Machine Builders: Finalists at the PACE Zenith Awards 2013

These eight nominees beat the field to make it to our select list of finalists in the 2013 PACE Zenith Machine Builder Awards proudly sponsored by B&R Automation.

T. W. Woods

Time-saving Compact Coal Transfer Chute

T. W. Woods Group has manufactured a smooth flowing low-height transfer chute being used at a busy Hunter Vallery colliery. The chute is incorporated into conveyors handling the throughput at the underground coal mine, which produces more than 1.6 million tons of coal a year.

According to T.W. Woods, the transfer chute overcomes space, spillage and conveyor bulking problems common in coal mining and coal handling facilities.

The mine team leader responsible for the chute's use and maintenance noted its advantages: simplicity, ease of installation and robust design. Installation requires four hours over just one shift to complete.

The chute is built from tough hardened steel, capable resisting wear and outlasting conventional units.

The low-height transfer chute features a conical head developed  by mining specialist designers to maintain high volume high flow rates (up to 2000 tons an hour) when conveyors change direction either underground or on the surface.

Time-saving compact coal transfer chute by T. W. WoodsThe simple but tough design allows it to stand up to heavy usage: the customer has produces about 1200 tons an hour, and the throughput contains lumps up to 300-400mm.

In underground mines, as conveyors emerge from one shaft and transfer to another within a tight space, the quick 90 degree turns result in spillage and bulking up on the conveyor belts.

The chute's compact design allows it to be fitted into lower overall heights than conventional designs, operating with a separation distance between belts of 1200-1500mm.

The conical head provides a smooth transition through the turn for coal moving at typically 3m a second and dropping up to 1500mm onto a belt below.

The chute's capabilities is proving itself in the customer application, where it is used on left and right hand 90-degree turns.

Machinery Automation & Robotics

MAR Robotic Idler Replacement System

Machinery Automation and Robotics (MAR) engineered a Robotic Idler Replacement system, which provides an innovative method of changing idlers out to reduce the risk of injury to personnel and reduce the conveyor downtime associated with damaged idlers.

MAR Robotic Idler Replacement System by	Machinery Automation and RoboticsThe solution can replace idlers on loaded, operational conveyors, providing mine sites with the ability to conduct routine maintenance on conveyors with zero downtime.

In addition to increasing conveyor up-time, the solution removes workplace health and safety (WHS) risks currently associated with conveyor servicing, maintenance and breakdowns.

MAR in conjunction with Rio Tinto looked to using robots to perform manual handling tasks associated with changing conveyor idlers. In January 2012, the company trialled its robotic solution on a 6m static section of conveyor structure.

These trials proved MAR's Robotic Idler Replacement is capable of changing idlers on loaded, fully operational conveyors providing mine sites with the ability to conduct routine maintenance on conveyors without downtime or without the need for direct manual intervention.

For use in mining maintenance operations, the MAR Robotic Idler Replacement system is mounted on a mine specified vehicle for surface and underground operations. It is controlled using a HMI located in the cabin of truck.

Safety scanners are attached to the purpose built truck so the operator will not need to exit the cabin. Presenting its manipulator to the conveyor stringer the MAR Robotic Idler Replacement scans the conveyor idler frame, stringer and belt.

Adelaide Control Engineering

PhosEnergy Pilot Plant

The basic requirement was for a pilot uranium processing plant to extract uranium in the form of U3O8 from a phosphate deposit where it constitutes an undesirable impurity when the phosphate is to be processed into fertilizer.

PhosEnergy Pilot Plant by Adelaide Control EngineeringThe pilot plant was to process the ore using ion exchange methods and have a capacity of 300tpa.

The process for extracting the uranium was developed by Uranium Equities and is a world first.

The plant was modelled and designed using 3D CAD to be built within two 40-foot side-opening containers arranged side by side with a raised access way between them.

The first unit contains the reagent storage tanks and transfer pumps while the second contained the ion exchange columns and associated equipment.

Electrical and control switchboards were distributed between both containers and located to minimise field wiring. The 3D modelling enabled the plant to be designed to reduce the number of connections between containers.

This enables the containers to be unloaded side by side on any levelled area and interconnected ready for operation in minimum time.

The control system is integrated from the field to the control room, and also allows secure access by engineers in Adelaide wherever in the world the plant may currently be located.

The instrumentation in the field can be directly and securely accessed by an engineer by through Allen Bradley Flex I/O, which is connected to a ControlLogix PLC via a redundant ControlNet interface.

Impresstik Systems

Multi Pack Rotary Applicator

Multi Pack Rotary Applicator by Impresstik SystemsThe multi-packs in 3 or 6 pack configuration from the Tetra Pak collator have to have a unique Barcode label applied to the trailing edge of the multi-pack to cover the existing pre-printed code on the individual packs that reflect the multi-pack ID.

These soft brick style drink packs are not able to be space and timed into the Rotary Applicator by the conventional method of a Feed-Screw, so a series of servo driven "Side Belts" had to be developed to space and time each multi-pack into the Infeed Starwheel.

An error of more than several millimetres would cause the packs to be damaged and perforated causing the contents to leak.

This new "Active Servo Belt Infeed" system proved to work perfectly under varying speeds from 30 to 200 multi-packs per minute.



Rocklogic is an automation system designed to increase the safety and efficiency of mining operations. Following mining accidents such as those in Chile, and Pike River in New Zealand that ultimately resulted in 29 deaths there has been an increased need for automating and remotely operating mining equipment.

Rocklogic by TransminTransmin Rocklogic is an intelligent automation system for large hydraulic booms, targeted towards rock breakers.

These machines have a typical reach of over 10 meters, and break oversize rocks with a large hydraulic hammer.

Rock breakers are typically located in dangerous areas, often underground and near to blast-zones or hazardous dumping and crushing operations. Traditionally, staff are required to operate the machines in dirty, dusty and dangerous conditions.

Rocklogic allows staff to operate the rock breaker from the comfort of an office environment, and removes the operator from the hazards associated with on-site rock breaking activities.

Rocklogic’s system includes collision avoidance and automated parking technology well beyond any system currently commercially available, or available from research groups. The system can integrate with existing automation solutions to achieve the customers’ goals of maximising throughput and safety.

Rocklogic has been in use 24/7 at a number of sites ranging from underground mining applications to applications in municipal waste handling.

Rocklogic is the worlds first rockbreaker automation product, and features innovative technologies including active breaking collision avoidance, automatic parking, and long-range remote operation. 

Lewis Australia

Automatic Accretion Removal System

A nickel smelter furnace had a daily one hour shutdown to remove the rock hard accretion that builds up in the transition between the furnace and the quench tower. This is an extremely aggressive environment with a heavily dust laden atmosphere of sulphur dioxide at more than 1,600oC and at the hot wet interface. 

Lewis Australia developed an on-line accretion removal device to eliminate these shutdowns.  We mounted a rotary cutter on a long boom and manipulate it in the transition with a robot.

A gimbal in the quench tower wall maintains a gas tight seal.  The boom and cutter are both internally water cooled to withstand the temperature, and made of a high nickel alloy to minimise corrosion.

The increased production gave a project payback of less than six months and prompted the smelter to install a similar device in the second furnace. This accretion build up is a common problem in flash furnaces for which there had not previously been a solution.

Columbus Group

Southern Wire Label Inserter

The task of the label inserter is to safely place an A2 sized heavy plastic paper fence description label into the second last revolution of the fence wire roll, automatically, triggered by the settings of the wire fence making machine.

Southern Wire Label Inserter by Columbus GroupAnd by replacing the manual STOP and GO current procedure of label insertion, an average increase in production of some 5% in any normal day without any other intervention is envisaged.

The variations of the roll sizes in fence length and height, which determines the label placement cycle, had to be included in the software management of the label inserter system.

Wire fence making has similarities to the paper feed magazine on a printing machine, but the label weighs 10 times the weight of a sheet of paper.

In a printing machine, the destination is a known physical and timed location. However, when the output product can vary, then substantial localised control is important. 

The complete, stand alone package uses a mix of innovative, cost effective hardware and flexible robust software with the easy ability to interface with the existing fence making hardware and control technologies.


Ertech sets benchmarks in maintenance facility safety

Civil contractor Ertech recently completed building an equipment maintenance facility that will service about 170 items of major plant, including scrapers, excavators, loaders and bulldozers.

Ertech sets benchmarks in maintenance facility safety by KonecranesFive-tonne and 10-tonne Konecranes have been installed at Ertech's headquarters in Wangara, WA.

The 10-tonne overhead crane has a 20-metre span, while the five-tonne crane, which straddles the automated welding bay, has a span of 9 metres. The cranes employ radio controls with the load display in the handset.

A benefit of the new cranes is the cranes' travel inverters, a separate control that delivers smooth starts, acceleration and deceleration of the load, minimising load swing and enabling fast and accurate load positioning.

Dynafamily inverter controls and pole changing controls are standard options for crane and trolley travelling on Konecranes overhead cranes.

Accurate load positioning with True Lift as standard, which means the hook moves horizontally only 5mm during a one-metre lift. Because of the innovative mechanical design of the CXT hoists, with a large rope drum diameter and a short drum length, the horizontal travel of the hook during lowering is minimal.

B&R Automation tools enable manufacturers to build next generation equipment.The 2013 PACE Zenith Machine Builder Awards are sponsored by B&R Automation.
Read more: B&R Automation tools enable manufacturers to build next generation equipment.
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