3D Printing and Internet of Things to Revolutionize Mining

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IMCRC is a cooperative research center dedicated to helping Australian companies increase their global relevance through research-led innovation in manufacturing. Its latest project involves a partnership with Downer’s Mineral Technologies business as well as the University of Technology Sydney Rapido advanced technology development unit. The three organizations will work together to research solutions that will advance ways in which composite polymers are used to manufacture mineral separation equipment and create new manufacturing technologies.

3D printing will be involved in the project, which is anticipated to run over a three-year period. The work will take place at a new additive manufacturing facility at the University of Technology’s Broadway campus, and will involve Rapido, a rapid prototyping unit established by the university in 2016 to help industry, government and community partners transform ideas and problems into solutions and products.

According to Rapido Director Herve Harvard, the unit is seeking research partnerships to engage staff and students in projects that help to bridge the gap between industry and universities. Two PhD students will be assigned to the project with IMCRC and Mineral Technologies.

“Partnering with Rapido harnesses a unique capability in terms of the breadth and depth of expertise, and advanced facilities we have at UTS,” said Harvard. “We can assemble multi-skilled teams to leverage the expertise of high performing engineers who have extensive experience in commercial research and development together with researchers who bring world-class academic expertise in key technology domains. This project demonstrates how UTS is becoming a leading university in additive manufacturing and, in this particular context, leading in the capability to develop bespoke 3D printing technologies suitable for manufacturing functional parts.”

[Image: IMCRC]

Alex de Andrade is Global Manager – Sales, Equipment and Technology for Mineral Technologies, as well as an Associate Professor at UTS. According to de Andrade, the project will focus on delivering 3D printed products with embedded Internet of Things-connected sensors. The 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,” said de Andrade. “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.”

The partners expect that the development of new additive manufacturing methods will attract the next generation of engineers and other workers who will become skilled at setting up 3D printers, profile programming and CAD meshing development.

IMCRC Managing Director David Chuter believes that the use of additive manufacturing technology will not only affect the manufacturing process of mining equipment but will also affect the associated supply chain operations, especially when that technology is fitted with IoT sensors.

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

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