Anglo American has launched a 3D printing project in South Africa focused on using the technology to manufacture spare parts for mining and processing equipment locally.
The company and its partners on the project, South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and US-based technology company, Ivaldi Group, are initially exploring the creation of a digitally distributed supply chain.
This involves a digitalisation of the designs of parts such as impellers for pumps, shaft sleeves, gasket bonnet valves, and mining rock drill bits, with a view towards locally producing and testing these parts at Anglo American’s operations in South Africa using 3D printers.
Anglo said the project would have environmental and community outreach benefits.
“The ability to send files – not physical spare parts – will reduce our carbon footprint, delivery lead times and logistics costs,” said Matthew Chadwick, head of socio-economic development and partnerships.”
“Importantly, this has the clear potential to create industrial and service jobs for host communities and surrounding regions through on-demand manufacturing systems to produce spare parts locally.”
Espen Sivertsen, CEO of Ivaldi, said: “We believe that digital distribution of physical goods is a natural next step for the global spare parts supply chain. It’s part of the fourth industrial revolution. Working with world-leading organisations like Anglo American and the CSIR, we are now practically demonstrating that there are significant savings for businesses and a net positive impact for the environment and associated communities.”
Charl Harding, the CSIR’s Business Development Manager, added: “When we first explored this opportunity to develop sustainable local on-demand manufacturing solutions we saw an immediate fit with our additive manufacturing and materials expertise. The 3D printing of parts along with the application of additive manufacturing technologies to refurbish worn parts offers the potential to create local jobs, promote innovation for the inclusive and sustainable advancement of industry and society whilst responding critical issue of climate change.”
Through Collaborative Regional Development, Anglo American and its partners aim to be a catalyst for thriving communities that can benefit in new ways directly from mining, while new economic activities such as 3D printing, agribusiness opportunities, biofuels, game ranching and tourism begin to develop – building on mining’s contribution to sustainable communities.