In a windowless room in the most secure part of Lonmin’s precious-metals refinery is a machine about the size of a microwave oven. While small and ordinary looking, it is the foundation of what could be a significant breakthrough in the use of platinum group metals.

The “oven”, which is actually a specially configured laser-based 3-D printing machine, is the culmination of three years of work at Lonmin to develop the high-purity platinum powder and the correct settings of the machine to print or make objects out of platinum. Lonmin is a forerunnner in the race to crack open the technology...

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