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New Wearlife Performance CRCp leads way in solving abrasion wear

South Australia welcomes a powerful new collaboration tackling the multi-billion dollar issue of abrasion wear of drill components that goes hand-in-hand with exploration and mining.

The enthusiastic team at the new Wearlife Performance CRCp have set their sights on becoming a world leader in tackling the issue.

The three-year Wearlife Performance CRCp brings together a formidable collaboration between the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute, highly regarded for its applied research, LaserBond, a leader in surface-engineering, and international drilling company Boart Longyear, partnering with the Commonwealth’s business-focused Cooperative Research Centres Programme.

Abrasion wear represents a major challenge to the resources sector in cost and time, with high-wearing drilling components the primary driver of drilling costs.

The key to efficient drilling is to maximise the time down the hole cutting rock. By reducing wear, there is less need to stop drilling to replace worn components. The Wearlife Performance CRCp will address this productivity challenge by applying cutting-edge laser surface engineering innovation and development to guard against abrasion.

The project will investigate the application of new additive manufacturing technologies for drilling systems. This detailed work will entail:

  • probing the precise wear characteristics of how mining and drilling equipment fails through mechanisms of corrosion, abrasion, erosion and impact
  • developing and customising alloy cladding materials
  • designing new components using advanced additive laser manufacturing processes.

Kickstart from MIPO

Chalk and cheese: Allan Morton, Chair of the new Wearlife Performance CRCp, shows Mark Malcolm, Manager of the Global Maintenance Upper Spencer Gulf cluster, the stark difference in wear and tear between an untreated component and one treated with surface engineered wear resistant cladding. (Photo 415927)
Chalk and cheese: Allan Morton, Chair of the new Wearlife Performance CRCp, shows Mark Malcolm, Manager of the Global Maintenance Upper Spencer Gulf cluster, the stark difference in wear and tear between an untreated component and one treated with surface engineered wear resistant cladding. (Photo 415927)

When showcasing the new Wearlife Performance CRCp exhibit at the recent Copper to the World conference, Chair, Allan Morton sang the praises of the South Australian Government’s Mining Industry Participation Office (MIPO) for providing a leg-up.

MIPO’s Manager for Minerals and Energy, Lachlan Crowe, brought the parties together in early 2016, having identified their natural synergies.
‘The collaborators’ focus was a natural fit for the South Australian Government’s strategy to leverage high-end manufacturing, addressing a key industry issue, while making its mining and services value chain more productive and globally competitive’.

As ideas began flowing, MIPO provided an essential seed-grant from its Mining and Petroleum Services Centre of Excellence – which demonstrated proof of concept for the collaborators to pool efforts on investigating abrasion wear.

The formative work, strengthened the case to bid for the Commonwealth Cooperative Research Centre Projects (CRCp) short-term, industry-led collaborative grants. The successful bid was announced in February 2017 with the Commonwealth’s CRCp providing $2.5 million to support the $8.26 million three-year collaboration.

The initiative was bolstered in June with the appointment of highly regarded international researchers Dr Christiane Schulz and Dr Thomas Schlafer who bring fresh skills in the field of advanced coating metallurgy and surface engineering.

Allan Morton, who is also Chair of LaserBond, sees abrasion wear as a major productivity priority for industry: ‘There is no escape from abrasion wear as it occurs in almost every stage of mining – operations, exploration drilling, drilling for blasting, rock transport, rock crushing, mineral processing and shipment’.

He sums up the benefits from addressing wear-life performance as reducing costs, saving downtime and increasing productivity.

‘More hours drilling rock and faster penetration rates lowers drill costs ($/m per hole), freeing up resources for more exploration. And if you can explore more, you can discover and develop more mines, generating more economic benefits.’

Allan added that the advantages of working in South Australia lies in its manufacturing knowledge, research facilities and proximity to hard rock mines, accelerating technology development.

LaserBond has recently increased capacity at its South Australian operations at Cavan to service rising demand for surface-engineering technologies to extend the life and performance of production-critical components.

– Grace Taylor

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