My name is Ipfi Mathoho and I am a 30-year-old PhD candidate, based at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) within the Future Production: Manufacturing cluster, and I come from Thohoyandou, Limpopo. My PhD focuses on 3D printing and my research is titled, “Process development and optimisation for metal 3D printing of an aircraft engine-bracket component”. 3D printing/additive manufacturing is a relatively new manufacturing technique that has attracted industries such as aerospace, biomedical, automotive, etc. Its mechanism involves manufacturing a component by building layer upon layer, based on a 3D CAD model. What makes 3D printing superior to its counterparts’ processes is that it can rapidly produce components with complex geometry and enhanced mechanical properties at a lower cost. These attributes have attracted a company that manufactures aircraft. This company wishes to integrate 3D printing into its manufacturing chain, and has requested the CSIR to conducted a study that focuses on the feasibility of the manufacturing of its engine mount bracket through 3D printing. Therefore, my PhD is based on developing a 3D printing manufacturing process for the compay’s engine mount bracket. I am pleased to state that the 3D printing manufacturing processes that I have developed for the bracket thus far have yielded mechanical properties that are superior to the ones of the bracket manufactured through the current company’s manufacturing method. This implies that, when subjected to its application, the bracket manufactured through 3D printing will perform better than the bracket manufactured through the current manufacturing method employed by the company.
3D printing uses robotics and artificial intelligence, which are the engines for the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). As such, projects of this kind will contribute immensely to the development of the 4IR by inspiring confidence in other manufacturing sectors locally and globally. This will further aid in stimulating the South African economy and assist in resolving the socioeconomic challenges faced by our country. Additionally, the global market growth of 3D printing is about 25% annually, so this project will also contribute to the market growth of 3D printing.
The 4IR is upon us; therefore young people should embrace it the most and contribute to its development with the fundamental aim of solving the socioeconomic challenges faced by the country. This is especially so for the youth because the demographics of South Africa have shown that young people are the most affected by the socioeconomic challenges. Furthermore, South Africa emerges from a dark past where black people were not allowed to participate in the mainstream economy, so it is projects of this nature that can galvanise the disadvantaged youth of South Africa to participate in the economy and contribute to the development of the country.