In South Africa the Department of Trade and Industry – affectionately known as the dti – has a variety of programmes designed to assist export-driven companies. One of these goes by the acronym of THRIP which stands for Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme. THRIP is a partnership between a company, such as CapeRay, and a publicly funded research institution, such as the University of Cape Town (UCT).
For an application to succeed, the dti needs to be convinced that novel technology will arise from the partnership and that human resources – that is, students – will be developed. In addition, the company must commit research funds to the institution. This year CapeRay has provided approximately $40,000 to UCT’s Medical Imaging Research Unit (MIRU) and the dti, in turn, has matched that funding on a one-for-one basis. MIRU has hired six postgraduate students who have been working part-time as research engineers at CapeRay for the past few months.
Mayuresh Kulkarni has designed and implemented an online part numbering system so that every component – whether a screw or a capacitor – has its own unique number. As part of his PhD he is simulating and fusing ultrasound and X-ray images. Stefan Stoeckigt has developed a reliable RF (radio frequency) communication system that enables remote control of the PantoScanner’s breast compressor via wireless foot pedals. Raphael Smith has been working on the problem of coupling the ultrasound probe to the breast and has tested different sealing materials, scanning a phantom breast through platforms made from carbon fibre, Perspex and TPX.
Mark Mushabe has written software to create a virtual breast phantom: by varying certain parameters he can optimise the quality of the X-ray image, especially the peripheral region of the breast. Nielen Venter has worked on quantifying and then reducing noise in the X-ray image of the breast, ensuring that his methods are in line with international standards. Patrick Muthui has been writing software to acquire and manipulate 2D ultrasound images, and thus reconstructing the breast in three dimensions.
All these students have been the beneficiaries of real-world industrial experience while CapeRay has benefited through access to some of the country’s most talented young engineers. The mutual benefits don’t end there, however. Under the TIP-TOP programme – which is a component of THRIP – the dti also covers half the salary of recent university graduates who become CapeRay employees. Now that’s a win-win situation!