South African Institute for Tribology
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Material Development in the 4th Industrial Revolution

As Presented by

Thuli Mkhaliphi

Thuli Mkhaliphi

Assoc. Prof. Natasha Sacks

School of Chemical & Metallurgical Engineering,

DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Strong Materials,

University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

at the SAIT Afternoon Seminar, "Materials DO Matter", 6 February 2019


The Industrial Revolution:

The Industrial revolution is defined as the change in social and economic organization resulting from the replacement of hand tools by machine and power tools and the development of large-scale industrial production.1

1st Industrial Revolution – Textile Factory

1st Industrial Revolution – Textile Factory (

The Industrial Revolution began in about 1760 and innovations continued through 1830, including the invention and introduction of the steam engine, railways and mass production.

Unfortunately, along with many advantages, the industrial revolution carried overcrowding and pollution in its wake.2

The 2ndIndustrial Revolution

The second Industrial Revolution began in about 1870, with innovations being introduced to society up to and well past 1914

Mass Production (

Mass Production (

Petrol, electricity, assembly line production, public transport, and airplanes were introduced to society, enabling globalization and bringing improvement of living conditions and communications to many.

Once again, increased pollution2 resulted.

The 3rd Industrial Revolution

Electronics, IT, automated production & green energy (


In 1980 the third industrial revolution was becoming evident, overlapping with Industry 4.0, as electronics, information technology, automated production and green energy developed.

Pollution2 continued to be problematic.

The 4th Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0


Industry 4.0 (

The continuance of Industry 4.0 - or the 4th Industrial Revolution – includes the convergence of breakthrough technologies such as advanced robotics, AI (Artificial Intelligence)5, IoT (Internet of Things)4, virtual and augmented realities, nanotechnology, material science, wearables and AM (Additive Manufacturing).

Industry 4.0 presents new ways embedding technology in our societies and even our bodies3

  • The commercial environment has become more customer orientated2
  • Development is integrated with the enviroment2,3
  • Disruptive technology is moving at an unprecedentedly rapid rate
  • Established industries are being displaced and
  • New industries with ground-breaking products are being introduced.2

Tribology and Industry 4.0

What does Industry 4.0 have to do with tribology?


Advances are being made in manufacturing of wear resistant Additive Manufacturing (AM)

Additive Manufacturing (AM):

Additive Manufacturing is an incremental, layer-by-layer manufacturing technique, guided by CAD model e.g. LENS, 3D printing, and SLM.4

It was initially used for production of non-structural components, and has been accepted as a new paradigm for design and production of complex aerospace, medical, energy and automobile components.5






Advantages of AM:


Additive manufacturing results in increased supply chain efficiency – design files can be digitally processed.2,4,7,8

It allows freedom to design and equipment efficiency,

Production of complex structural shapes arises directly from design with increased energy and fuel savings.

AM Supports green manufacturing initiatives and allows precision and customization.

Intricate products such as dental crowns, jewelry and electric connectors can be produced.

AM – Biomedical Implants



Important requirement of implants include that they fit perfectly and are biocompatible

Titanium (Ti) alloys are mainly used for this purpose.

Tantalum (Ta)is biocompatible with high ductility.5,7 It is used for medical scaffolding and coating and can be applied on Ti surfaces using LENS to produce a porous surface for bone implants.8

Bone grafting on rat femur, bone re-generation and ingrowth performance showed a strong, functional implant-bone interface connection after 12 weeks7 with cytocompatiblity, high osteoconduction and high ductility .

AM - Aerospace Seatbelt Buckle



Material requirements are that they beheat resistant, light weight and have a low oxidation rate.5, 6

In addition there needs to be a high accuracy of design tolerances.

The properties of Ti alloys (Ti-6Al-4V) include a low weight to strength ratio and they are corrosion resistant.

Conventional processing of titanium is costly,7 however in a case study of a seatbelt buckle for an Airbus A3805 a cost benefit was found:this alloy is light weight with hollow structures to have enough strength against shock loading.

The weight reduction is ~ 55% which reduces fuel consumption, thus saving approximately $3million over the operational life time of the plane.

The cost of the seatbelt buckles using AM was $256 000 .

AM - Refractory Alloys

A case study was made of applications for extreme environments:

Tungsten (W), Niobium (Nb), Tantalum (Ta), and Molybdenum (Mo) were used in the development of complex structures dating back to the 1960s.

Their limitations include high their high cost and a limited supply of commercial shapes.

Their unique properties include:

  • high temperature strength (W, Ta, Mo)
  • low thermal expansion(W)
  • superconductivity (Nb)
  • biocompatibility (Ta)
  • high density (W)
  • chemical resistance(Ta)

AM – Challenges

The challenges presented by AM include a high production cost: high quality AM machines cost between $300 000 and $1.5 million and materials cost $100 to $150 per pound.8

The production process is discontinuous in that parts can only be printed one at a time.

Specialised knowledge is required for application design and process parameter selection.

The process produces harmful emissions and requires a proper ventilation or extraction system.


  • The 4th industrial revolution has made a significant contribution in materials development.
  • However, it is not possible to apply AM to mass-production of components such as inserts;
  • AM promises a better quality of life with medical and dental implants.
  • AM requires specialised labour skills.
  • Through AM, significant fuel and energy savings already achieved.


  1. last visited 04/02/2019 1pm
  2. last visited 15/01/2019 2pm
  3. last visited 04/02/2019 10am
  4. Huang, S. H., Liu, P., Mokasdar, A. and Hou,L. Additive manufacturing and its societal impact: a literature review. Int J Adv Manuf Technol. 67 (2013) 1191-1203
  5. Dutta, B. and Froes, F. H. The additive Manufacturing of titanium alloys. Met. Pow. Rep 72 ( 2017) 96-106
  6. DebRoy, T., Wei, H. L., Zuback, J. S., Mukherjee, T., Elmer, J. W., Milewski, J. O., Beese, A. M., Wilson-Heid, A., De, A. and Zhang, W. Additive manufacturing of metallic components Process, structure and properties. Prog. Mat. Sci. 92 (2018) 112-224
  7. Wauthle, R., van der Stok, J., Yavari, S. A., van Humbeeck, J., Kruth, J.,Zadpoor, A. A, Weinans, H., Mulier, M. and Schrooten, J. Additively manufactured porous tantalum implants. Acta Biomat. 14 (2015) 217-225
  8. last visited 31/01/2019


  1. Internet of Things (IoT): refer to
  2. Artificial Intelligence (AI): refer to
  3. Additive Manufacturing: refer to

‘Materials DO Matter’ - Seminar Synopsis

It’s too easy to fall into a perception trap that managing friction demands only lubrication. Materials DO Matter.

34 delegates attended a SAIT afternoon seminar on Wednesday 6 February 2019 where six informative presentations looked far beyond surfaces separated by lubrication.

David Beard and Dave Gamble demonstrated that the mining industry have a massive demand for differing types of materials where friction is an absolute necessity from milling and crushing ores right down to drilling tool efficiencies.

David Beard
David Beard

Dave Gamble

Dominic Smit of Isowall SA presented very detailed research conducted with Wits University into the ‘Simulation of abrasive particle collision during submerged polishing of CVD coated hard-metal turning inserts.’

Dominic Smit

Friction causes wear and controlling wear is subject to the choice and positioning of material in contact with abrasion – Materials DO Matter!

Dr Amanda Jonker


Material Hardness:

  • Piece of Chalk 1
  • Plaster of Paris 2
  • Fingernail 2.5
  • Gold 2.5-3.0
  • Penny 3.5
  • Iron Nail 4
  • Window Glass 5.5
  • Steel Nail 6.5
  • Ceramic Tile 7
  • Aluminium Oxide 9

Dr Amanda Jonker, Senior Ceramist from Multotec, ably demonstrated it was not only the choice of Al2O3 alumina ceramic material that was critical, but how customised applications could position ceramic surfaces to reduce friction wear rates in specific applications. Who would think of aluminium as a top constituent of hardness?

Thuli Mkhaliphi

Thuli Mkhaliphi of Wits University showed that tribology was present and significant in the 1st Industrial Revolution and is with us now, even in the digital age of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Patrick Swan

Patrick Swan
investigated research conducted globally about wind-turbine bearing failure – a subject that has not reached conclusion. The growth of wind power makes this an issue for urgent resolution on a global scale. Tribologists of the world – arise!

Customising a solution-driven, integrated approach to friction is the way forward: Materials play a significant role – and DO Matter.

Show more posts

South African Institute of Tribology

Understanding lubrication, friction and wear


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