How to solve a $30bn ‘wear and tear’ problem for Aussie mining

UniSA’s Dr Colin Hall, LaserBond’s Peter Mutty and Boart Longyear’s Peter Kanck with a “Down-The-Hole” drill bit at the field trial at Brukunga in the Adelaide Hills. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
UniSA’s Dr Colin Hall, LaserBond’s Peter Mutty and Boart Longyear’s Peter Kanck with a “Down-The-Hole” drill bit
at the field trial at Brukunga in the Adelaide Hills.

UniSA researchers are working with the mining industry to tackle a $30 billion national problem – wear and tear.

The effect of abrasion means drilling components are quickly worn and need to be continually fixed or replaced, significantly impacting drill rig productivity and safety.

Future Industries Institute Senior Research Fellow Dr Colin Hall says research into methods to reduce wear and extend the life of components is crucial for the ongoing competitiveness of Australia’s mining industry.

“Abrasion wear is estimated to cost up to four per cent of Australia’s gross national product,” Dr Hall says.

Members of the Wear Life Performance cooperative research centre project at the Copper to the World conference, held in Adelaide at the end of June.Members of the Wear Life Performance cooperative research centre project at the Copper to the World conference, held in Adelaide at the end of June.

UniSA is part of a cooperative research centre project (CRCP) which is attempting to address this challenge through cutting-edge laser surface engineering innovation and development. The Federal Government’s CRCP grants support short-term industry-led collaborations to develop new technologies, products and services in an effort to boost the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of Australian industries.

“Even modest increases in wear life of critical components translate into significant increases in productive drilling time and reductions in exploration costs,” Dr Hall says.

UniSA, LaserBond and Boart Longyear received $2.6m from the government to support a multi-party $8.3m three-year collaborative project.

The project aims to extend the life of drilling components, reduce the time between equipment changes and increase the hours a drill is available for use. The end product will be tested in Boart Longyear’s drill rigs.

Field trials of advanced coated components used for drilling for mining are already underway at a former mine at Brukunga, near Nairne, in the Adelaide Hills.

CRC chair Allan Morton says the project will lead to more work for the manufacturing, mining, engineering, technology and services sectors.

“If you can reduce the cost of drilling, you can explore more,” Morton says. “If you explore more, you find more. Finding more means you end up with more mines. More mines mean more jobs, more exported product.”

International experts recruited to support project

UniSA and LaserBond have appointed two world-leading researchers in advanced coating metallurgy and surface engineering to work for the centre.

Dr Christiane Schulz is a coatings development engineer currently working with a leading international advanced materials manufacturer where she develops novel metallurgical coatings for a range of heavy industries. She will work as a metallurgist coatings researcher in the Future Industries Institute.

Dr Thomas Schlafer currently works with a coating systems supplier where he is head of research and development. He will work for LaserBond as manager of research and development projects, focused on the development of the cladding cell system.

The cooperative research centre will focus on:

  • The study of multimodal wear in drilling and mining (corrosion, abrasion, erosion, impact)

  • Development of advanced customised alloy cladding materials

  • Design of new components utilising next generation additive laser manufacturing processes.

What is laser cladding?

Laser cladding is a high-performance additive manufacturing procedure, which uses precisely-controlled energy from a high power laser to metallurgically-bond a surface material (or cladding) to an underlying surface. This provides very high performance surfaces to new parts, extending their operating life.

With this precise control, a welded or metallurgical bond is achieved with minimal impacts and effects of heat on both the substrate and surface material.

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