Australian mining services firm Downer’s Mineral Technologies is leading a new research project to 3D print mineral separation and mining equipment.

Other partners in the project include the University of Technology Sydney’s (UTS) technology development unit Rapido and Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC).

The collaboration aims to find solutions to change the way composite polymers are used in the manufacture of mining equipment.

“We expect to see positive environmental impacts, which will significantly improve the operational environment for our manufacturing workforce.”

The research will focus on deploying gravity spirals fitted with Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to understand the product performance.

All project related work will be carried out at UTS’ new additive manufacturing (AM) facility, known as ProtoSpace, at the Broadway campus.

The partnership covers the first phase of the project and is expected to run for a term of three years.

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Downer Mineral Technologies sales, equipment and technology global manager Alex de Andrade said: “This project will define an accelerated deposition and curing technique for additive manufacturing which will hasten the way in which composite polymers are deposited to manufacture our mineral separation equipment, in particular, gravity spirals.

“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.”

3D printing offers benefits to the manufacturing sector in terms of new product development, less time to market, reduced waste and lower product cost.

AM helps in accelerating production of complex products, according to UTS.

The new AM manufacturing methods are aimed at promoting the skill enhancement of workforce in setting up 3D printers, as well as profile programming and CAD meshing development.

In addition to improving the manufacturing process of mineral separation equipment, the application of AM technologies will revolutionise associated supply chain operations, especially when the equipment is fitted with IoT sensors.