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World class testing for globally competitive products

Home Manufacturing & Processing Automotive World class testing for globally competitive products

MANDELA Bay University’s engagement and innovation institute, eNtsa, in collaboration with the Automotive Industry Development Centre – Eastern Cape (AIDC – EC) and the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI), and with support from the provincial government, has launched an expanded world class testing facility at the Ocean Sciences campus.

eNtsa has worked closely with automotive manufacturers and suppliers for the past 20 years and is extending its scope to include the marine industry as a core focus in its new spacious laboratory.

“With its scale and global competitiveness, the automotive industry is a major contributor to our local economy, and we would like to support the marine industry to reach similar levels,” says Julien de Klerk, eNtsa engineering engagement director.
De Klerk explains that the expansive new laboratory allowed eNtsa to move some testing equipment from existing facilities which were at over-capacity, and to introduce new equipment. “The 2,500L corrosion test chamber is a game-changer for us. More than twice the capacity of our existing 1,100L chamber, it gives us the scope to test much larger objects.”

The facility houses a number of environmental chambers used for several tests, including corrosion testing and thermal aging. An object, a door panel, for example, is subjected to accelerated cycles of changing temperature, humidity and salt water, to determine how it will respond to long-term wear. Environmental testing can last a few days or continue for as long as two months.

Researchers, student interns, and graduate trainees work on projects and learn how to operate industry-standard equipment in eNtsa’s labs. “That is another exciting feature of this new lab,” says De Klerk. “It gives us more space to accommodate learning opportunities.” He says a mix of technical disciplines work together in the labs learning from the professional lab staff – from electrical and mechanical engineering, mechatronics, metallurgy, chemistry and physics.

With an increase in automation and robotics, the labs are also drawing on IT and software skills and the new facility includes a collaborative robot test bed.

The product and materials testing facilities fulfil two critical roles for manufacturers supplying global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). eNtsa’s testing services are South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) approved and ISO 17025 accredited. “This means that if a local manufacturer’s component passes the required tests in our lab, the doors are open for it to supply the OEM locally and to export to overseas plants.”
“The other aspect of our testing is related to research. Whether it’s an issue of high scrap rates, low efficiency, or an unknown source of a fault – we use our technology to test and understand how materials react to conditions. In these cases, we can provide the testing service and also help the manufacturer to find solutions.”

Another world class technology that the subsidised lab brings within reach of local small, micro and medium-sized enterprises is 3D scanning. “Being able to precisely replicate and inspect an existing structure is particularly useful for designers developing accessories or replacement of legacy parts. These need to fit perfectly and having an accurate 3D model to work with, allows the designer to be more accurate,” says De Klerk.
The new laboratory was officially launched on 15 March and is being developed in phases to allow for the addition of new technologies and equipment, as industry needs change. “Testing hydrogen storage and transportation infrastructure is a developing need in the bulk storage, automotive and marine industries and we plan to build capacity to support that,” says De Klerk.

As an engagement institute within Mandela University, eNtsa provides a subsidised service to support SMEs. “Having our testing facility here in Gqeberha brings world class support within an SME’s reach. We are here to assist local companies to achieve the international quality standards required to supply automotive and marine manufacturers to further localisation,” says De Klerk.

To promote the development of Eastern Cape based SME suppliers to the automotive sector, the institute is inviting proposals for the Automotive Localisation Testing (ALT) programme 2024/5. Proposals can be submitted online by 15 April 2024 and stand a chance of receiving fully subsidised testing. Companies wanting to access eNtsa’s services can contact the institute to discuss their needs with one of its professional engineers or testing specialists.

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