On 7 February 2017, Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, announced funding under the Cooperative Research Centre Projects (CRCp). This initiative supports short-term industry-led collaborations to solve industry problems and deliver tangible outcomes.
LaserBond led the project in conjunction with our partners at the University of South Australia and Boart Longyear (ASX: BLY), receiving $2.616 million in funding to support a multi-party, $8,266,000, three year collaboration project associated with the material science and use of LaserBond technologies to improve a spectrum of wear points, many associated with drilling for mining.
The Problem We Are Solving
The cost of abrasion wear has been estimated as ranging from 1-4% of the gross national product of an industrialised nation; for Australia this equates to roughly a $30 billion cost on the industry. Wear associated productivity loss in the mining industry makes up a large portion of this amount.
This can occur in almost every aspect of the operations, exploration drilling, drilling for blasting, rock transport, rock crushing, mineral processing and finally in the transport. Methods to increase the productivity of mines are required to reverse the productivity decline in the Australian mining industry. Research into methods to reduce wear and extend the life of components is crucial for the ongoing competitiveness of Australia’s mining industry. Drilling is a major cost to mining operations, more so in harder rocks associated with base and precious metals.
Specifically, this project will investigate the application of new additive manufacturing technologies (materials, methods and applications) applied to drilling systems that deliver significant advancement in wear life and productivity.
High wearing components are the primary or underlying driver of drilling costs. The CRCp activiites are directed towards extending the wear life performance of key components in the drilling system. Reducing unit costs ($/m of hole) arises by extending drilling time between change-outs (bit on the bottom); or more utilised hours of drill availability (increased capacity to drill rock). More hours drilling rock and faster penetration rates converts to lower cost holes, more exploration, and more profitable mine operation.
LaserBond is the lead collaboration partner and is responsible for ensuring the milestones and deliverables are fullfilled under the terms of the Commonwealth CRCp funding grant. LaserBond initlated this CRCp to accelerate our ongoing research efforts.
Boart Longyear Established in 1890, Boart Longyear is the world’s leading provider of drilling services, drilling equipment and performance tooling for mining and drilling companies. It also has a substantial presence in aftermarket parts and service, energy, mine de-watering, oil sands exploration, production drilling, and down-hole instrumentation. The Global Drilling Services division operates for a diverse mining customer base spanning a wide range of commodities, including copper, gold, nickel, zinc, uranium, and other metals and minerals. The Global Products division designs, manufactures and sells drilling equipment, performance tooling, down-hole instrumentation and parts and services.
University of South Australia: Future Industries Institute focuses on creating high value, knowledge-intensive alternatives underpinned by unique skill bases, infrastructure technology solutions and collaborative research relationships. It brings together the University’s world-class strengths in advanced manufacturing, minerals and resource engineering and environmental science, and encourages researchers to blur the boundaries and build new relationships between industry and academia.
Product Innovations – Commercial Outcomes
- Local Manufacturing: There is an opportunity to manufacture product innovations from the CRCp, that could require the application of thin layers of hard-phase cladding using LaserBond’s patent-pending technology. An advanced additive manufacturing laser cladding cell is being developed for our facility at Cavan, South Australia.
- Export Markets: New products and technology developed within the CRCp will service the targeted niche domestic market as well as select export markets. There is also the opportunity to licence manufacturing technology to international partners and/or JV operations.
- Additional Drilling Exploration: Any significant cost reductions for mine production drilling increases mine productivity and lessens environmental impact. Lowering the cost for exploration drilling increases the potential for discovering more commercial mining opportunities.
Commonwealth Government - CRC
CRCp grants support short-term industry-led collaborations to develop important new technologies, products and services. CRCp's solve industry problems and deliver tangible outcomes.
CRCp's aim to:
- Improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of Australian industries, especially where Australia has a competitive strength to solve industry problems and deliver tangible outcomes
- Deliver outcomes in line with government priorities
- Encourage and enable small and medium enterprise (SME) participation in collaborative research
- Foster high-quality research to help solve industry specific problems through collaborative research partnerships between industry entities and research organisations