By Dimakatso Motau
The composite materials industry has the potential to contribute to the growth of the local economy, says the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) chief researcher and research group leader for composite materials Dr Rajesh Anandjiwala.
This view is also supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Department of Trade and Industry, which have identified the growth of natural fibre-based industries as a significant agro economic tool.
Anandjiwala says that South Africa has the potential to become a tier-two supplier of composite products in future. However, he adds that the country must aim to become a tier-one supplier for higher benefits and job retentions.
However, to achieve this, the country must overcome certain challenges in the composites industry. Anandjiwala points to a lack of raw materials being manufactured locally, which results in the import of certain raw materials, such as natural fibres, some speciality chemicals and resins. He says the development of the industry is also hindered by the lack of a skilled workforce.
He adds that natural fibres in composites will also provide other benefits for industries in South Africa. The advantages of using natural fibres in composites include its light weight, which results in weight saving, a cheaper raw material price from the natural source, thermal recycling and the ecological advantages of using renewable resources, he explains.