VUT researchers will add value overseas
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VUT researchers will add value overseas

From left: Ms Sanele Nxumalo: Lab Assistant; Ms Jeane Bresler: Designer; Ms Tintswalo Mabuza: Mechanical Technician

Selina Rapulane

Three female staff members from the Vaal University of Technology Southern Gauteng Science and Technology Park (VUTSGSTP) will proudly represent VUT and South Africa when they participate in the DiCoMI research project in the United Kingdom and Romania for the next two months. This initiative benchmarks again the importance that upcoming female scientists and researchers are making in the additive manufacturing and composite space of VUT.

The Directional Composites through Manufacturing Innovation (DiCoMI) project, aims to bring together leading innovators from around the world to develop a new method of producing composite material parts with optimised fibre directionality. The DiCoMI project will integrate advanced manufacturing techniques, composite materials science and manufacturing system design. As such, it requires a high level of inter-disciplinary cooperation as well as collaboration between researchers and industrial partners across the globe. The outcome will be a novel composite manufacturing system capable of producing low-cost parts with increased accuracy and enhanced functionality.

Ms Sanele Nxumalo, 28, a lab assistant at the Idea2Product, who has a BTech in Industrial Engineering, was chosen to participate in this project because of her experience in working with entry level polymer material extrusion machines.

“I am a versatile individual who is always eager to learn. My ability to critically analyse challenges and come up with solutions has always been my biggest strength. These will help me a lot in conducting my research successfully,” she said.  Her role in this project will be based in Romania.  She will be doing polymer material research in preparation for testing on entry level material extrusion machines at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca. Basically, this means testing specific polymer materials with short, chopped carbon fibre and continuous strand fibre embedded in them and testing the machine parameters for degradation of nozzles.

Establishing a relationship between the Universities is also one of the project goals. She will stay in Romania from 30 June to 31 August. She hopes to get more exposure to different material extrusion machines and different materials.

Second on the list is the 34-year-old Jeane Bresler who has a BTech in Fine Arts and is a designer by profession. She will start working on the project in July at Loughborough University.

“I will do research in Loughborough in July and practical tests at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca in August. After returning to SA, I will stay involved in the project, to a lesser extent, until it is completed in 2022,” she said.

The DiCoMI project is broken up into five different work packages and she will be working on the design of a hybrid manufacturing system.

Third on the list is the 29-year-old Ms Tintswalo Mabuza, a mechanical technician, who has a BTech in Mechanical Engineering. She leads the Energy Optimisation Unit at VUTSGSTP.  She was chosen to be a part of this project as she has a good background in mechanical design and energy optimisation and the research that needs to be done includes these two areas of speciality.  As she desires to study abroad for her Master’s in energy efficiency and sustainable buildings, she believes that also played a part in the selection process.

“My research will be in optimising the design of an additive manufacturing machine as well as optimising the energy it consumes. This research encourages the exchanging of skills between Loughborough University and Vaal University of Technology. The long-term goal is to develop a platform within the VUT Science Park that encourages the exchanging of skills from different institutions. When I come back from this trip, I will be one of the delegates that will mentor and look after delegates participating in the DiCoMI project who will be conducting their research at the VUT Science Park,” she said. She will be in UK from 30 June to 31 August.

In the meantime, she has been researching more on the subject matter in preparation for her trip.

The researchers feel honoured and excited to be working on this project as they will be surrounded by expert scientists and students who have immense skills and knowledge.

The DiCoMI project will focus on directional Fibre-Reinforced Polymer (FRP) materials and combine different manufacturing techniques into a unique and innovative hybrid system. This project will have a direct impact on the European and international scientific fields of composite materials and manufacturing equipment, while supporting the innovation potential in the automotive and aerospace industries.

VUT has been a partner in this project since 2014 through its Advanced Manufacturing Precinct (VUT-AMP), based at the Science Park. The park is known to host one of the largest Additive Manufacturing centres in the Southern Hemisphere and focuses on providing support to various industrial establishments, including the SA Footwear Cluster and the Vaal Foundry Innovation Centre. It integrates seamlessly with conventional manufacturing, and includes both a tool room and a design centre.

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