Article by Devon Hagedorn-Hansen
Students, technicians and lecturers from the Faculty of Engineering, Stellenbosch University, have been assisting in various projects in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic since early April 2020. From 3D printing face shields and other PPE, to assisting with testing and manufacturing prototypes for the National Ventilator Project (NVP).
The National Ventilator Project is one of the key projects where engineers are reverse engineering existing ventilators. Once developed and manufactured, these ventilators will ensure that when the virus peaks, there are enough ventilators to keep thousands of infected South African’s alive. The PPE that was produced is also assisting the frontline workers from not getting infected, so they can continue to work with peace of mind and with their safety taken care of.
The Stellenbosch Technology Centre (STC), which is part of the Department of Industrial Engineering, has been using its state-of-the-art Additive Manufacturing/3D printing equipment to manufacture parts for the National Ventilator Project. Some parts were prototypes for the Continuous Positive Airways Pressure (CPAP) device, which the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering were assisting with.
Other parts include mould cores with conformal cooling channels printed out of metal. This was for the National Technologies Implementation Platform (NTIP) to assist with allocated tasks from the SA-COVID-Agile response team. These cores will be used in an injection moulding process to make thousands of plastic parts needed by medical staff for Covid-19.
The STC is partly funded by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), which is supported by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI).
Left: CPAP internal part prototypes being cured with UV light.
Centre: CPAP internal part prototypes printed with resin.
Right: Stellenbosch Technology Centre Technician, Xola Madyibi, inspecting the quality and sizes of the metal mould cores printed on the Concept Laser M2.