Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions and leading mining company Boliden are conducting a small-scale trial of 3D manufactured parts that will be installed on underground drill rigs.
Additive manufacturing – or 3D printing as it is more commonly known – is maturing fast and has progressed from printing plastic components to now being able to print ceramics and metals.
The trial with Sandvik involves a set of specially redesigned components printed digitally at a Sandvik-managed facility in Italy, with their performance being monitored on machines in Boliden’s underground mine worksites.
In theory, the 3D metal parts could perform as well – or even better – than traditionally manufactured items, however, performance is still to be evaluated.
“Additive manufacturing shows a lot of potential, both in reducing carbon footprint within the supply chain, through reduced or eliminated need for transport and storage of parts, and also shorter delivery times,” Boliden head of supply management Ronne Hamerslag said.
“This trial will give us a deeper understanding on how we can move forward and develop our business in a competitive way.”
Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions parts and services president Erik Lundén said 3D printing is an exciting prospect for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
“Mining equipment can last up to 25 years – and needs to be supported throughout that time – even in the most remote of locations,” he said.
“We have many different SKUs (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 not only getting parts to the customer much faster but doing so far more sustainably.”