Setlhare Jane, best known as the machine enthusiast, has developed a machine that will make extremely beautiful smart paving, cladding and bricks. We believe the giant “Smart Press” machine is the first of its kind in the region as it will make products in a way that is hard to imitate. After a lengthy research, Jane had to engage a team of engineers and techncians to bring his ideas to live.
One of the passionate pioneers of the National Univesity of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub, his love for machines is hard to match.
In a short space of time, he has already developed two machines that revolutionised the production line of Mohalalitoe Natural Soap. He was part of the machine development team of Molleloa Yogurt. He has now developed this machine for Mafikeng Stones and is on course to develop another machine for the upcoming Leseru Stone tiles.
He strongly believes that making our own machines is the best way to start a path towards industrialisation. “When we build our own machines, it’s easy to beat the competition because it’s no longer just about the product but how to make that product,” he said.
Guess what is coming after the giant machine …the “a factory”—yes, a factory is coming under which this machine will operate to make amazing products that will reach as far as Namibia.
Watch the space!
Now, listen to the story of Jane and his team and how he came to develop Lesotho’s first “Smart Press.”
Most people are aware of Mafikeng Stones, the smart stones produced under the NUL Innovation Hub. Actually, Mafikeng Stones have changed the paving landscape in Lesotho. But what you see in the market is just a tip of the ice-berg. More unique, hard-to-imitate forms of paving are on the way.
However, Mafikeng Stones was meant to be more than just a paving stone company. Right from the start, it was meant to shake up the concrete industry, not only in Lesotho but in the region. All kinds of concrete products including bricks, cladding, slabs, cast concrete, you name it, are within the radar of Mafikeng’s innovation machine.
Their aim is to stand head and shoulders above the competition, present and future.
This they do by making building products of high quality, different colours and hard-to-imitate texture and, more importantly, by producing them fast to meet the demands of the ever happy market.
The last part is important because the present methods used to make similar products are very slow. That is because they depend on casting and molding, a very slow process.
The second problem is that if you want to produce fast, you end up with rough textured and boring products.
The common but not-so-good-looking block bricks (litene tse putsoa) are an example of what we are talking about. They are produced fast and because of the little water used to make them, they have a rough and (dead boring) texture.
Although such bricks are often strong due to limited water used, here is the problem—no body really likes them.
We use them because we have no choice.
On the other hand, if you want a product of a nice smoother texture, you have no option but to use a molding process. That is often a slow process which needs much water and make up relatively weak products.
To have a machine that can mix the advantages of the two processes—strong, quick-to-make and smooth products— is a million dollar question and that is what Jane and his team set out to solve.
“It is tricky because it does not start with the design of the machine,” he said. “You have to design the products and test, test and test them at the laboratory first. You only make the machine when you are sure that you are on to something big.”
“Sometimes that meant sleepless nights,” he confessed.
You only have to come close to the machine we are talking about to appreciate the level of detail. Then you will understand that the kind of cooperation between the scientists, engineers, and technicians was kinda outta this world.
Now that we have the machine, that is not the end, in fact it is only the beginning.
The team is still going to make sure that products they have tested at the laboratory can be reproduced by the machine and the process will be fine-tuned accordingly.
That process take months of trials.
Even more brilliant will be the use of the silicone technology which will make the products coming out of this machine to be as unique and as attractive as possible by giving a stone texture on their surface.
At this point, even the best and well moneyed imitators will have to bite the dust.