NFTN supports Gauteng Foundry Training Centre

The Gauteng Foundry Training Centre (GFTC) was officially launched and opened in September 2013.

The foundry industry in South Africa had for years been envious of what a number of its international counterparts were offered by their industry bodies in terms of training and research. The South African Institute of Foundrymen (SAIF) and its members had explored numerous options but there was always a financial constraint.

The SAIF is involved in a variety of initiatives to tackle the need for skills development and education in the foundry industry. The advent of government sponsored training courses in 2010, which the SAIF was tasked to be custodians of and implement, led the SAIF to spearhead an initiative to create a hub for practical foundry related skills training and technology transfer in the greater Gauteng region.

The outcome was that the first molten-metal pour took place on 19 September 2013 at the Ekurhuleni East TVET College (EEC), Kwa Thema campus in Springs, Gauteng and ignited a new era in training in the foundry industry in South Africa.

Atlantis Foundries donated a 50kg induction melting furnace with cooling tower and hydraulic power pack and a refractory sand mixer as well as core boxes, patterns and flasks, ladles, tongs, jack stands, a scrap storage bunker and a microscope to the GFTC

The GFTC is a joint initiative of the Gauteng Department of Economic Development (GDED), the SAIF, EEC the National Foundry Technology Network (NFTN), a Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) initiative that is administered by the CSIR and, with support and input from the private sector.

The establishment of the GFTC on the Kwa Thema campus of the EEC was a strategic decision, taking into account that more than 50% of the foundries in Gauteng are situated in the area and that the EEC already hosts a similar centre for the tooling industry.

The training centre boasts melting, chemically bonded moulding, core making, green sand moulding, sand testing and laboratory testing equipment for materials and pattern shop processes. It will offer practical training of students in the foundry industry, over and above theoretical knowledge.

The equipment
The GFTC is set up in a 800m² facility in EEC that includes a Lauds 1 to 3TPH high-speed continuous mixer with a Lauds Auto-Blend 3000, which is a temperature sensitive blending dosing system for the mixer and a Lauds multi-loop line that enables the cores and patterns to be moved with ease and returned to the mixer for a continuous moulding operation. In situ there is the Lauds LCT1 compaction table for mould compactability and to ensure optimum surface finish and quality is maintained throughout the moulding process.

Included in the equipment supplied by Lauds is a 6L hydraulic jobbing cold box core blower complete with the Lauds vertimix batch mixer and pump set, which feeds directly into the Lauds skip hoist delivering mixed resin cold box sand to the core blower on a fully automatic basis.

Feeding all of this is the Lauds sand delivery system, which includes a fully automated 5TPH pneumatic conveyor with all the necessary controls for the five ton dry silica sand hopper. The hopper feeds the two Lauds mixers and has a vent unit attached to ensure no dust is present during operations of the filling cycles.

Castings made by students at the GFTC

The Lauds scrubber ensures all fumes from the cold box production inside the cabinet are neutralised ensuring a green environment for the students to work in.

Most of the laboratory equipment is from Simpson Technologies and includes a sieve shaker, sand rammer, a universal strength testing machine, a permeability machine, sand moisture tester, a shutter index machine and a muffle furnace.

Scientific and Precision Solutions (SPS) supplied the Bruker Q2 ION metals analyser, reported to be one of the smallest and lightest ultra-compact spark emission spectrometers for metals analysis available. The spark spectrometer Q2 ION primary applications and metal matrices include copper, aluminium and iron for smaller foundries, inspection companies, metal recycling and metal fabricators. Besides the classical analysis workflow, the Q2 ION offers a dedicated workflow for positive material identification (PMI).

In the melting department HPT have supplied the 50kg cast iron induction tilt melter. Custom designed and manufactured in South Africa by HPT, it is equipped with the latest IGBT based induction power supply unit, which offers lower energy consumption, a smaller footprint, and up to a 70% reduction in the cooling system and up to 50% reduction in power components as compared to similar products, says HPT. Maintenance is made simpler by the modular design, and automation comes in the form of intelligent fault diagnostic menus, automated functions like pre-heat/sinter, remote monitoring and diagnostic functions and it is very operator friendly.

The non-ferrous department has been equipped with a new 50kg aluminium furnace and another 50kg furnace that was donated and subsequently refurbished before installation.

Some equipment that was originally installed by Lauds

The latest measuring and testing equipment available that offers greater carbon and temperature measurement accuracy and speed in cast iron production applications, has also been installed. This includes a fixed Digitemp-E temperature measurement instrument, a Carbon-Lab E instrument for fast carbon determination in liquid steel, a handheld portable DigiLance IV instrument with memory and wireless communications for temperature measurement and the MeltControll Software, all supplied by Heraeus Electro-Nite.

Equipment donated by Atlantis Foundries
In 2018 the GFTC benefitted with a donation of foundry related equipment that was being used in an artisan training centre hosted at Atlantis Foundries. The subsequent closure of the training centre resulted in Atlantis Foundries donating a 50kg induction melting furnace with cooling tower and hydraulic power pack and a refractory sand mixer as well as core boxes, patterns and flasks, ladles, tongs, jack stands, a scrap storage bunker and a microscope. All of this equipment is now installed.

NFTN patternshop equipment support
Current GFTC Manager Errol Beling was appointed at the beginning of 2014 and immediately set about bringing in the third element of training over and above the melting and moulding programmes, which is patternmaking. Beling has been a patternmaker all his life since starting as an apprentice in 1986. His last position in industry was Patternshop Training Manager at Scaw Metals.

“The foundry side was well catered for but the GFTC was lacking on the patternmaking side. I immediately ‘commandeered’ a carpentry/woodworking facility on the EEC campus and began turning it into a patternmaking shop,” said Beling.

“This has now culminated in November 2019 with the installation of seven new machines including a new heavy-duty panel saw, a new thicknesser and a new vertical band saw. We now have a state-of-the-art patternmaking workspace that we can provide practical training in while at the same time keeping the carpentry students happy.”

“The installation also included a new dust control and air filtration and extraction system that is linked to external silos.”

The patternmaking training shop with the new equipment installed

“All this new capital expenditure would not have been possible without the support intervention supplied by the NFTN and the support of the management at EEC. They have been very progressive in their efforts to make the college a recognisable institution for foundry training,” said Beling.

The inauguration of the GFTC in 2013 was boosted with the announcement that 20 students were chosen for a pilot project to complete their apprenticeships at the GFTC. The pilot group of students selected for 2014 had their course fee sponsored by the merSETA. Students also received a stipend during their work experience phase conducted at foundries. Students could also apply for a grant for their travel and accommodation during the pilot phase.

Over 50 students have now qualified at the training centre and the latest intake of 33 students began their 3-year course in August 2019. They are made up of 16 moulders and 17 patternmakers.

Accreditation for foundry training and trade testing
“The equipment donated by Atlantis Foundries was indeed installed over the past 18 months or so, also with support from the NFTN, and is now in use,” explained Beling.

“However, one of my main objectives when I joined the GFTC was to ensure that the right framework and initiatives were put in place to establish the GFTC as a fundamental training facility with the specific curricula required for the foundry industry to be accredited. Working with the merSETA and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) was essential in the design, implementation, assessment and certification of occupational qualifications, including trades. The accreditation was crucial to the NFTN to ensure that students receive accredited training approved by the QCTO to acquire artisanship qualification.”

“The merSETA encompasses manufacturing, engineering and related services. The merSETA is a key partner in the development of the GFTC’s curriculum to ensure that the quality of the training is of the appropriate standard.”

“At this stage we only have the moulding and patternmaking curriculum accredited and we are close to completing the process for melting.”

“I am also accredited as an assessor for trade testing on the patternmaking side and we use outside assessors for the moulding trade test. We are still offering melting training and the individual trade test can be done at a later stage.”

“We also send the students out to commercial foundries for practical training. However, the foundries have to be merSETA accredited and at the moment we only have three foundries in South Africa – Prima Industrial, MIS Engineering and Auto Industrial – that are accredited.”

The new dust extraction equipment that was installed at the GFTC patternmaking training shop

“At the moment we are the only institution in the whole of South Africa that is accredited to carry out trade testing in the foundry industry. We are limited to cast iron but in the future we will also encompass steel.”

NFTN support for consumables, tooling and staff
“A well-functioning foundry training centre not only needs staff but also consumables and tooling. Besides myself I also have three staff that provide the training and give the lectures to the students. We have a patternmaker, a moulder and a metallurgist that is UJ trained. All of them are fully qualified to train the students.”

“The artisan programme encompasses a knowledge component, a practical skills component and a work experience component and is aimed at school leavers and new entrants into the foundry industry.”

“The practical skills component constantly requires consumables such as new tooling, temperature sensors, inoculants, coatings, binders, coal dust, resins and others to manufacture the castings. And then of course there is the timber for the patternshop. We are grateful to the NFTN for their ongoing support of our consumables, tooling and other materials. Without these products the GFTC could face closure,” said Beling.

“Since the GFTC undertook the process to become accredited, the NFTN has viewed them as a strategic partner performing an important role in bridging the skills gap in the foundry sector, allowing artisans to get certified in the skills needed for a foundry. Therefore, the NFTN has provided support to provide consumables for trainees for the past few years,” said Sandy Majatladi, Programme Manager for the NFTN.

Beling ended with: “With a strong focus on engineering programmes, the Ekurhuleni East TVET College, Kwa-Thema campus boasts the only National Foundry Training Centre in South Africa, a fact that we are proud of. However, without the support of Ms Happy Sibande, Principal of the EEC and her staff we would not be making the progress that we are. The EEC has six campuses in the area and we are able to draw students from all of these campuses. Let us hope our model is transferred to other areas in the country in the future.”

For further details contact Errol Beling on TEL: 082 776 0680 or email