Working in 3-D

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and its research partners, Downer’s Mineral Technologies and the Innovative Manufacturing CDC (IMCRC), have reached an important milestone: one year of advancing their efforts to create a bespoke 3-D printer for the production of mineral separation and mining equipment
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UTS and its partners recently met the one-year milestone in their research; here: what a three-metre-high mining spiral could look like

The work, which the group said will "revolutionise the way mining products are manufactured using additive manufacturing", first began in 2018. Now that the first year of work has wrapped, the team has earned the go-ahead for its forthcoming budget, with innovation, collaboration and safety review milestones.

UTS associate professor and Mineral Technologies global manager Alex de Andrade said, over the initial 12 months of its research, it designed a small printer and machinery code, printing a scaled version of a spiral model.

"We are now in the cost and wear testing comparisons and, in parallel, we are building he full-scale bespoke prototype printer," he said.

In March, UTS opened an additive manufacturing facility, ProtoSpace, to serve as the project's home. The director of that facility, Hervé Harvard, referred to the project as a "world-class innovation in the area of Industry 4.0", especially for the areas of Internet of Things (IoT) sensing and additive manufacturing.

"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," he noted.

Looking ahead, the team said it now has the opportunity for additional developments related to IoT connectivity for delivery of Industry 4.0 outcomes, which the project initially set out to investigate. One of those is now patent pending, and the funding for growth has been matched by IMCRC.

The groups said that the alliance's goal is to allow Mineral Technologies to manufacture bespoke models for mineral separation spirals, which will then be sent directly to a 3-D printer solution.

Once commercial, the technology would allow for a user to print on-site and in real time, delivering both time and money savings.

"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," UTS noted.