar energy.


The students will have a demo windy-house on sight showcasing their design.

Projects will be on display between 12h00 – 17h00 and the developers will be on hand to demonstrate.

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