MechChem Africa

MechChem Africa’s Peter Middleton attends the Nelson Mandela University- and Altair-hosted 2018 Innovation in Industry Conference and presents a few takeaways from the presentations.

Mooted to unveil “amazing new technology being used here in the South Africa” Clive Hands of Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth opened proceedings of the first Innovation in Industry Conference with the words, “You are going to love it. This conference will blow your mind and open up some serious potential in advanced production-related technologies.”

His co-host, Ernst Burger of Altair, the simulation and optimisation software specialist, added: “Altair’s service to South Africa is to help industry to design innovative products. This event strives to expose the new technologies that enable smarter solutions, which are essential if we are to drive our economy forward.”

NMU ECO CAR Innovation in industry conference

The companies exhibiting in the foyer presented a clear idea of the smart technologies on these gentlemen’s minds: Retecon, the leading supplier of advanced metalworking tools to SA’s manufacturing industry; the microCT testing facility at Stellenbosch University, an advanced testing facility dedicated to 3D printed products; RAPID 3D, South Africa’s professional, production and industrial 3D printing specialist; Jendamark, the Port Elizabeth-based industrial automation systems provider; and Nelson Mandela’s entire Eco Car team, displaying its ultra-lightweight vehicle that, during the 2017 Shell Eco-Marathon Africa contest at Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria covered a distance of 184.23 km on one litre of petrol – the equivalent of driving from South Africa to New York in a standard-sized car on a single tank of petrol.

During the official welcome, Nelson Mandela University’s deputy vice chancellor, Professor Andrew Leitch, noted, “too many of our people leave this province, returning only to retire or when they fall ill. We want to change this around, reduce net migration and give young people reasons to stay. With topics such as those being presented today we hope to demonstrate the capabilities within our University and the partnerships that we are building to strengthen local industry, all with a view to expand local economic development and to give people a wider range of career opportunities.”

He cites one of the six recently identified key institutional research themes in support of this objective: Innovation and the digital economy. “This conference fits squarely within this theme and we hope the exciting programme will inspire ongoing support for our endeavours,” Leitch says.

Testing techniques for metal AM in industry: Anton du Plessis

In an appropriate reversal of the normal rollout sequence of new technologies, the conference began with a presentation on the development and establishment of advanced testing services for products manufactured using metal additive manufacturing (AM) processes. This perhaps indicates the degree of maturity of the technology, which is clearly no longer limited to rapid prototyping.

Professor Anton du Plessis of Stellenbosch University … Click to download and read pdf

Designing for Rapid manufacturing: Bryan Bullock

Following Du Plessis to the podium was Bryan Bullock of Rapid 3D, with a talk urging engineers to recalibrate towards a different approach when adopting additive manufacturing.

“Few are aware about how long this technology has been around…Click to download and read pdf


Optimisation & lightweighting in composites design: Martin Badenhorst

In this presentation, Martin Badenhorst described the process of topology optimisation and manufacture of the carbon fibre composite wheels which are now installed on Nelson Mandela University’s 2018 Eco Car.

The original weight of the spoked aluminium wheel and hub was 723 g and Badenhorst managed to get this down to around 500 g by using topology optimisation as the design starting point.

Click to download and read pdf


Contact MechChem Africa

Title: Editor
Name: Peter Middleton
Email: or
Phone: +27 11 622 4770
Fax: +27 11 615 6108

Title: Assistant Editor
Name: Phila Mzamo
Phone: +27 11 622 4770
Fax: +27 11 615 6108

Title: Advertising Manager
Name: Brenda Karathanasis
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

saiw logo block

sassda logo block

saiche logo block