Portable factories to produce mining equipment on site


Graphic by Lewis Miles, courtesy of UTS.

Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) are set to revolutionise the mining industry by developing portable factories for mineral separation equipment.

As part of a research partnership between UTS Rapido and Downer’s Mineral Technologies, supported by the Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC), the team aims to create bespoke 3D printers capable of manufacturing precision-engineered mineral separation spirals directly on mining sites.

Director at UTS Rapido, Mr Hervé Harvard, said while the technology allows for the manufacturing to be decentralised, the operations are monitored using a centralised system.

“We are looking at developing a digital twin of each printer,” said Mr Harvard. “So if you have a fleet of printers across the world reporting on key measures and outcomes, you can monitor your fleet of printers and the quality of production centrally.”

The machine will be fitted with a wide range of sensors including temperature sensors, pressure sensors, flow sensors, humidity sensors and laser scanners to monitor the status of the robot system as well as the overall system condition.

“The connectivity of the printers is key to enabling this project,” Mr Harvard said.

The team is also considering to embed sensors into the 3D printed spirals, enabling Mineral Technologies to monitor slurry temperature, flow rate and wear progress (remaining life) once the spirals are deployed.

“Of course, the data generated in this exercise will be very useful in tuning the production,” Mr Harvard added.

The project, facilitated by the IMCRC and led by Downer’s Mineral Technologies and UTS Rapido, is a positive example of industry and research organisations working together.