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SA Foundry Industry goes to Düsseldorf

South Africa’s National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN), along with the South African Institute of Foundrymen (SAIF) and the Aluminium Federation of South Africa (AFSA), will be showcasing South Africa’s metal casting capabilities and investment opportunities in Düsseldorf from 12-16 June 2023, at GMTN 2023: The Bright World of Metals. MechChem Africa talks to NFTN Director Ndivhuho Raphulu.

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The CSIR based NFTN will be spearheading a South African contingent to participate at the four-in-one GMTN 2023 trade fair and congresses in Düsseldorf this June. The four individual components of GMTN embrace all aspects of modern foundry technology, metallurgy, thermal processing and precision casting, respectively, through:

  • GIFA: the premier event for foundry technology, cast products, metallurgy and thermal process technology.
  • MTEC: the international industry exhibition and gathering for metallurgical technology.
  • THERMPROCESS: the global platform for presenting innovative technology and environmental concepts for industrial thermal processing plants.
  • NEWCAST: the world-leading international trade fair for precision casting and a showcase for the versatility of modern foundry technology.

Held every four years, the combination of these four trade fairs and congresses represents the best possible opportunity for those seeking new markets for their services and new technologies to incorporate into their foundries.

“We have secured funding to participate in GIFA 2023 on behalf of the South African Foundry industry,” says NFTN Director, Ndivhuho Raphulu. “We are taking three of our professional metallurgists along with a team from the NFTN. We have also offered to pay for representatives from the Institute of Foundrymen (SAIF) and the Aluminium Federation of South Africa (AFSA), The key objectives? “The NFTN has three critical areas of interest driving us to go to GIFA. The first is to promote localisation and technology transfer. We want to rejuvenate our industry by identifying the casting technologies and services that South African foundries need to enable them to raise quality, productivity and capacity levels,” Raphulu tells MechChem Africa.

The second key objective is to develop better access to global markets, Raphulu explains: “Most of our South African foundry sector is failing to access the global casting industry market for a number of reasons. We need to find new customers and to convince them that we can deliver at the quality and price they require,” he says.

Third, he continues, many local foundries struggle to remain competitive against our international peers. “So we want to explore the new technologies that will reverse that trend. We also have a skills gap that needs filling, to raise quality and production standards. Going to GIFA exposes us to more successful competitors and helps to identify what they are doing better than us. As an industry, we need to be prepared to look for opportunities to improve and to benchmark ourselves against the best competitors in the world,” he adds.

The initiative is being funded by the DTIC with justification at two levels. “The DTIC has a unit that deals with trade and investment and that unit’s role is to create an opportunity platform for South African industry to be exposed to international markets. The second reason is that the foundry industry in South Africa is currently in a dire state and we all recognise that rejuvenation is essential.

“Ten years ago, there were maybe 150 foundries in the country that were competitive. By that we mean internationally competitive because they were exporting under contract from global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). These foundries had enough work to sustain themselves in the medium- to long-term and to train local people. We estimate that we are now down to having only 60 that we at the NFTN know about and, perhaps, a further 20 competitive foundries left in South Africa,” Ndivhuho Raphulu informs
MechChem Africa.

NFTN is currently doing a benchmark study of the foundry industry and asking all local foundries to participate. “We know there are many foundries that are either job hopping or surviving based on short term contracts. We want to create long term opportunities for the whole industry, where foundries have sustainable projects and contracts. So we need to find money and resources, not only to support foundries on the technical side, but also to expose them to best global practices, new markets and export opportunities,” he explains.

On the plus side, he notes that South Africa still has five or so foundry companies that are world-class. They export castings such as of engine blocks for the automotive sector directly to overseas OEMs, for example, or specialised casting for energy and mining sector OEMS. These exports are going outside of the African continent to committed markets that require very high quality end-products.

“We would like to see this number doubled in the next 12 to 24 months, so that these sustainable and globally competitive foundries can be used to help build a stronger value chain for the benefit of other local foundries: to act as a support structure and to promote capacity building,” he explains adding that GIFA offers a starting point for expanding and rescuing South Africa’s foundry sector.

South Africa also has a wealth of natural resources and by-products from the mining industry that are useful to global metals industries. Notably, we have chromite, which is used to manufacture foundry grade chromite sand, which is exported to foundry suppliers across the world.

“In the last five years, a lot of work has been done, both by the SAIF, ourselves, the CSIR and the University of Johannesburg (UJ), to raise the quality of foundry sand, reduce its toxicity and to enable the industry to better comply with the Environmental Management and Waste Management Acts. This is becoming increasingly important in the export market, which is demanding better environmental compliance.

“We are seeking to help foundries to reuse their sand or sell it on after use for alternative purposes. This also contributes towards being globally competitive, helps with business development and also introduces a waste management/industrial symbiosis aspect to the industry.

“We are speaking to the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and the Environment (DFFE) to determine criteria and opportunities for diverting this sand from landfill and using it to create alternative business opportunities. We are now faced with commercialisation and we are testing used foundry sand quality for several alternative commercial applications.

“Most important, though, we are doing whatever is needed to make sure that we meet all the relevant environmental requirements, so as to retain and advance the export opportunities for our foundry grade sands,” says Raphulu.

Turning attention back to GIFA 2023, he says that the idea underpinning the stand design is to create a platform where South African stakeholders can all present their capabilities to the market. “We are now in a virtual and electronic world and our stand design will reflect that using videos and virtual displays.

“We are inviting all stakeholders from across our network to use our virtual platform to present, promote and market themselves at GIFA. Any interested company wishing to introduce themselves to the overseas market simply needs to contact us and submit a short video presentation, which will then be incorporated into the content of our GIFA Stand.

“Please contact us if you are interested, either via the NFTN website if you are already registered with us, or by contacting Constance Mapulane Mokhoantle on,” Raphulu concludes.