Having gotten the nod from technology guru Gartner in its 2016 Hyper Cycle for emerging technologies, 3D printing has now become a mainstream tool across industry for producing machine parts quickly and cheaply with minimal waste, particularly where operations are located far from traditional supply chains. However, as with many new technological concepts, the mining industry has been a little slower on the uptake.
Additive manufacturing has been on the radar for both miners and vendors for a number of years, although it is only recently that these companies have figured out how to leverage the benefits. Many are using it on a micro-scale to print prototypes and parts. However, large-scale deployments are yet to be realised.
I’d still class 3D printing as an emerging technology in the mining sector, and my searches for information on the topic have confirmed this; there are many articles available on the subject of 3D printing, but very few specifically addressing its application in mining.
Below are four of the best articles I have found on the topic. Feel free to comment if you have found other interesting pieces or have questions on the ones I have flagged.
- McKinsey, Aug 2017: How 3D printing will transform the metals industry. This provides insight into the scale of the 3D printing industry, potential benefits for metals companies and obstacles to adoption. An excellent introduction for everyone.
- Mining Magazine, Nov 2016: 3D printing reshaping the mining landscape. An oldie but a goody. I edited a paper from Accenture’s Rachel Bartels to create this article. It was, and still is, one of the most comprehensive guides to 3D printing in mining that I have found. Covers all the basics and more.
- EY, 2016: Why 3D printing needs to be on the business executive agenda now. Based on its 2016 global 3D printing survey, EY provides insight into the benefits of 3D printing and its potential to impact business fundamentals. There is also detailed info on 3D printing techniques and materials. Ideal for c-suite execs and investors who want to brush up.
- Mining Magazine, Dec 2018: The emerging third dimension. The follow up to the above 2016 article; this one sits behind a paywall. This is the most up to date and detailed article I’ve found in a major mining publication on 3D printing (let me know if you’ve found otherwise). It addresses 3D printing in the creation of spare parts, training and design visualisations as well as key developments from major players.