Embracing technology and having a positive outlook

Thank goodness many companies and individuals do not get buried or caught up in the politics of the country and progress with advancing engineering and metalworking in particular in South Africa.

This particular issue of Metalworking News is representative of forward thinking individuals that are prepared to use modern technology in developing the engineering and medical procedures that they are involved in.

Chronologically I mention the articles in this issue that illustrate that we are very first world in many aspects of engineering. I will call it my State of the Metalworking Industry (SOMI).

The first story is on TWR Steel Service Centre, a company that has emerged as a metal cutting service centre that wants to offer more than the rest and where very few others dare to venture. With the addition of a new large format TTM Bystronic fiber laser with a 12.4 x 3.4 metre bed the company can now take on large and complex jobs that other service centres might not want to or, frankly, might not have thought of taking on. While this might not be the biggest metal cutting machine in South Africa what makes it stand out is that it is a machine with the biggest bed to be imported into South Africa and it is powered by a fiber source. The business approach at TWR Steel Service Centre is to differentiate from competitors that might specialise in more routine work and this machine certainly does that.

The next story is on how engineer extraordinaire Neil Campbell and his company LRS Implants are working closely with orthopaedic surgeons, both in the field of limb salvage and general orthopaedics, to design and manufacture custom 3D printed components to be used later in surgery. Executive Engineering has partnered with Campbell to print the limbs and joints by purchasing an EOS M290 Metal 3D Printer. The primary goals of both the designer and the surgeon are to reconstruct and recreate the integrity and symmetry of the limb so as to provide the patient with a long-term, functioning and pain-free limb.

“Revision surgery and limb-reconstruction surgery are technically demanding and require careful pre-operative planning in order to achieve accurate bony cuts and correct implant positioning and fixation.” Where would they be if they did not have the proprietary CAD software at their disposal and had not embraced the 3D printing technology.

We also report on how doctors from Tygerberg Hospital’s Division of Orthopaedics along with those from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University have created a 3D printing laboratory and are now utilising 3D printing techniques to create models of patients’ anatomy as preparation for surgical procedures. Orthopaedic procedures require significant amounts of pre-operative planning, and having the technology available at their disposal is something the doctors are very excited about they say. The patients should be as well.

Not far from Tygerberg Hospital is Superexcel Precision Engineering CC. They have just invested in the first Renishaw Equator™ 500 gauging system in Africa. The company takes quality and efficiency seriously and to quote owner Steve Bothma: “To test 80 components for quality control used to take me between two and three days, now it takes me two to three hours to do the same job. And this includes testing the most difficult angle on one particular component – an angle of 22.5 degrees. In time this process will be even faster.”

Meanwhile VWSA should this year produce a record number of vehicles at its Uitenhage plant, in the Eastern Cape, says CEO Thomas Schäfer. He says the local arm of the German car manufacturer should produce 161 900 vehicles, of which 108 000 are scheduled to be exported. This is compared to 126 413 vehicles produced in 2018, with the company exporting around 75 900 of those units.

Some might say these are islands of success. Either way I think we can be proud of them.