3D printing may give miners Rio Tinto, Iluka a new dimension

Global miners including Iluka Resources and Rio Tinto have long made a pile of gain from digging up a sludgy commodity called mineral sands, then sending it to nations such as China where it really is used to whiten bathroom tiles or in household paints.

These miners are shooting to be in 3D printing providing the exact same commodity for use in the forefront of technological change —. They may be working on means to cut the cost of producing the compound normally produced from mineral sands, titanium dioxide, and buying technologies that can allow it to be more attractive for the 3-D printing industry.

In this, they expect to shield profits from future swings in interest in titanium dioxide. Prices of the mineral sand rutile have dropped more than two thirds from their peak amid a slowdown in the pace of demand from users that were conventional. Rio Tinto (RIO), the No. 1 company, has closed furnaces in Canada and South Africa and says its worldwide operations are running at about 60 per cent of their capacity.

3D print — also called additive manufacturing — offers great possibility to diversify the market for mineral sands. The technology has transformed within a decade from a niche sector making models, prototypes and smaller items for example hearing aids to one which has attracted investments from businesses including jet engine maker General Electric Co. and appliance giant Whirlpool Corp. These producers need stronger, more lightweight stuff that don’t cost more in relation to the ones they now use.

A powdered type of the substance that was chosen, including titanium dioxide, is used to make the three-dimensional object from a computer design. With a laser, layer melts the powder layer in case of titanium to create the thing.