UTS, Downer and IMCRC to work on 3D-printed mining equipment

Members of the research alliance working on 3D printing project for the mining industry Image: UTS

A new research project at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has set out to revolutionise the manufacture of precision-engineered mineral separation and mining equipment.

UTS’s Rapido – an advanced technology development unit –  has entered a research alliance with Downer business Mineral Technologies and the Innovative Manufacturing CRC  (IMCRC) to explore 3D printing for manufacture of mining and mineral separation equipment.

Together they will cooperatively research solutions that will revolutionise how composite polymers are used in the manufacture of equipment for mining.

Anticipated to run over a three-year period, the research alliance covers the first phase of the project. UTS will house all project work at ProtoSpace, a new additive manufacturing facility at the Broadway campus, to network and brainstorm various conceptual ideas.

Additive Manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing as it’s more widely known,  is the fastest-growing manufacturing sector worldwide, offering many benefits in terms of new product development, time to market, reduced waste and lower product cost. AM enables the rapid design and production of complex products and associated advanced business models such as customer-led design processes and just-in-time production.

Mineral Technologies Global Manager – Sales, Equipment and Technology, Alex de Andrade, is an Associate Professor with UTS and will provide industry partner leadership to the project.

He said the project is aligned with Mineral Technologies’ strategic technology roadmap as it focuses on delivering AM products with embedded Internet of Things (IoT) connected sensors. These sensors will direct operators to optimal set point recommendations in real time.

“This project will define an accelerated deposition and curing technique for AM which will hasten the way in which composite polymers are deposited to manufacture our mineral separation equipment, in particular, gravity spirals. We expect to see positive environmental impacts, such as decreasing the need for chemicals and reducing air contamination, which will significantly improve the operational environment for our manufacturing workforce,” de Andrade said.

It is anticipated that the new AM manufacturing methods will attract the next generation of engineers and workforce who will become skilled at setting up 3D printers as well as profile programming and CAD meshing development.

David Chuter, IMCRC’s CEO and Managing Director, pointed out that applying AM technologies will not only revolutionise the manufacturing process of mineral separation equipment but the associated supply chain operations, especially when the equipment is fitted with IoT sensors.

Mineral separation equipment is often operated in a remote and hostile environment. Deploying gravity spirals fitted with IoT sensors will offer Mineral Technologies a clear picture of the product performance.This innovative manufacturing approach and research could yield benefits for other sectors, such as vertical agriculture and other applications.