S.E.T. for socio-economic growth
Prize sponsor: proSET (Professionals in SET), a sector of the NSTF representing professional bodies and learned societies.
The winner of the 2020/2021 TW Kambule-NSTF Award Emerging Researcher is Dr Boitumelo Innocent Ramatsetse is Lecturer and Researcher: Engineering Graphics and Design, Educational Information and Engineering Technology, Wits. He received the Award for designing and developing an innovative beneficiation solution called “Reconfigurable Vibrating Screen” (RVS) for separating mineral particles according to size and volumes as demanded by customers in the mining and mineral processing industries.
Small-scale miners get a leg-up to the big time
Using his passion for engineering, Dr Boitumelo Ramatsetse designed and developed a new beneficiation solution, known as a reconfigurable vibrating screen (RVS), through his field and laboratory experiments. The RVS helps small-scale miners to gradually scale their production at an affordable cost, and addresses their safety, efficiency and productivity challenges.
The screen separates mineral particles according to various sizes and volumes demanded by customers in the mining and mineral processing industries. Ramatsetse and his team also developed a predictive maintenance application that can be used to monitor the sub-components of the RVS machine in real time.
The solution was created through a mathematical modelling process that measured the machine’s performance to identify its optimal operating parameters in different configurations. He also established a theoretical evolution model that clearly displays historical development, and an automated control system with an approachable user interface.
It addresses many of the challenges of conventional screening technologies, which lack full maintenance monitoring systems and are plagued with various control challenges, including the under- or over-loading of material. High structural loading can lead to high rates of vibration, which can in turn lead to structural damage or failure.
“The entire experience can be described as bittersweet, with low and very high moments that will remain in my memory for years to come,” he says. “One of the most memorable moments in this journey was having this, which was only an idea at the start, as a working prototype, becoming a first-of-its-kind solution manufactured in South Africa.
“The patent registration was a significant milestone that added to the excitement of having the innovation operational. The number of publications and its acceptance within the scientific community as a clear contribution to the body of knowledge has also stood out,” he adds.
With the patent for the RVS registered in South Africa and China, the solution responds to other challenges too: more than 90% of its components are locally manufactured, creating jobs and reducing down time while business owners wait for spare parts. It’s also cheaper than the alternatives.
The project was a subject of interest among a significant group of engineering and postgraduate students, with two experiential learning opportunities, three Master’s dissertations, two Doctoral theses and three functional prototypes completed during its development.
Ramatsetse intends commercialising the solution and collaborating with other prominent scholars in engineering to create more design solutions.
“These partnerships and engagements will benefit my country and my institution, but they will also create opportunities to work on large scale initiatives that will impact on the issues facing our communities, such as poverty, unemployment and inequality,” he says.
“I want to continue inspiring and empowering young aspiring researchers in engineering and education technology courses, and I want to investigate remote metering solutions principles such as modularity, integrability, customisation, scalability, convertibility and diagnosability.
“Finally, I would like to establish an interdisciplinary research group that will focus on academic and industrial research that addresses societal problems through discoveries in the field of advanced manufacturing systems.” — Kerry Haggard
Read the special Mail & Guardian supplement about all the NSTF-South32 Award winners.
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