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Epiroc and SSAB has expanded its previously established collaboration by exploring possibilities to use fossil-free steel when manufacturing spare parts and components with additive technology.

In late April, Epiroc extended its partnership with SSAB through a delivery agreement, which focuses on SSAB Zero, SSAB’s fossil carbon emission-free recycled steel produced using sustainable energy sources, being utilised in Epiroc’s battery-electric range of underground mine trucks and loaders.

Now, both companies will partner to explore ways in which fossil-free steel can be used when manufacturing spare parts and components with additive technology.

The initial step in this process has been to create a prototype of a hydraulic block for a mining rock drill using additive technology with conventional steel powder. The traditional manufacturing with milling and drilling requires this type of part to be plugged and sealed after production.

When using additive manufacturing, six potential points of leakage can be eliminated. Another benefit is the possibility to improve the flow of the hydraulic oil since sharp edges can be avoided when the channels are printed in the part.

While traditional manufacturing uses a block of steel weighing approximately 50 kilograms (kg), the optimised design for additive manufacturing uses 7.5kg of steel for producing this part.

“This reduces the amount of material needed for production with 85 per cent in this case, which leads to more efficient use of raw materials,” Epiroc said.

Epiroc said with the prototype successfully produced with additive manufacturing the next step in the process is to experiment with fossil-free steel powder.

Epiroc engineering manager Anders Flodman said that this opportunity creates a lot of potential.

“Production and shipping of spare parts are interesting areas for us to explore going forward. There is a lot of potential in many ways, we can decrease lead times, increase availability, cut-cost on transportation and most important of all, reduce our environmental footprint”, Flodman said.

The prototype has been produced in SSAB’s newly opened facility for steel powder at the production plant in Oxelösund, Sweden.