3D Printing

Sandvik partners with Boliden on 3D printing trial

23rd March 2022
Sam Holland

A small-scale trial of 3D-printed parts is helping Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions and mining company Boliden explore the potential of additive manufacturing.

Sweden has a long and noble history of mining, with evidence of human activity dating back to prehistoric times. But old does not mean primitive, as a trial of cutting-edge technology between Sandvik and Swedish mining and metals giant Boliden shows. Additive manufacturing (more commonly called 3D printing, although the terms are slightly different in meaning) is maturing fast, and has progressed from printing plastic components to now being able to print ceramics and metals.

To discover the potential of the technology, Boliden has teamed up with Sandvik to run a trial that will see machine parts printed digitally and installed on underground drill rigs.

Proof-of-concept

The trial with Sandvik involves a set of specially redesigned components printed digitally at a Sandvik-managed facility in Italy, with their performance being monitored on machines in Boliden’s underground mine worksites – first in Sweden, then in Ireland. At least in theory, the 3D metal parts could perform as well (or even better) than traditionally manufactured items. The first components have just been put into operation in the Garpenberg mine, with performance still to be evaluated.

“Additive manufacturing shows a lot of potential, both in reducing carbon footprint within the supply chain, through reduced or eliminated need for transport and storage of parts and also shorter delivery times. This trial will give us a deeper understanding on how we can move forward and develop our business in a competitive way,” says Ronne Hamerslag, Head of Supply Management at Boliden.

Local manufacturing is ‘the future’

3D printing is an exciting prospect for OEMs too, as Sandvik’s Erik Lundén, President, Parts & Services at Sandvik Mining & Rock Solutions explains: “Mining equipment can last up to 25 years – and needs to be supported throughout that time – even in the most remote of locations.

"We have many different SKUs (stock keeping units), and from an inventory point of view we can’t tie up the capital that keeping all these parts in stock would entail. 3D printing of parts locally offers us the prospect of not only getting parts to the customer much faster, but doing so far more sustainably.”

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