Downer Mineral Technologies

Q&A with Alex de Andrade, Global Manager

Downer Mineral Technologies is a world-leading mineral processing company known for its ability to provide innovative, cost-effective process solutions.

The company’s current R&D collaboration with IMCRC and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is projected to revolutionise the way mining products are manufactured by using additive manufacturing techniques.

Q. Tell us about your project

A. The project we embarked on with the IMCRC was a three-year R&D collaboration with UTS. We are focusing on manufacturing gravity separators, or ‘spirals’, through additive manufacturing (or 3D printing as it’s more commonly known). The end goal is to have a piece of equipment that can give the user real-time data and will have the ability to self-analyse its performance.

Q. What made you decide to apply for funding through the IMCRC?

A. For our project, we looked for industry partners that could take us through the journey, rather than doing the R&D in-house. The IMCRC appealed to us because of its network of the Internet of Things (IoT) suppliers and technology providers, as well as its track record on delivering on commercialisation and project management principles.

Q. What have been the advantages of working with the IMCRC?

A. Mineral Technologies was a slow adopter of IOT and Industry 4.0, and over the last few years, we have accelerated that. IMCRC opened the doors regarding the right people to speak to who were in similar industries. And through the engagement, conferences and community we have been able to bounce our ideas off each other and ultimately fast track our project.

Q. What has been the value of collaborating with a university on the project?

A. The value of collaboration has been the diversity of thought that we have achieved through the various teams. It is something that no company would be able to replicate in their R+D team unless they had an unlimited budget.

The different teams have brought different thought processes, different lenses of approach, and the UTS facility and project space have helped us physically do brainstorming sessions, on campus, with different students who are driven by the same passion for coming up with the right solution.

Q. What commercial outcomes are you looking to achieve from the project?

A. The commercial outcomes we are looking to achieve over the next 5–10 years are to phase out all traditional manufacturing processes and offer the customer a new solution. Rather than going back to manufacturing bespoke models for every individual spiral; we would go straight to the 3D printer solution. So, the commercial benefits would be being able to print on site, in real time, ultimately saving time and money.