Diversified miner Anglo American has partnered with the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and US-based technology company Ivaldi Group, to explore opportunities to digitally distribute spare parts for mining and processing equipment to be manufactured locally using three-dimensional (3D) printing.
The project includes an analysis of Anglo’s inventory of spare parts – such as impellers for pumps, shaft sleeves, gasket bonnet valves and mining rock drill bits, exploring the impact of adopting a digitally-distributed supply chain.
This will be followed by digitising, locally producing and testing these parts at Anglo’s operations in South Africa.
This partnership is the latest manifestation of Anglo’s collaborative regional development (CRD) approach to help create thriving communities, as part of the company’s sustainable mining plan commitments.
Through strategic partnerships, CRD aims to create long-term economic prosperity within Anglo’s host communities and regions beyond the expected life of a mine.
To that end, Anglo launched the Impact Catalyst in 2019 together with its partners the CSIR, Exxaro Resources, Zutari, World Vision South Africa and the provincial government of Limpopo.
Anglo socioeconomic development and partnerships head Matthew Chadwick says the miner’s FutureSmart Mining approach to sustainable mining is presenting it with new and innovative opportunities to build thriving and resilient communities, now and into the future.
“Through partnerships like this one with CSIR and Ivaldi, we are re-imagining long-established norms to help deliver enduring value to society,” he says.
Chadwick says the ability to send files, and not physical spare parts, will reduce Anglo’s carbon footprint, delivery lead times and logistics costs.
Further, he adds that the solution also has the “clear potential” to create industrial and service jobs for host communities and surrounding regions through on-demand manufacturing systems to produce spare parts locally.
Ivaldi CEO Espen Sivertsen says the digital distribution of physical goods is a “natural next step” for the global spare parts supply chain and is part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“Working with organisations like Anglo and the CSIR, we are now practically demonstrating that there are significant savings for businesses and a net positive impact for the environment and associated communities,” he says.
CSIR business development manager Charl Harding says that, when the CSIR first explored this opportunity to develop sustainable local on-demand manufacturing solutions, the organisation saw an immediate fit with its additive manufacturing (otherwise known as 3D printing) and materials expertise.
“The 3D printing of parts, along with the application of additive manufacturing technologies to refurbish worn parts, offers the potential to create local jobs, promotes innovation for the inclusive and sustainable advancement of industry and society while responding to the critical issue of climate change,” he says.
Through CRD, Anglo and its partners aim to be a catalyst for thriving communities that can benefit in new ways directly from mining, while new economic activities, such as 3D printing, agribusiness opportunities, biofuels, game ranching and tourism start to develop, thereby building on mining’s contribution to sustainable communities.