Posted on

Initiative plans to accelerate tech amid industry decline

EVEN ODDS Although there are “pockets of excellence”, the local aerospace industry is very small and focuses almost exclusively on exports

Published by Engineering News

By: Mamaili Mamaila, Features Writer and Social Media Specialist

Date:  11 September 2020

The Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI) plans to continue building technology strategies with industry for long-term implementation amid the industry’s decline of late.

“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been extremely severe on the aerospace industry, owing to the lockdown on air travel and tourism,” Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) director of aerospace and defence, industrial competitiveness and growth Nokwanda Fipaza says.

However, she tells Engineering News that the decline was noticeable before the pandemic.

This decline can be attributed to three main factors, she says.

Firstly, limited local procurement, which results in even fewer small offset agreements for the manufacturing industry.

Secondly, cash-strapped State-owned enterprises, which results in limited local supply chain activity.

Thirdly, international original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are scaling down.

Consequently, fewer work packages are available for the South African industry, says Fipaza. 

In response to these challenges, the South African aerospace industry is endeavouring to tap into a broader mix of international supply chains, owing to the few international OEMs which the local industry currently supplies. 

“The DTIC further aims to put industry into contact with additional DTIC incentives that are not only for aerospace. Although bigger companies are also supported, the AISI aims to show impact through the development and support of small, medium-sized and microenterprises (SMMEs).”

Although there are “pockets of excellence” in niche areas, such as electronics and mine protected vehicles, as well as an exporting sail planes manufacturer, Fipaza adds that the local aerospace industry is very small and focuses almost exclusively on exports.

Further, the pandemic has prompted the industry to respond in innovative ways, from supplying personal protective equipment, and designing and supplying ventilators to assisting local supply chains in diversifying into additional markets.

As such, Fipaza highlights that the AISI has reprioritised its interventions to assist with industry building capability after Covid-19. 

Some of the key elements in respect of manufacturing for the aerospace industry that AISI is aiming to tackle include advanced composites, rotational moulding and precision machining. The aim is to create high-value jobs which contribute meaningfully to the economy.

She relates that one of the main projects that the AISI is currently undertaking is the localisation of a 400 N gas turbine for defence and commercial purposes by propulsion systems solutions provider Cape Aerospace Technologies, in Cape Town.

AISI is also involved in the supplier development of a rotational moulding supplier that will produce the sacrificial thermoplastic core used in the patented Cellular Core Technology at aerospace engineering and manufacturing company Aerosud Aviation, in Centurion, Gauteng.

Meanwhile, for sail plane designer and manufacturer Jonker Sailplanes, AISI is involved in the development and manufacturing of a 24-m-long open-class sailplane to help it retain its global market lead in the open-class segment.

This is the time to increase cooperation and local content, as well as develop the industry’s niche capabilities for the international market, she enthuses.

“We are also looking into the development of a market-related radio frequency (RF) microwave subassembly for small satellites using additive manufacturing by advanced RF and microwave components designer and manufacturer LambdaG – an SMME in Cape Town.”

AISI is also involved in the implementation of the AS9100 aerospace quality management standard at electronics manufacturer Production Logix, in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal, Fipaza tells Engineering News.

In the drive to bolster exports for the industry, transformation remains a key imperative, as in doing so, maximum value addition and maximum local content on the manufactured components and products, is created, she explains.

AISI is a DTIC-led initiative which aims to improve the competitiveness of the local aeronautics, space and defence sectors – managed and hosted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in Pretoria, Gauteng.

Edited by: Zandile Mavuso, Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Features

Read more:

Posted on

New orders for Cape Aerospace Technologies gas turbines

Cape Aerospace Technologies (CAT) is receiving new orders for its locally developed range of small gas turbine engines, which are used for target drone drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, gliders and model aircraft.

CAT has three main models: the CAT 120 produces 125 N of thrust at 125 000 rpm and weighs just 1.4 kg while the CAT 250 produces 250 N of thrust and weighs 2.1 kg. The largest is the CAT 400, which develops 400 N (40 kg) of thrust and weighs just 3.6 kg. All can operate between -25 and 50 degrees Celsius and at altitudes of up to 8 000 metres. They are intended for sub-sonic applications.

The turbines can operate on Diesel, Kerosene or Jet A1 fuel. All turbines include an Electronic Control Unit (ECU), Ground Support Unit (GSU) and all ancillaries required for engine operation during flight. CAT turbines are produced with a fuel atomizing direct kero-start system, making turbine starts fast and reliable. The atomizer system also enables a relighting capability for high altitude starts.

David Krige, MD/CEO of CAT, told defenceWeb that the CAT 120 has been in production for a number of years and the CAT 250 has just received orders and is going into production. On the CAT 400, he said there has been a lot of demand, especially as a sustainer jet for sailplanes.

CAT has done most of its business locally, but has exported numerous gas turbines, mostly for hobby/scale model aircraft.

Aside from typical applications like target drones and scale model aircraft, Krige said there is big demand for using the gas turbines as power generators as they have high power to weight ratios and can run on a variety of fuels. Krige said he would like to develop other gas turbines and is contemplating the 1 000-1 500 N thrust market.

CAT works with the CSIR and the University of Stellenbosch on micro to small gas turbine technology and also receives support from the Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI).

Read more:

Posted on

High-tech SA firm aiming to revolutionise production of electronic components

Published by Engineering News

By: Keith Campbell, Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Date:  17th November 2017

A small South African high-technology company is seeking to revolutionise the production of a key category of components for aerospace electronics and radars by using additive manufacturing (more popularly known as three-dimensional, or 3D, printing). The company is NewSpace Systems (a finalist in this year’s Western Cape Chamber of Commerce Exporter of the Year award), which is part of the local, private-sector SCS Aerospace Group. And the components concerned are waveguides. Currently, these are produced using computer numerically controlled (better known as CNC) machines.

The Dictionary of Aeronautical Terms defines a waveguide as a “hollow transmission line through which high-frequency electromagnetic waves are directed”. The Hutchinson Dictionary of Science gives the definition: “hollow metallic tube, either empty or containing a dielectric used to guide a high-frequency electromagnetic wave (microwave) travelling within it. The wave is reflected from the internal surfaces of the guide.” (In turn, a dielectric is “an insulator or nonconductor of electricity . . . Dielectrics . . . reduce dangerously strong electric fields”.)

 “Waveguides are just plumbing for the electromagnetic signal,” summed up NewSpace Systems materials engineer and project manager Riddhi Maharaj in her presentation at the recent Aeronautical Society of South Africa 2017 Conference. “They require high-dimensional accuracy, which is dependent on the frequency used. They are extensively used in aviation, space and radar. Telecommunications satellites represent the largest commercial application.”

The project is being executed with the assistance of funding from the Department of Trade and Industry through its Aerospace Industries Support Initiative (AISI), as well as with the company’s own funds. The AISI seeks to increase the global competitiveness of the South African aerospace and defence industries (including through the facilitation of partnerships, the development of relevant industrial capabilities and the transfer of technologies), industrialise technologies, transform the industry and create jobs. AISI projects are managed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Maharaj pointed out that, currently, there were no titanium 3D printing waveguide manufacturers in Africa and that 3D printing could potentially allow the manufacture of waveguides than were both cheaper and more efficient than those produced using CNC machines. Also, the materials traditionally used to make waveguides were aluminium, copper and bronze, which were heavy. The NewSpace/AISI project was using titanium alloy powder, resulting in lighter products. The objective is to create a new South Africa-based manufacturing method for waveguides. There is a lot of competition in this sector and any attempt to break into it using conventional manufacturing methods would be highly unlikely to succeed, given the existence of established producers in India and China.

The project is currently in Phase 1 and has so far allowed the production of prototype resonators using additive manufacturing. (While waveguides guide electromagnetic energy, resonators confine it; but they both work in the same way.) However, these have suffered from having rough surfaces, so have had to be subjected to further processing, followed by postprocessing treatment, and finally electroplating with copper. The prototypes have then been subjected to structural and radio frequency testing.

“What problems did we have? We had difficulty finding a big enough 3D printer,” reported Maharaj. Ironically, the CSIR has what is currently the world’s biggest 3D printer, the Aeroswift machine (although, reportedly, the Chinese are now building machines as big as, or even bigger than, Aeroswift), but that was fully booked and, thus, unavailable. “We found one at the Central University of Technology, Collaborative Programme in Additive Manufacturing.”

Read more:

Posted on

(Article published by Creamer Media’s Engineering News) Initiative addresses barriers to expand aerospace manufacturing

The aerospace industry has, among others, two important international players – Airbus and Boeing. This applies to local aerospace as well as international aerospace manufacturing industries, all competing to be part of the global supply chain. Manufacturing for aerospace in South Africa is dependent on commercial manufacturing for these global players.

“Each region that plays a role in this manufacturing creates programmes to draw international companies into their countries, giving them an incentive to invest in their manufacturing processes,” says Department of Trade and Industry Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI) manager Marié Botha.

In South Africa, the programme is known as the National Industrial Participation Programme. The programme ensures that, if a government entity buys aircraft from Airbus or Boeing, these companies have an obligation to localise certain manufactured components that will contribute to the global supply chain of aircraft.

“In this way, companies are incentivised to come to South Africa, [with] acquisitions [being] the main lever to attract these companies to locate to South Africa.”

Without these incentive programmes, the local industry must rely on its reputation for flexibility and competence in handling complex or difficult-to-manufacture parts to retain a share in the supply chain. But there are additional challenges.

The aerospace manufacturing industry is highly regulated and relies on advanced manufacturing processes, where certification processes play an influential and necessary role.

Botha points out that suppliers must go through local companies in order to integrate into an original-equipment manufacturer, such as European aircraft manufacturer Airbus’s or US airline manufacturer Boeing’s supply chain. “This is done for quality control and Airbus or Boeing transfer the accreditation risk to the integrator.”

She explains that certification is required for the product, the processes involving materials and manufacturing, and the engineers, artisans and skilled workers, all of whom must be certified to manufacture a particular product. Therefore, local small, medium-sized and microenterprises are certified under the umbrella of local integrators to ensure certification, quality and reliability in the manufacturing process.

However, Botha says this is not the only challenge for the local aerospace industry; much of the raw material is imported, which makes for lengthy supply chains. South Africa’s removed geographic location for these international companies adds to the burden of cost-effectiveness in the aerospace manufacturing industry.

Botha says there are four key aspects that can be implemented to strengthen the manufacturing industry in South Africa to impact on the aerospace industry positively.

The first is cooperation. Instead of having many South African companies tendering for the same bid, Botha believes that the industry could instead collaborate based on its strengths.

“The local industry can derive strength in organising itself, and trying to share some of the supply chain burden.”

The second aspect to improving and better positioning the manufacturing industry is increased research and development (R&D) funding, which can be a shared-supply-chain activity for the industry.

“R&D funding is important for the industry, because of the importance of being innovative in an increasingly globalised context. South Africa has industry and world-class expertise in aerospace. The AISI aims to bring that capability closer to the industry in order for it to differentiate the nature of its product offerings by focusing on technology transfer into the local aerospace manufacturing industry,” she explains.

The third aspect is skills development. The aerospace industry requires highly skilled and specialised engineers, she points out. Therefore, upscaling skills essential to the industry will assist and grow it.

Lastly, manufacturing for the aerospace industry and product certification are two areas that could be improved and strengthened. “If certification procedures are weak, the industry suffers,” she comments.

Innovation therefore plays a critical role in fostering competitiveness with other countries and that requires having products and processes certified. For South Africa to compete in an international market, Botha concludes, the country has to stay abreast of innovations and technological trends and advances.


Edited by: Zandile Mavuso
Creamer Media Features Deputy Editor

Article published by Creamer Media’s Engineering News

Read more: