Extrusion technology

North-West University celebrates 15 years of world-class extrusion technology

Potch’s North-West University is home to world-class extrusion technology – a feat that was recently hailed at camput celebrations. What initially started in 1994 as a dream of Prof LJ Grobler, dean of the Faculty of Engineering, over time has evolved into technology that can compete with the global best.

For the layman, extrusion technology might sound like something foreign, yet most of us make use of extrusion products every day. Dog food, cheese curls, fish food, animal feeds, breakfast cereal and soy bean meat alternatives are but a few of the products manufactured by means of food extrusion.

However, in the past the problem was that, especially smaller South African business enterprises, could not afford to import this type of double-screw extrusion machinery, because of its cost.

Grobler and Danie Vorster met in 1997 and decided to tackle the proverbial bull by the horns. “We stared doing research on this and decided that it was a difficult, but not impossible task. We decided to build South Africa’s first double-screw extruder,” says Grobler.

What was then an experimental attempt in the development of extrusion machines for food processing, led to the establishment of the Centre for Advanced Manufacturing (CFAM) in 2000 at the then Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education. It currently operates as an independent business unit in collaboration with the North-West University.

Vorster was surprised when they received an order from the Namibian Ministry of Education in 2005 to supply a food extrusion machine to process mahango (a kind of sorghum) in Ovamboland. The plant was delivered in time and put into service in Ondangwa.

Since its inception, CFAM’s capacity and knowledge field increased gradually. Vorster and his team run a comprehensive enterprise at this centre and they concentrate primarily on the double-screw extrusion industry. Cylinders and screws as well as other metal components were designed and  manufactured on the premises. CFAM supplies its products and components to the local industries and they also export to several buyers in the UK and Europe and the East.

Their technology allows them to build double-screw extrusion systems of up to 100mm screw diameter and they also have the ability to manufacture anti-rotating systems.

One of the advantages of CFAM and its rapidly expanding technology capacity is that it is able to easily do production trials and also to easily make adjustments to its systems. 

“It is not as if one has to do with an equipment manufacturer from another time zone. All CFAM equipment was designed to be reliable, but also easy to maintain with locally manufactured, available spare parts,” says Vorster.

According to Prof Herman van Schalkwyk, rector of this campus, it creates many opportunities for job creation in the country.

“I am very proud of CFAM’s world technology. Such research and end products are absolutely necessary in development phases in the country. The success of this shows that the research is relevant for its community.”

Source: NWU