Industrial 4.0 in the Mining Industry
In the age of cloud computing, precision sensors, and artificial intelligence, a wave of innovation is being applied to make today's mining industry safer, more productive, and more profitable than ever.
Sensors in worker's clothing can track personnel throughout the site, and handheld devices are used for mineral detection and interaction between employees as well as the machines.
The new "smart mining" technologies have arrived on the scene just in time. An article by Process Technology reports that mining productivity actually decreased by 3.5% year over year in the decade from 2004-2013. Happily, advances in sensors and robotics are making guided "smart equipment" much more affordable while increasing productivity.
Tele-remote machine control and assistive technology are finding an increasingly important role in the world of mining, both above and underground. In this post, Resource Erectors takes a look at two of those applications at work in the field.
Contractor Tries Out Volvo's Intelligent Loader Down Under
When your quarry is operating 13 hours per day and moving 2500 tons of raw material each of those days, loader operators need all the help they can get to increase operational efficiency and keep up with production demands. Australia's Quarry magazine is reporting on a contractor trial conducted by Ross Contractors at their One Tree Hill quarry in Golden Grove, South Australia.
The company supplies clay for all brick production in South Australia as well as sand for a new local pipeline. As the world faces a critical sand shortage, production efficiency is even more critical to meet increasing demands for this vital resource.
To keep up with demand, owner Darren Ross decided to put a Volvo L260H loader equipped with Volvo's innovative "Co-pilot intelligent machine service" system to the test. The 10" touchscreen is part of a smart platform that uses precision sensors to compile onboard machine data to provide real-time information to assist with loader operations including:
- load assist
- dig assist
- compact assist
- pave assist
Ross says operators are able to "concentrate 100 percent on operating the wheel loader and not worry about the weight of the load." The Australian contractor gives the smart Volvo L260H loader full credit for improved operator efficiency and robust site performance overall.
But quarry loaders down under aren't the only machines to benefit from innovative 21st Century smart technology.
From Down Under to Underground Smart Mining
Sandvik is an industry leader in the world of mining and rock technology. The company's AutoMine™ Tele-Remote system improves safety, cost efficiency, and productivity by allowing remote operation and monitoring of a single underground loader.
The company goals for the technology include easy setup, maintenance, and operation, all without the need for advanced technical skills. The system was developed specifically "for continuously changing mining environments, such as applications with small stopes or mine development," according to the Sandvik company website.
Now, the tele-remote package provides remote operator assistance with features such as automatic steering and predictive wall collision avoidance. That significantly reduces stress on the operator as well as avoiding expensive repairs and downtime. These features allow the loader to operate in environments previously unknown to it, so loading can commence immediately without the need for site definitions.
Remote operator capability also allows the loader to keep working continuously even through blast clearance periods. Shift-to-shift handovers between operators go much more quickly since operators don't need to locate and travel to the loader equipment at every shift change.
With smart mining technology showing significant ROI in terms of productivity, cost-efficiency, as well as safety, let's take a look at projections for smart mining technology for the next 4 years.
The Smart Mining Market 2018-2022
As the mining industry moves to the rapid adoption of IoT solutions as well as upgrading health and safety policies, Allied Market Research is forecasting a global smart mining market of $15,837 million by 2022, registering a CAGR of 14.9% during the period 2016-2022.
In 2014, the excavator segment accounted for 31% of revenue in the automated equipment market and the North American and European segments combined for 1/2 of the smart mining market overall. Surface mining, in particular, is expected to dominate the market by 2022 with a projected CAGR of 16 percent.
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