Sweden-based mining companies Sandvik and Boliden have partnered to run a 3D printing trial that will see machine parts printed digitally and installed on underground drill rigs.
The companies said the trial involves a set of specially redesigned components printed digitally at a Sandvik-managed facility in Italy. Their performance is monitored on machines in Boliden's underground mine worksites in Sweden and Ireland.
The first components have just been put into operation in the Garpenberg mine, with the performance still to be evaluated.
Ronne Hamerslag, head of supply management at Boliden, said 3D, or additive printing, has a lot of potential for reducing carbon in the supply chain and the need for the transportation of transport and storage of parts.
"[3D printing's] efficiency, speed and climate friendliness mean that we have to investigate additive manufacturing closely.
"We are only at the proof-of-concept stage with Sandvik right now, but it's already clear that it could become a game-changer for the spare parts business in mining - for both miners and equipment manufacturers."
"This trial will give us a deeper understanding on how we can move forward and develop our business in a competitive way," Hamerslag said.
Erik Lunden, president of parts and services at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, commented: "Mining equipment can last up to 25 years - and needs to be supported throughout that time - even in the most remote of locations.
"We have many different stock keeping units, and from an inventory point of view, we can't tie up the capital that keeping all these parts in stock would entail.
"3D printing of parts locally offers us the prospect of getting parts to the customer much faster and doing so far more sustainably."