Manufacturing in South Africa has a rather long history of invention, innovation and progress over the last couple of years. Whether it be heavy factory processes or the automation that keeps them going, almost every country relies on manufacturing to drive their economy.

While it has many divisions, Siemens has a been involved in the manufacturing side of industry for almost as long as the company has been around, and regularly challenges other to come up with new ideas and innovations.

One of those challenges is the annual Cyber Junkyard event that run concurrently with Siemens’ Future of Manufacturing conference. Now in its 11th year, the Cyber Junkyard challenges universities in South Africa to manufacture a new invention or to create something from scratch that will better automate any process – while using Siemens products.

North-West University

North-West University

The aim of the challenge was to make things work a little bit smoother for anybody, and while one wouldn’t necessarily associate manufacturing with baked goods, that is exactly what North-West University did. By looking at the principle of decorating a large volume of cupcakes, the team created a machine that would do that automatically and with minimal effort from the assistant. The process is fully automated, and it can decorate a large number of cupcakes with carbon-copy precisions in minutes.

Tshwane University of Technology

TUT

The team from Pretoria had a look at one of the biggest problems in a warehouse environment, and realised that storing and retrieving the goods can be time-consuming, cumbersome and sometimes dangerous. So for that reason, they developed a Gravity Warehouse System that works on a number of conveyor belts that drive the products through a warehouse. It eliminates the use of dangerous forklift trucks on the factory floor, and anything can be stored and retrieved through a central control panel.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

MMNU

Just as important as manufacturing, agriculture is one of the industries that countries can’t do without. Combining the two together, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University came up with a solution to help farmers with some of the difficult tasks at hand with their Precision and Intelligent Farming System. The four-wheeled machine is controlled through a central panel, and comes in two variants: one for mechanics and one for farmers. The agriculture one can be used for moving heavy objects and farmhouse tasks, while the mechanic one can assist with installing engine blocks.

Central University of Technology

Central

Ask any vehicle mechanic, and they will probably tell you that the hardest part of their job is having and maintaining the right tools for the job. Well, the Central University of Technology developed a solution the aims to eliminate the need for a scavenger hunt for the right tools. The team created an automated smart tool drawer that will open with the right tool for the specific job. The cabinet also features a video monitor that can display step-by-step instructions to a specific repair, and guide the mechanic through all the processes, while following it around the floor. The team placed third, and won the university R25 000, and the students R7 000 in training, as well as Polaroid Induction speaker each.

Durban University of technology

Durban

While it might seem like fun to flair whiskey bottles and mix complicated drinks for curious onlookers, Durban University of Technology created an Automated Cocktail Machine. By using touchpads and a number of controls, the bartender will simply input the desired drink and the machine does all the mixing. The team ended second this year, and walked away with R50 000 in Siemens products, the students R12 000 in training, and a Pebble Smart Watch each.

…and the winner is

Cape Town

The winner of this year’s Cyber Junk was the College of Cape Town with its Automated Coffee Roaster.

The team created a RGB52 full bed roaster that is fitted with Siemens HMI colour touch panels to monitor the process, as well as Siemens S71200 PLC with PID controls. Being the winners, the team received R100 000 in Siemens products, R14 000 in training, as well as each member receiving a GoPro Hero 3 Silver Edition.