3D printing prototype of pure platinum jewellery
Platinum major Lonmin has contributed to South Africa's first 3D printing prototype using pure platinum.

The 3D printing prototype of pure platinum jewellery was manufactured using selective laser melting.

The launch of the prototype was revealed at the Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa conference currently underway in Durban.

The process of producing functional parts using 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, required the complement of different skills, including the design for the 3D prototype, powder production, machine parameter settings and post-treatment processing.

PlatForum, a partnership consisting of the Central University of Technology, North West University, Vaal University of Technology and Lonmin, initiated the 3D printing project in June 2016.

Lonmin’s contribution to the project involved the production of the platinum powder. Initial trials were conducted from August 2016 to produce pure platinum powder to suit the specifications for the additive manufacturing printing process. In October 2017, the platinum powder was tested, the machine parameters optimised and prototypes finally printed.

“3D technology has gained in popularity in recent years, and the introduction of the additive manufacturing using precious metals will contribute and add to the range of applications where the properties of PGMs are used,” says Wilma Swarts, head of marketing at Lonmin and director of PlatForum.

Additive manufacturing using precious metals creates new opportunities for value-added processing and mineral beneficiation using PGMs. “This showcases the potential of 3D printing of platinum group metals (PGMs). Through additive manufacturing, intricate and light weight PGM products can be manufactured at speed, presenting new opportunities for PGMs, socio-economic development, Lonmin and the platinum mining sector,” says Swarts.

Looking ahead, the Platforum will explore the potential of 3D printing using precious metals to produce PGM alloys and existing but also new and novel applications for the medical, energy and the automotive industries.

For a detailed video on the additive manufacturing process of the making of pure platinum jewellery, click here.

Feature image credit: PlatForum

3D printing prototype of pure platinum jewellery