Research collaboration exploring 3D-printed mining products

A research alliance of the University of Technology’s Rapido prototyping unit, Downer’s Mineral Technologies, and the Innovative Manufacturing Collaborative Research Centre (IMCRC) has reached the one-year milestone in a project revolutionising the way mining products are manufactured using additive manufacturing/3D printing.

The project is exploring bespoke 3D printing technologies for precision-engineered mineral separation and mining equipment.

Alex de Andrade, Associate Professor with UTS, and Mineral Technologies Global Manager, Sales, Equipment and Technology said that with the first year now complete, the team has achieved green lights at all milestones including budget, innovation, collaboration and safety reviews.

“In the first year, we designed a small printer and machinery code and printed a scaled version of our selected spiral model. We are now into the cost and wear testing comparisons and in parallel we are building the full-scale bespoke prototype printer,” he said.

Hervé Harvard is the Director at UTS Rapido and ProtoSpace, the additive manufacturing facility which UTS opened in March 2019, and home to the project.

“The project is a world-class innovation in the area of Industry 4.0, particularly Additive Manufacturing and IoT sensing, specific to what the project has achieved. Working with such an innovative team at Mineral Technologies is refreshing and shows that Australia can be a leader in adopting Industry 4.0 principles for global impact,” said Harvard.

The research team has also confirmed the opportunity for additional development scope around Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity that will deliver the Industry 4.0 milestone outcomes the project originally set out to investigate, one of which already has a patent pending. This scope growth funding is again matched by IMCRC.

Impressed by the progress achieved within its first year, David Chuter, CEO and Managing Director of IMCRC, said this project is a positive example of industry and research organisations working together.

“This exceptional project takes industry-led research collaboration to the next level. Within a year we have seen Mineral Technologies and UTS form a team that ‘collaborates to innovate’ and deliver on milestones. Seeing a 3D printed version of their selected spiral model puts it into perspective,” he said.

The goal of the alliance is to allow Mineral Technologies to manufacture bespoke models for mineral separation spirals, sent directly to a 3D printer solution. Commercial benefits will include the ability to print on site and in real time, which will ultimately deliver savings in both time and money.

The team is excited about the opportunities the alliance and this particular research project will help to deliver. Beyond commercial benefits are positive environmental impacts such as decreasing the need for chemicals and reducing air contamination in the manufacturing process.

Another key benefit of the project is the PhD study program which includes students including Thomas Romeijn, a chartered mechanical engineer with Mineral Technologies. To date, the research project has completed multiple capstone masters achievements for UTS, including winning a 2019 NSW iAwards for a rotational 3D printing system.