Technology Development Center
Technology development and transfer are core activities at Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI). The Technology Development Centre (TDC) was established at UIRI by a 2005 Presidential Directive to create a Government Science Unit (GSU). The Centre became operational in October 2006 with the appointment of Dr. Dick Kamugasha as Director.TDC’s technology transfer projects entail: identification of resources for value addition; technology assessment and sourcing; training for skills capacity development; machinery and equipment acquisition; trial production, adaptation and replication; and public dissemination for commercial application.
Technology development on the other hand, has thus far involved the fabrication of rudimentary machinery and equipment for end-users to address specific needs. The goal is to advance towards the fabrication of more complex machinery following establishment of foundry technology at the institute.At present, TDC’s projects and activities are implemented under Engineering , ICT Services , Instrumentation , Energy systems , and Civil Works operational divisions respectively.
Future and Pipeline Projects
In line with its technology development and transfer mission, TDC will continue in its efforts to promote the use of innovative, affordable and appropriate technologies in areas such as: electronics; ICT; food processing; machinery fabrication as well as embarking on new areas such as computer aided design and manufacture (CAD/CAM); machinery automation; mineral beneficiation; the application of foundry technology; waste management; instrumentation; and energy systems.
Establishment of a Foundry
A foundry is an establishment where metals are melted and cast into molds containing hollow cavities of a desired shape or form and then allowed to solidify. The resulting products are known as castings.
In Uganda, foundry technology is still not well developed and where it is practiced, sand casting is the commonly used method. Unfortunately, sand casting yields relatively poor quality products compared to modern casting methods such as die casting and investment casting methods which produce superior products.
Casting enables the production of geometrically complex components that would otherwise be very difficult or impossible to produce using conventional metal forming processes such as rolling and forging, or the machining processes of milling and turning. Foundry technology also allows for both external and internal forming of intricate shapes thereby eliminating the need for the aforementioned machining operations. The advantage of casting is that the derived products have better mechanical properties and surface finishing since they are created as “continuous bodies” without recourse to operations such as folding and welding.
The proposed foundry will be established on the institute’s campus in order to afford the Engineering Division the capacity to: build complete and complex machines; produce machine parts & spares; and act as a training centre of excellence for technicians, engineers and artisans.
Mineral beneficiation is the process of concentrating the mineral content of ores by crushing, grinding and separating ore (extraction) into valuable fractions and waste through a variety of physico-chemical techniques. It is proposed to set up a mineral beneficiation facility at the institute in order to produce raw material for the foundry referred to in section 3.2. This facility will be used to conduct research into local ores in order to determine and exploit their mineral content.
The activity areas under consideration include: developing basic mineral processing capability; developing local capacity to test and evaluate mineral ores; establishing a metallurgy unit with the capacity to treat and extract metallic compounds; and revitalizing the institute’s physical testing laboratory.
Rural Energy Generation Project
The majority of rural and semi-urban homes rely on the use of fire wood and kerosene as a primary source of energy, with the associated negative health and environmental impacts.
The institute recognizes the immense potential to improve the quality of life of this vast proportion of the country’s population through the provision of alternative, affordable and reliable sources of energy. This project proposes to design, develop, test and commercialize a pedal-powered energy generation system by TDC’s Engineering Division. The energy generated will be stored in batteries for subsequent use. The complete system will comprise: a motor vehicle alternator; a bank of batteries; and charge controllers.
Industrial Automation Project
Many of Uganda’s industries have adopted automated manufacturing technologies in an attempt to improve production process efficiency, productivity, safety and reliability. However, there still remains a gap in the skills base to handle such high-end technologies. This is largely due to the fact industrial automation is not comprehensively taught at Universities and tertiary education institutions in the country. As a result, organizations with automated systems have no option but to outsource foreign expert services at exorbitant costs.
In order to address this challenge, the institute proposes to establish capacity for providing Industrial Automation Solutions (IAS) for the manufacturing sector. The project will involve the development of software-operated automatic systems for the routine operation and control of production machinery and processes.
Some of the areas where IAS systems will be employed include: conveyor systems with sensors; material distribution, testing, handling and sorting stations; and remote process monitoring and control.
The application of Computer Aided Design and Manufacture (CAD/CAM) technology is widely recognised as one of the cornerstones of industrial development. In developed countries, the technology is used in: automotive industries; development of healthcare, consumer, electronic, and telecommunication products; and aerospace industries.
CAD/CAM is the core technology used in processes such as: Reverse Engineering (RE); Rapid Prototyping (RP); and mould/die making. Reverse Engineering relates to the process of generating CAD data from existing products through the use of digitizers such as Coordinate Measuring Machines (CMM) or similar equipment which render 3-dimensional images. Rapid Prototyping technology on the other hand, is the main tool that enables manufacturers produce affordable prototype products before going into commercial production. If implemented, the project will enable engineers and designers turn their concepts into affordable prototypes.
The institute in collaboration with the Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM) Berhad is proposing to set up a CAD/CAM Technology Centre under the auspices of TDC. SIRIM Berhad operates a commercial one-stop centre for Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMT) applications in Malaysia. This collaboration will therefore, enable TDC’s staff acquire the specialized skills required to implement the project.
The key functions of the CAD/CAM Technology Centre will include: prototype design; the design and fabrication of moulds and dies; provision of industrial training; showcasing and demonstration of CAD/CAM capability.