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:

Posted on

International space project puts South Africa on the satellite industry map

The South African satellite industry is taking yet another step forward as a player in the international arena with the launch of two South African built nanosatellites from Cape Canaveral in Florida within the next few days.   Two nanosatellites, ‘nSight1’ designed and manufactured by Cape Town-based SCS Space, a member of the SCS Aerospace Group and ‘ZA-Aerosat’ designed and manufactured by CubeSpace of the Stellenbosch University, are to be launched  as part of a batch totaling 28  nanosatellites from 23 different countries. The current information provided by ULA, the launch service provider, is that the Atlas V & Cygnus OA-7 launch is set for 18 April 2017 at 17:11 South African time (11:11am EDT) following a number of rescheduled events due to ground equipment readiness. Their initial destination is the International Space Station (ISS), where they will be unloaded by the ISS crew and transferred to deployers with the help of robotic arms. The satellites will eventually be deployed into low-earth orbit over a period of 30 to 60 days as the ISS orbits the Earth.

The SCS Space nSight1 satellite project is a joint investment by SCS Aerospace Group and Pinkmatter Solutions who supplied the ground segment software. The satellite was designed, integrated and tested by engineers from the Space Advisory Company and assembled in the clean room of NewSpace Systems, both part of the SCS Aerospace Group. A key part of the mission of the satellite is to allow for the testing of the newly developed SCS Gecko Imager  as well as Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s patented Radiation Mitigation VHDL Coding Technique.

The satellites are part of the QB50 project funded by the European Union and managed by the von Karman Institute to conduct research in the lower thermosphere between 200km to 380km altitude. The data collected from this experiment over a period of 18 months will be used to complement current atmospheric models especially applicable to reentry trajectories of spacecraft.  All the nanosatellites will eventually burn up at the end of their operational lifetimes.

“We are proud to be a part of an international space project of this magnitude. It affords us the opportunity to test the next generation space camera technology which was uniquely developed by SCS Space and partners within industry development initiatives of the South African Department of Trade and Industry,” says Hendrik Burger, CEO for SCS Space, the primary contractor for the nSight1 nanosatellite.

“We are also looking forward to the next stage of this project which encompasses operational aspects such as mission control and processing the data received from our satellite. This will be done through our Houwteq Ground Station near Grabouw in the Western Cape,” says Burger.

SCS Space is a subsidiary of the SCS Aerospace Group, Africa’s largest privately owned satellite concern. Other participants in the project are Pinkmatter Solutions, Space Advisory Company, NewSpace Systems, Stellenbosch University, CubeSpace, Simera Technology Group, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the Amateur Radio Society.

From left: Dr Sias Mostert, Chairman of the SCS Aerospace Group, Hendrik Burger, CEO of SCS Space, Chris Böhme and Sonja Goosen both from Pinkmatter Solutions who co-invested in the project and supplies ground segment software for the satellite

A satellite in the process of being deployed from the International Space Station. The 28 satellites which forms part of the European Union’s QB50 project will all be deployed in this manner over a period of 30 to 60 days while the ISS orbits Earth. Image: NASA

For more information, please contact:

Lecia Chidrawi

Group Marketing Manager for the SCS Aerospace Group of companies

T: +27 21 300 0060

F: +27 21 300 0064

E:  |

Read more:

Posted on

South African satellite to take part in international space project

7 November 2016:

A nanosatellite designed and built in South Africa will be launched early next year from the International Space Station as part of a European Commission research project.

Managed by SCS Aerospace Group, South Africa’s biggest private satellite concern it will be launched from the space station during the first quarter of next year together with 40 satellites from other countries as part of the European Commission’s QB50 project. These satellites are to conduct atmospheric research in the lower thermosphere between 200km to 380km altitude. The data collected from this experiment over a period of 18 months will be used to complement current atmospheric models used by operators in the space industry.

“We are proud not only to be part of the QB50 project, but especially of the fact that it presents the opportunity to showcase South Africa’s ability in the space industry. Almost all the systems and components on this satellite were manufactured and assembled within six months with South African partners,” says Dr. Sias Mostert, Chairman of the SCS Aerospace Group.

“Although one of our subsidiary companies SCS Space is the prime contractor for the satellite, it offers a platform for showcasing the space technology abilities of all the other SA stakeholders who made this project possible. Participants in the project are the Space Advisory Company, Stellenbosch University, CubeSpace, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Pinkmatter Solutions, the Amateur Radio Society and NewSpace Systems,” says Dr. Mostert.

Apart from conducting the European Commission’s lower thermosphere experiments the nanosatellite called nSight1 and weighing some 2.5 kg will during its 6 to 18 months’ flight also test the company’s newly developed SCS Gecko Imager as well as Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s patented ‘Radiation Mitigation VHDL Coding Technique’.

“The mission is a joint investment by SCS Aerospace Group and Pinkmatter Solutions and forms part of a line of satellites to establish space heritage for a new generation of high performance remote sensing cameras. The camera technology being tested on the nSight1 nanosatellite was developed with initial support from the South African Department of Trade and Industry’s AISI program,” says Dr. Mostert.

The satellite was designed, integrated and tested by engineers from the Space Advisory Company (SAC), another member of SCS Aerospace Group. SAC is a satellite systems engineering company with thousands of man-hour practical satellite engineering experience in the global satellite market. Design and engineering were contributed to nSight1 in the focus areas of structural, thermal, optical and digital engineering, power systems, communication systems, software, attitude control systems and system engineering.

The satellite was assembled in the clean room of NewSpace Systems, a South African spacecraft component manufacturer. NewSpace Systems employs only European Space Agency (ESA) certified technicians in their ISO 7 class clean room, a unique facility on the African continent.

“As a producer of new generation satellite ground segment software, Pinkmatter primarily serves the international satellite market. As a South African company, we are stronger by working together to provide more value to continue our success story in the international market. We are proud to have co-funded the nSignt1 mission, the first private South African satellite and thank all the engineers for the many days and nights of excellent work,” says Chris Böhme, the CEO of Pinkmatter Solutions


The core team that built SCS Aerospace Group’s nSight1 nanosatellite in a record time of 6 months are at the front from left to right: Dr. Louis Muller, Dr. Francois Malan, Kannas Wiid, Rikus Cronje, Hendrik Burger; in the middle David Brill; and at the back Heinrich Fuchs, Premie Pillay, Philip Bellsted, Dr Lourens Visagie, Kevin Gema and Marcello Bartolini.


nSight1 the South African satellite ready for shipment and its ultimate launch from the International Space Station early next year. From left are Dr Sias Mostert, Chairman of the SCS Aerospace Group, the company that drives the project, Hendrik Burger, CEO of SCS Space, Chris Böhme and Sonja Goosen both form Pinkmatter Solutions (


The nSight1, a 2.5 kg nanosatellite produced within 6 months by SCS Space and Space Advisory Company, members of the SCS Aerospace Group, South Africa’s largest private space company. The satellite is due for a launch as one of 40 other satellites from the International Space Station early next year as part of the European Space Agency’s QB50 project to study the earth’s upper atmosphere. During its flight it will also test the company’s newly developed SCS Gecko Imager as well as Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s patented ‘Radiation Mitigation VHDL Coding Technique’.

For more information contact:

Lecia Chidrawi
SCS Aerospace Group: Marketing Manager

Read more:

Posted on

Aerospace support programme success leads to increased funding for supplier development

The Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI) – managed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and funded by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) – has renewed its focus on its Supplier Development Programme (SDP), consequently allocating more resources to the programme, in addition to establishing and operating a pilot incentive scheme.

The SDP, as one of five programmes developed by the AISI, aims to provide mechanisms that enable small, medium-sized and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) to improve their competitiveness and productivity, thereby also increasing their ability to access the global supply chains.

AISI project manager Dr Prinal Naidoo says this renewed focus is because of the SDPís overall success in aiding SMMEs in the aerospace manufacturing sector, which, in turn, led to the dti’s increasing its investment in the SDP.

He explains that the five programmes are allocated a percentage of the AISI investment fund, depending on the needs of the industry, the success of the programme and the mandate from the dti. Based on these criteria, the AISI has increased the SDPís  share from 24% in the 2014/15 financial year to 49% in the 2015/16 financial year.

Naidoo notes that ‘the decision to increase the support from the dti will make a significant impact on industry, as more funding for supplier development results in more aerospace manufacturing SMMEs being developed’. He suggests that this will  eventually enable the SMMEs to supply the international market and, hopefully, attain credibility as leading manufacturers and suppliers of aerospace components.

The SDP has two pillars – supplier development enablers, which include projects relating to the implementation of quality management systems and standards, as well as preparation for international accreditation – and technology transfer.

The SDP assists SMMEs in establishing quality management systems by increasing their knowledge of and compliance with aerospace standards, and in achieving international accreditation, Naidoo adds.

The SDP has been instrumental in increasing SMMEsí adoption of aerospace standard AS/EN 9100 – or essentially the aerospace equivalent of ISO 9001 – which outlines the requirements for quality assurance in design, development, production, installation and servicing.

Through these enablers, SMMEs can improve their efficiencies, reduce waste and costs while increasing their attractiveness as aerospace manufacturers.

He notes that the projects supported under supplier development enablers are not continuous. ‘Project support  changes each year, depending on industry need. If a company receives support for AS/EN 9100 and is certified for a specific period, the company might not need support for this in the following year; this also applies to other areas within the SDP.’ Naidoo notes that this demonstrated that the AISI and its programmes adapt to the changing needs of the local aerospace industry.

The number of SMMEs supported is project dependent – certain projects have a large number of SMMEs benefiting, while others have fewer SMMEs benefiting, he points out.

Naidoo states that supplying the global aerospace original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs), such as Boeing and Airbus, requires significant intervention for local SMMEs. The AISI provides support for these interventions to enable SMMEs to enter the international supply chain via local integrators.

He cites the example of machining manufacturer Daliff Precision Engineering. ‘Through AISI interventions, Daliff can now  supply components to Airbus and develop as an aerospace manufacturing SMME.’

He says similar interventions are under way at other SMMEs: ‘The AISI is focusing on developing these manufacturing SMMEs through focused supplier development interventions and working closely with OEMs in the industry.’

The Pilot Scheme
Naidoo states that the Aerospace Supplier Development Incentive Scheme focuses on broadening industry participation by enabling SMMEs to increase their involvement in the aerospace manufacturing industry.

‘This scheme is intended to support the development of a subtier SMME manufacturing base through higher tier systems integrators and manufacturers in the aerospace industry, which supply components to international OEMs,’ he explains.

The scheme is meant to use current local integrators – or manufacturers that have already established international market relationships and supply chains – to help develop SMME manufacturers, where the integrator acts as a facilitator between the OEM and SMME.

Naidoo explains that the incentive payments, which are made to an OEM, will be based on a percentage of the increase in contractual value that results from contracts placed by an integrator to an SMME in consecutive years starting in the 2015/16 financial year.

‘The incentive support will continue  for  three consecutive years, after which the SMME must be able to absorb the necessary quality processes and develop an independent capability,’ he states.

Further, an expression of interest was advertised to identify two aerospace OEMs -Denel Aerostructures and Aerosud Aviation – which have since initiated eight projects at seven aerospace manufacturing SMMEs.

Impact on Industry 
Naidoo says the AISI neither provides capital expenditure (capex), as there are other mechanisms in the dti that support capex, nor supports research and development projects, as its focus is on the industrialisation and/or commercialisation of technologies.

SMMEs have also benefited from the Industry Development and Technology Support Programme by receiving support to industrialise technologies relevant to aeronautics, defence and space. As a result, new technologies are being developed that feeds into national and international markets.

Most Recent Project
Naidoo notes that the AISI was recently involved in a project pertaining to the design and manufacturing of aerospace fuel tank systems: ‘This project proposed the establishment of a specialised capability for the loads analysis of aerospace fuel tank structures, thereby providing critical design information for the local industry.’

The project was meant to obtain a competitive advantage in the international market by leveraging locally developed technology, thus attracting foreign investment and increasing its foothold in the global supply chain. He says that, by employing high value-added manufacturing, it would be possible to ensure the sustained growth of human resources and skills development.

Further, the type of work required for this project  will drive innovation and, hopefully, act as a technology incubator, Naidoo states.

He adds that this project had a unique collaboration model that entailed collaboration among industry, the CSIR and academia, yet each organisation had specific objectives that contributed to the success of the project.

Denel Aerostructures provided the design and manufacturing capability, the CSIR provided software development capability and the University of Pretoria the test and evaluation capability. Project duration was 18 months and was successfully completed with the  specialised capability being effectively developed and tested.

Naidoo notes that the global economic slowdown has naturally affected many high- technology industries, including the aerospace industry. This has resulted in a decreased effort to develop technologies and supplier bases, owing to a lack of funding availability in the private and public sectors.

He emphasises that this restricted environment is what makes initiatives like the AISI more relevant as an industry support mechanism.

‘The AISI provides the necessary support to develop technologies and improve the aerospace supplier base. It enables aerospace OEMs and SMMEs to continue with product and supplier development.’

Naidoo concludes that the AISI is integral to continued development in the South African aerospace manufacturing industry and the growth of the economy.


Fuel Sloshing Demonstration at the Univeristy of Pretoria

Fuel Tank Assembly at Denel Aerostructures

Fuel Tank Assembly at Denel Aerostructures

Fuel Tank Sloshing Simulation Done by the CSIR

Fuel Tank Sloshing Simulation Done by the CSIR

Read more:

Posted on

Advanced manufacturing boosts global competitiveness of aeronautics and defence sectors

The Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI) is fulfilling its mandate to assist in improving the global competitiveness of the local aeronautics, space and defence sectors. Advanced manufacturing, specifically, holds good potential for AISI industry partner Denel Aerostructures as a game changer to promote the aerospace industry.

The AISI is an initiative of the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and is hosted and managed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Marié Botha, AISI Manager, says, “The AISI takes its strategic direction from government’s objectives with a specific emphasis on industrialisation of technology. South African industry is encouraged to advance niche capabilities and technologies through industrialisation. Our projects and contribution to the aerospace and advanced manufacturing industries cover a broad spectrum – from process design of continuous fibre-reinforced thermoplastic joining methods to process design of titanium fluid-cell forming, and the design and testing of high strength aerospace materials.”

Two projects are of particular interest in the partnership with Denel Aerostructures. They are:

Ultra high cycle fatigue (UHCF) design and testing of high strength aerospace materials

Ultra-sonic fatigue research has been primarily undertaken in France, the United States of America, Slovakia, Austria and Japan.

Many newly designed systems and high strength materials are required to last for longer operational life cycles at increased frequencies. This requirement will extend the amount of fatigue cycles experienced by the new designs into the high to ultra-high cycle range.

A lack of understanding exists of the effects of UHCF on high strength materials that are subjected to UHCF loading. To this end, Denel Aerostructures is extending existing work to enhance the testing capability of the most widely used modern aerospace materials, and to create a complete and more comprehensive database of modern aerospace grade high-strength materials, which may be used in the future.

Pretesh Daya, Stress Engineer at Denel Aerostructures, explains, “We hope to develop a working fatigue and damage tolerance testing system that can be used to test a variety of high durability materials in the field of Ultra High Cycles. This will be the UHCF testing mechanism in the southern hemisphere.

“Once the system has been fully developed it is likely that it would be put to use in developing new materials that make use of new technologies such as grown/3D printed components. The system would be able to gather the data necessary for the improvement of existing materials as well. For example, one of the hurdles in adopting new materials and processes (such as grown/3D printing) in the aeronautical industry is the availability of reliable (third party) material data in different fields, such as fatigue specification data. This UHCF machine would be one of the means to be used to provide this data.”

Progress so far includes the design and development of a testing system that is capable of testing both aluminium and titanium aerospace grade materials up to and above the giga-cycle region of testing – that is billions of loading cycles.

The work has also resulted in the incorporation of a sensor system capable of monitoring and recording data up to 50 kHz (50 000 cycles) during testing. Stress-life data curves have been developed for both the materials with additional upgrades and materials to be developed and tested in the future.

The successful completion of the system will result in the development of optimised high strength materials, which would ultimately lead to cost saving as well as increased safety since much of the data for these new materials do not exist.

“As is always the case with development, some serendipitous circumstances – probably because necessity brings innovation – resulted in unexpected benefits,” Daya quips, “For example, this testing system also gave rise to the development of stress-life data for a project performed by another department of Denel. The Denel Dynamics project required the use of such a system to identify and verify the fatigue capability of a manufactured component. Our work has therefore already, unintentionally, resulted in the successful development of manufactured components.” The completion of the current project may result

in future development in the near future.

UHCF experimental setup
UHCF experimental setup


UHCF testing equipment
UHCF testing equipment


Feasibility of Natural Fibres in Aerospace Structures

South Africa’s local composite market has yet to make a significant impact in the global market. However, aircraft interiors are one area where natural fibres may be employed in composites as they offer a good strength-to-weight ratio. This, together with the growing popularity of green technologies and the need to reduce manufacturing costs, contributes to natural fibres being seen as a substitute for synthetic glass fibres.

With the support of the AISI, Denel Aerostructures is taking natural fibres from a pilot study into a production environment. The feasibility of using natural fibre composites in aerospace interiors is assessed and, where possible, the emphasis is on locally manufactured natural fibres.

Alcino Cardoso, Chief Engineer at Denel Aerostructures, says, “The aerospace market is still one of the most promising markets when it comes to composites. Due to fluctuations in oil prices and the risk of future shortages, aerospace manufacturers are turning to alternative materials to build lighter aircraft that are reliable and environmentally friendly.”

Natural fibres are already successfully used in the automotive and other commercial applications. The aerospace industry has taken an interest in natural fibres, but to be accepted, the fibres must meet stringent safety, quality and certification requirements. Flax is the most researched natural fibre, and, Cardoso continues, “shows the greatest promise to be accepted as a structural fibre for aerospace structures”.

Part of the feasibility study aims to identify its reliability and repeatability (i.e. as a natural fibre, are its strength properties the same from harvest to harvest); how its strength properties behave under hot/wet environments; and what its flame, smoke, toxicity and heat release properties are.

Cardoso explains, “Flax fibres are currently included in various aerospace development programmes worldwide and show superior specific substance and strength to the synthetic glass fibre. Also of special interest is its excellent dampening and acoustic properties. Passenger safety regulations are extremely strict. Flax fibres have inherent safety advantages that make them suitable for aircraft interiors, such as doors for baggage components, interior liners, and cabin floors. However, due to the stringent aircraft testing requirements, they will probably only find their way into aircraft structures by 2020.”

Currently, Denel Aerostructures, with the support of the AISI, is characterising the material properties of an epoxy resin/flax fibre composite laminate with the purpose of using this material in the interior liners of the new regional aircraft developed under the SARA programme. Various test coupons are currently being tested and an interior liner will be manufactured this year from locally developed flax fibre fabrics.

Cardoso says they have been able to develop globally comparable natural flax fibre fabrics in about a third of the expected timeframe. “A further spin-off has been indications from the local market to collaborate on developing carbon fibre fabrics, a synthetic fibre widely used on aerospace structures.

“From a local perspective, we can activate the natural fibres value chain, break into the lucrative global composites market and create much-needed jobs,” he concludes.

The capability developed within this project is linked to the use of natural fibres in the development of the South African Regional Aircraft (SARA), by Denel Aerostructures.

Master pattern and tool design for the SARA interior lining
Master pattern and tool design for the SARA interior lining



Typical SARA interior lining manufactured from Natural Fibres
Typical SARA interior lining manufactured from Natural Fibres

In both cases, the support of the AISI has made it possible for Denel Aerostructures to make gains in terms of advanced manufacturing. Botha says, “This is in line with our vision and mission, which is to make the South African aerospace industry globally competitive.”

Posted on

Advanced manufacturing gives AISI-Aerosud partnership welcome lift

In line with its vision of helping the local aeronautics and related sectors to improve their global competitiveness, the Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI) and global aviation leader Aerosud are employing advanced manufacturing capabilities to drive down costs and weight of components.

 The AISI is an initiative of the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and is hosted and managed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

 Marié Botha, AISI Manager, says, “Continuous cost reduction while maintaining world-class quality and safety standards is of increasing importance to this sector. Our work with Aerosud involves exploring manufacturing technologies that will allow it to reduce costs on existing and future materials and processes. Cost and weight reduction to promote efficiency and ultimately achieve reduced cost is critical.”

 The four projects (detailed below) illustrate how advanced manufacturing is being industrialised in the South African aerospace industry. They are:

 Process design of continuous fibre-reinforced thermoplastic (CFRTP) joining methods

 The process design of CFRTP joining methods is one of the technologies that will enable Aerosud’s participation in the international CFRTP market.

Within the context of this research project, which started in 2007 and was co-funded by the Department of Science and Technology’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy, a CFRTP stamp-forming process was developed. Subsequently, an industrial process was developed with AISI support. This led to the successful implementation of manufacturing processes for 1 800 frame clips per month for the Airbus A350 programme.

Joints between metal components and CFRTP structures were investigated as an integral part of major assemblies. A complete assembly for installation on aircraft will be produced and tested to ensure that the full process design cycle is understood and tested.

Aerosud Research and Technology Director, Wouter Gerber, explains, “These frame clips are made for the centre fuselage of the aircraft. They are class 1 primary parts and secure the fuselage skin panels to the fuselage structural framework. For example, there are more than 470 types of frame clips produced by Aerosud for the A350, and more than a 1 000 Aerosud frame clips in each A350.”

After the clips are formed at Aerosud, they are shipped to Spirit Aerostructures in the US where the clips are assembled to the aircraft frames and skins using rivets and bolts. The assembled panels are fed into the Airbus assembly lines in France where they are mounted onto the aircraft.

Gerber adds, “This research project has allowed Aerosud to understand the complexity of the technology better; we have not found the answer to all the questions yet but we have found the right questions at least.

“One of the most relevant achievements is the formation of a coherent multidisciplinary development group that can perform all the functions relevant in the lifecycle of the product – from design and analyses to tool design, manufacture, assembly and structural verification. Our next step is to package the rest of the questions that we discovered into logical work packages and start developing solutions that will fit our environment.”

CAD model of rudder to be manufactured using CFRTP methods
CAD model of rudder to be manufactured using CFRTP methods


Process design and validation of CFRTP overlap joining method

Aerosud’s current Airbus A400M cargo linings project requires the manufacture, qualification and delivery to the final assembly line of various CFRTP parts. One such CFRTP part, notably the lower connection units (LCUs), has large complex-geometry parts and has proved extremely difficult to manufacture from a single sheet of CFRTP material.

Two problems therefore must be addressed: high manufacturing scrap rates, and difficulties in achieving the correct geometry of the parts. It was proposed that the LCU parts be manufactured as per design definition, using small multiple sheets of CFRTP material. This, however, implies joining the individual blanks in the forming process of an LCU part – a new production process that has not yet been fully defined, industrialised and qualified.

This project aims to design, industrialise and validate the process of joining of multiple CFRTP blank parts to create a larger single-piece complex-geometry CFRTP part that will comply to Airbus requirements.

Proposed LCU with overlap joints
Proposed LCU with overlap joints


Proposed manufacturing concept – overlapping joints during forming process
Proposed manufacturing concept – overlapping joints during forming process


Process design of titanium fluid-cell forming

The aerospace industry is constantly looking for new and improved ways to design more fuel-efficient aircrafts, and the material characteristics of titanium provide the required level of strength and durability without adding excess weight.

However, to maintain and grow the current supplier’s (Aerosud) value proposition to original equipment manufacturers (e.g. Airbus), continuous cost reduction is the primary deciding element.

Titanium and its alloys are extremely attractive because of the galvanic compatibility with carbon-based composites and strength-to-weight ratio. This metal is also very expensive, emphasising the importance of demonstrating the capability to manufacture complex shapes from sheet as opposed to expensive machining.

This project will develop and demonstrate a capability to design a complete process chain for the manufacture of titanium sheet-based products, using hydroforming for aviation applications.

Hydroforming or fluid-cell forming utilises a process that uses high pressure fluid to form metal into the required shapes.

Demonstrator part bracket
Demonstrator part bracket

Demonstrator part small riblet
Demonstrator part small riblet

Demonstrator part skin
Demonstrator part skin


Localisation and industrialisation of insulation blankets

To further reduce manufacturing costs and improve Aerosud’s competitiveness, the manufacture of insulation assemblies will be industrialised at an Aerosud-certified location. This project will not only advance the capability to assemble and deliver assembled components, but will also bring foreign spending back to South African companies through localisation of this technology.

This AISI-supported project will deliver a fully certified and industrialised process for the manufacture of A400M insulation blankets as per the Airbus requirements. The industrialisation of the assembly will create an additional five permanent jobs to deliver approximately 550 insulation assemblies per month.

According to Brian Ingram from Aerosud, the company is pursuing this project as an ideal localisation initiative. The insulations are currently purchased from Canada at high cost. The product will attract a small amount of labour, where the skill level is reasonably low. The labour requirement can also be filled by persons with disabilities.

Ingram reports, “The required capital equipment has been purchased and the design and industrialisation processes to support production are in full swing. The process mapping was initiated in January 2016 and the current expected date for the machine is April 2016.”

The project has also delivered some unintended benefits. “Due to the versatility of the cutting machine that we selected for this programme, several other areas of process improvement have been identified. The most significant opportunity is the automated cutting of prepreg material (a reinforcing fabric which has been pre-impregnated with a resin system). Interesting concepts on possible process and efficiency improvement in the manufacture of the insulations have been tabled as a result of this initiative,” he concludes.

Posted on

Collaborative fuel tank research promises flight path to economic growth


Collaboration between Denel Aerostructures, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the University of Pretoria (UP) aims to establish a specialised local capability to analyse the loads of aerospace fuel tank structures – a crucial safety consideration. The project is supported by the Aerospace Industry Support Initiative (AISI).

According to Marié Botha, AISI Manager, “The AISI strives to position the local aerospace and defence-related industry as a global leader in niche areas. A crucial part of realising this vision is to ensure effective interdepartmental participation and collaboration. Overall, our work with Denel Aerostructures is but one example of giving wings to our objectives.

“The collaboration’s efforts in the area of fuel tank design, in particular, will drive innovation and industrialisation as well as act as a technology incubator. The project investigates the dynamic loading of fuel on aircraft systems and how to accurately predict these loads for design purposes. It considers an extensive range of large scale laboratory tests on realistic fuel tanks as well as the numerical simulation of the experiments.”

The AISI is an initiative of the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and is hosted and managed by the CSIR.

Sloshing matters

The movement of a liquid inside another moving object, known as sloshing, is an important aspect of aerospace fuel tank design. Sloshing in large fuel tanks causes impact loading on structures and can threaten the dynamic stability of the vehicle in which they are contained – typically airliners and space launch rockets.

Andries Visser, Chief Stress Engineer at Denel Aerostructures, says, “The main benefit of our work will be to provide more accurate design loads due to fuel sloshing in the fuel tanks of aircraft. This could lead to more optimal designs and increase structural safety. In addition, expensive tests could be reduced if the load predictions of the software are correct.”

The project

A specialised capability for the analysis of sloshing in aerospace fuel tank structures will provide critical design information to the local industry. Researchers anticipate that leveraging locally developed technology will effect a competitive advantage in the international market and will attract foreign investment. Subsequent incorporation of advanced manufacturing will enable the sustained growth of human resources and skills development in the country.

While the AISI acts as facilitator and funder of the project, Denel Aerostructures is responsible for the design and manufacture of two test tanks that will be used to validate the flow simulation software developed by the CSIR. The UP is the partner responsible for experimentation.

“Denel Aerostructures has achieved its targets by delivering the two tanks to the CSIR. We are discussing future opportunities at the moment,” says Visser.

Botha adds, “A number of internationally recognised capabilities, which are related to the design and manufacturing of aircraft fuel tank structures, reside in South Africa. It is suggested that by combining these, a specialised capability may be established from which the economy may derive greater returns, hence this project.”

Proven partner expertise Denel Aerostructures has extensive background in the design and manufacturing of complex metallic and composite aero-structures for the military and commercial aviation sectors. It is a risk-sharing partner in the international A400M Airbus programme and it has an established track record in the design and manufacturing of integral fuel tanks, notably for the Impala, Bosbok and Kudu aircraft, as well as external fuel tanks, for example ferry tanks for the Rooivalk combat helicopter.

The CSIR has developed software to model dynamic fuel movement and subsequently predict loading on tank walls and baffles (used to restrain the flow of a fluid). This high-fidelity simulation approach provides design engineers with greater insight into the operating conditions of tanks during the design process and allows them to improve safety of the system and increase its efficiency.

Tests to validate the numerical algorithms used in the analysis of fuel sloshing in tanks are critical to establish confidence in the simulation software – and adoption by industry. Virtually no usable validation data are available in literature, and experimental analysis therefore represents significant value addition. Here the UP’s Centre for Asset Integrity Management comes in. Its background in dynamic response reconstruction with a large range of servo-hydraulic actuators and the capacity to do accelerated multi-actuator tests on multi-ton structures, places it in the ideal position internationally to integrate research with industrial-scale experimental facilities.

“This recipe,” Botha recognises, “offers the South African aerospace industry a very unique business opportunity to provide an all-inclusive and competitive solution for the design and manufacturing of fuel tank structures”.

“Our objectives for this project have also been met. Denel Aerostructures has established a promising collaboration with research establishments such as the CSIR and the UP, and we have assisted the CSIR with the validation of a valuable tool to calculate design loads on aircraft fuel tanks,” Visser states.

Next step

The second part of the project studies the application of the technology to a system under design. Denel is developing a rotatory wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that would carry approximately 180 litres of fuel. It is estimated that the weight of the airframe would be only 20% of the fuel weight and for this reason, the structure would be highly sensitive to the dynamic behaviour of the fuel.

The design, analysis and testing of the fuel tank structure of a rotary wing UAV allow for the integration of numerical simulation and experimental evaluation of the tank to support the design and manufacturing process. Providing design engineers with better insight into system dynamics, this technology would reduce risk during the development stage and improve the efficiency of the system.

Botha concludes, “The need to grow the South African economy and create sustainable jobs is urgent. Our aerospace industry with its advanced manufacturing capability provides a very attractive opportunity. Similarly, South Africa, with its extensive background in the aerospace industry along with its flexible and innovative engineering expertise, is ideally suited to realise this opportunity and establish itself as a reliable, cost-effective manufacturing partner.”