Advancing industry through trusted partnerships

Industry-relevant problem solving research

UQ Material Performance’s consultancy reputation, demonstrated problem-solving ability and professional approach often leads to medium-term contract research projects to address specific industry issues. Our experienced team can design and execute a systematic research and development methodology tailored to obtain the key information or solution to meet the client’s need. UQ Material Performance’s research has led to significant outcomes for both small and large companies in Australia and around the world.

We are also well-positioned to connect clients with appropriate staff and research groups throughout The University of Queensland, when interdisciplinary expertise is required. Over the last 20+ years of operation, our consultancy has connected numerous companies with researchers at UQ. Some of these relationship have since developed into mutually beneficial long-term research programs.

Nihon Superior
Nihon Superior is a major international supplier of environmentally friendly lead-free solders and associated technologies. The University of Queensland’s relationship with the Osaka-based company began in 2003 when UQ Materials Performance carried out a number of short consultancy projects involving thermal analysis, microstructural characterisation and fluidity experiments.

Following on from this work, UQ Materials Performance connected Nihon Superior with solidification researchers within the School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering. Over time, this relationship has seeded more than $3 million of research funding to the university and led to significant technical and commercial outcomes for the company. Through the establishment of the Nihon Superior Centre for the Manufacture of Electronic Materials, the partnership has led to the generation of 9 Patents, 96+ peer-reviewed publications and the awarding of numerous research higher degrees.
Zemek Engineering
Zemek Engineering supply and repair mining equipment at their facilities in Mackay & Newcastle, and are often tasked with replacing large greaselubricated metal (bronze, brass and steel) bushes that have failed in service. Zemek have developed and trialed a novel solution to this long-standing problem, but require deeper understanding to provide the basis for commercial deployment of the technology. Owing to our experience in understanding and characterising wear mechanisms, UQ Materials Performance was engaged to investigate the factors controlling degradation during site trials and to develop clear operational guidelines ensure reliable performance.

Zemek’s novel bushes, in conjunction with our ongoing research to understand the factors controlling performance, is expected to have a significant impact on the reliability and utilisation of heavy machinery in the mining industry.
Wear resistant materials
The on-going cost of maintaining, refurbishing and replacing mining and minerals processing equipment is a significant proportion of the total operating cost. Accurate understanding the fundamental damage mechanisms associated with the harsh wearing conditions and their effects on different material classes can lead to savings and improvements in equipment availability and throughput. UQ Materials Performance staff have been involved in long-term research and consulting projects in this field for 30+ years.

Our projects have covered a wide variety of equipment types (ball/rod/SAG mills, ore chutes, jaw crushers, pulverisers, pug-mills and more) and a diverse range of materials (high chromium white cast irons, Ni-hard, high carbon steels, advanced ceramics, hard facings, polymers). Notable projects include:
• Optimised high-Cr white cast irons with improved hardenability & performance for ball mill liners (Bradken & Qld Govt, $760k)
• A versatile ultra-wear-resistant liner product for mining and ore handling operations (CBMM, Brazil, valued at $2M over 4 years)
Aurizon is Australia’s largest rail freight operator, transporting millions of tonnes of coal, iron ore and other commodities each year. For the rail industry, continuous improvement of locomotive and rollingstock availability is crucial to maintaining productivity, prioritising safety and reducing operating costs. Over the past 15 years, UQ Materials Performance has carried out a broad range of short & medium term research and consulting projects for Aurizon, focussed on improving wagon reliability, addressing component defects, remaining life predictions and recommending design & process improvements. In the worst case, unexpected failure of wheels, axles or drawgear can cause train separations or even derailment of multiple wagons.

UQ Material Performance’s research into crack growth rate modelling and appropriate repair practices has informed decisions on selecting appropriate inspection techniques, inspection intervals, design changes and repair measures to safeguard against these major incidents.
Rio Tinto aluminium smelter
Rio Tinto own and operate a number of aluminium primary production facilities in Australia and internationally. This includes Boyne Smelters Limited (the second largest aluminium smelter in Australia) and New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Limited (the only NZ based smelter). UQ Material Performance’s relationship with these smelters began in 2007 with a small consultancy project investigating the repeated failure of steel strapping. Since this time UQ Materials Performance has been involved in numerous projects with BSL and NZAS spanning several different stages of the aluminium production process. This included research projects into understanding the protection & damage mechanisms in liquid aluminium corrosion of siphon pipes and understanding the mechanical and metallurgical factors involved in thermal cracking of ingot moulds.

Our findings have enabled operators to optimise their processes for improved throughput and reduced downtime.
Safety in mining
The roof of underground mines must be supported by rock bolts and meshing to prevent rock falls from harming workers. UQ Materials Performance has been involved in carrying out novel tests to determine the load and energy absorption capabilities of different roof support mesh products. Our findings have allowed end users to select the safest product for use in their mines.

In another project, UQ Materials Performance has investigated several wheel rim failures in the mining industry. According to the QLD Mines Inspectorate, tyre and wheel failures have been involved in more mining fatalities than any other single contributor. Realising a dire need, our principal engineer, Lenny McInnes, has invented a new fail-safe wheel designed to save the lives of staff carrying out maintenance on mine trucks. Our new design has received early interest from several major off-the-road wheel manufacturers.