Creating precision-engineered mining equipment with 3D printing

Members of the alliance working on the 3D printing project. Image: UTS.

A new Australian research project hopes to revolutionise the manufacture of precision-engineered mineral separation and mining equipment.

University of Technology Sydney (UTS) development unit Rapido is partnering with Downer, through its Mineral Technologies business, and the Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC) in a research alliance for the project.

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

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

Additive Manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing as it’s more widely known, is a growing global manufacturing sector, offering 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.

According to UTS, the project demonstrates how it 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.

Rapido director Herve Harvard said UTS wanted to engage staff and students in innovative projects which help to bridge the gap between industry and universities.

“Partnering with Rapido harnesses a unique capability in terms of the breadth and depth of expertise, and advanced facilities we have at UTS,” he said.

“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.”

Located in the UTS Faculty of Engineering and IT, Rapido aims to help industry, government and community partners translate innovative ideas and complex problems into viable products and solutions.

Mineral Technologies global manager – sales, equipment and technology, Alex de Andrade, who is an associate professor with UTS, will provide industry partner leadership to the project.

He said the project was aligned with Mineral Technologies’ strategic technology roadmap as it focused 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,” he said.

“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.”

It is anticipated that the 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.

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