Sandvik Looks to Utilize 3-D Printing in Mining Equipment
As 3-D printing continues to skyrocket in popularity, appealing to numerous industries around the world, one mining equipment manufacturer is putting the technology to use.
Sandvik, the world’s largest maker of metal-cutting tools, announced it will boost research spending on 3-D printing to expand capabilities in a market that is expected to grow to $21 billion in the next 10-years.
From mining drill rigs to fuel tubes for nuclear power plants, Sandvik will evaluate the technology through various initiatives to observe how the technology can be used in its production. Sandvik is opening a new 3-D printing research and development center in Sandviken, Sweden and is preparing to hire a team for the center.
“We’re taking this to another level,” Schuisky said. “We’re making a focused strategic push to research this for the benefit of the entire group.”
Somewhat similar to additive manufacturing, 3-D printing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The process enables faster production, increased flexibility and the ability to shape otherwise impossible designs from standard methods.
’’What is attractive about 3-D is the new way of thinking,’’ Schuisky said. ’’We are used to thinking that objects are processed out of a material. We need to start thinking about starting from a blank canvas.’’
While the implementation of 3-D printing sounds exciting, there are still question that need to be answered. Case in point: production times.
“You can punch out objects so much faster using those traditional technologies. And I don’t see that changing,” IDTechEx Director Jon Harrop told Bloomberg. ’’I only see it really having an effect on small, high-value components.’’
Still, the case for 3-D printing in the mining industry is compelling. Because most mining operations are located in remote areas, companies would be able to make their own parts on site in a fraction of the time it takes to get parts sent in.
“It’s like Batman’s utility belt, to get through his day he needs to be able call on a number of different technologies or a number of different tools,” says mechanical engineer, Simon Bartlett.
“I think it’s definitely a new tool and people are now just trying to work out how it fits in to what they do.”
Rio Tinto and Alcoa begin construction with ELYSIS tech
Eliminating all direct greenhouse gases from aluminium smelting has taken a major step forward with the start of construction on the first commercial-scale prototype cells of ELYSIS’ inert anode technology, at Rio Tinto’s Alma smelter in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec.
ELYSIS has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of aluminium production
ELYSIS is a joint venture company led by Rio Tinto and Alcoa that is developing a new breakthrough technology, known as inert anode, that eliminates all direct greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the traditional smelting process and instead produces oxygen.
The technology has the potential to transform the aluminium industry, with a significant reduction in its carbon footprint.
The inert anode prototype cells will operate on a commercial scale typical for large modern aluminium smelters, using an electrical current of 450 kiloamperes (kA).
The Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry joined representatives from ELYSIS, Rio Tinto and Alcoa to mark the start of construction and announce a further CAD $20mn financial contribution from the Government of Canada to support the project.
The federal government's financial support will enable the creation of a unique commercial size inert anode technology showroom for future customers and will help develop the supply chain by involving local and regional equipment manufacturers and suppliers in the project.
ELYSIS is working to complete the technology demonstration by 2024 followed by the commercialization activities.
ELYSIS technology at a glance:
- The ELYSIS technology addresses the global trend towards producing low carbon footprint products, from mobile phones to cars, planes and building materials.
- The new process will reduce operating costs ofaluminiumsmelters while increasing production capacity. It could be used in both new and existing aluminium smelters.
- In Canada alone, the ELYSIS technology has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 7 million tons, the equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the roads.
- ELYSIS will also sell next-generation anode and cathode materials, which will last more than 30 times longer than traditional components.
Alcoa and Rio Tinto will continue to support the ELYSIS development program alongside the Governments of Canada and Quebec.
ELYSIS is working closely with Alcoa's Technical Center, where the zero-carbon smelting technology was invented, and the Rio Tinto technology design team in France.
Alcoa's Technical Center supports ELYSIS in the manufacture of proprietary materials for the new anodes and cathodes that are essential to the ELYSIS process. The Rio Tinto technology team in France is creating commercial scale designs for the ELYSIS technology.
Vincent Christ, CEO, ELYSIS commented: “This is a great day for ELYSIS. It means that we are becoming the first technology company in the world to build commercial-size inert anode cells. While we refine the technology in our R&D Centre, we start the construction of our prototype cells. This shows our confidence in our process and in the know-how of our team. The combination of ELYSIS' zero CO2 technology and Quebec's renewable energy will be great competitive advantage for the future. I would like to thank the government for its support and all the partners for their commitment.”
Samir Cairae, Rio Tinto Aluminium managing director Atlantic Operations and ELYSIS board member added: “Today marks a real step towards the future of the aluminium industry, by progressing this breakthrough technology to cut carbon emissions. Rio Tinto is committed to supporting its ongoing development here in Quebec where we already use clean hydropower to deliver some of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium. Combining this technology with renewable hydropower holds the promise of zero carbon aluminium smelting.”