Modular ore crushing system

Silence, they say, is golden. And for AI Automation‘s owner Colin Heath, silence on the part of the Western Australian client who ordered a multi-trailer ore crushing system is testament to Mitsubishi Automation‘s equipment reliability.

"We haven’t heard a peep from them, so there can’t be too much wrong," Heath said.
AI Automation delivered a system which consists of six self-generating trailers, and a trailer mounted control room.

In each trailer, AI Automation implemented Mitsubishi Q series and FX series PLC equipment as well as Mitsubishi HMI touch screens. Mitsubishi’s variable speed drives were used to provide finer control, as were Mitsubishi’s variable speed drives.

At final count, the full plant consisted of one primary jaw crusher, one tertiary cone crusher, one secondary cone crusher, one fines vibratory multi-deck screen, one scalping multi-deck screen, and three height-variable roving radial stackers with ultrasonic material level sensing.

Each section of mobile plant can be independently operated, or coupled together for various plant configurations, for example to deal with different material grades or types.

Communications systems

Local configuration and control for each trailer was afforded by the PLC system and touch screens present in every unit. This is in addition to the standard central control.

"The main control room with 15-inch touch screens is where the client can oversee the lot," Heath explained. "The screens themselves are quite intelligent: they handle the transmission of data between the systems and works quite well."

All the trailers provide operational feedback of critical system pressures and temperatures back to the control room HMI unit, and the system is expandable. For example, video plant surveillance can be installed later, as can direct remote access capabilities which will allow even more flexible monitoring and configuration.

Communications between the trailers and control equipment is handled by radio Ethernet, which eliminates the need for pesky re-cabling when the modules are reconfigured for new applications.
Given the application, the speed and reliability of radio Ethernet technology was more than satisfactory for the project.

"The data speed varies depending on what we’re transmitting," said Heath. "We do not shift a large amount of data around. It was more necessary to bring the system together into a single HMI screen and controller; we’re only periodically looking at the information or sending out bits of data."

Mobility and flexibility

Mobility was a big consideration for the project, with the modular nature of the trailers allowing the client to mix and match the plant according to its needs. For example, the client can choose to exclude plants when they are not necessary for the process.

"[With this project], you can change the plant’s configuration easily. [With] a fixed plant, you can’t do that, you’re stuck with what you’ve got, and it’s a major exercise to reconfigure," Heath told PACE.
"This plant could be reconfigured in a number of ways, depending on what grade of ore you are processing, or what you’re trying to achieve."

All components of the Mobile Aggregate Crushing System complement each other to maximise production and efficiency.The self-contained nature of the plants was boosted by the use of diesel electric generators on each trailer, meaning the system did not have to be tethered to a central powerhouse, a fixed power plant or power source, further improving the flexibility and configurability of the solution.

According to Heath, a system of the scope specified would normally be a fixed plant, but the need for two or three different configurations meant a fixed plant was out of the question.

"You wouldn’t be able to achieve that configurability with a fixed plant – the plant would have been massive," Heath said.

While the trailers lend themselves well to being transported, the project in Western Australia was intended for just one mine site. However, Heath acknowledged the potential of such a system for higher end sectors, where the plants may need to be shifted to various sites on a needed basis, or around the site.

In addition to the flexible configuration of the plant, additional control over processes like material feed control, screening efficiency and stock piling was provided by the use of Mitsubishi variable speed drives.

This combination of equipment allowed the client fine-grained control over its operation, with the processes entirely adjustable according to the grade of ore it had to deal with. The variable speed drives also provided energy savings, ensuring a full tank of diesel lasts as long as possible.

Reliability matters

In mining applications, with its tough conditions and when dealing with ore of various hardness, reliability is key – especially when any downtime can represent millions of lost dollars.

By all accounts, the Mitsubishi equipment package has taken the 800 to 1,000 tonnes per hour production rate, extreme heat, dust, vibration and precipitation in its stride, with reliable and efficient performance.

Heath swears by Mitsubishi equipment. "I personally used Mitsubishi for some 15 or more years, and its systems are highly reliable," said Heath.

"Their equipment is advanced, and is considered a world-wide market leader. Certainly it has a reputation of reliability and one that is well-earned."

Reliability is certainly good news for the client. Depending on the grade of ore being crushed, these plants can be set up and run for ten years or more.

For distributors, happy customers are a good thing, but Heath wryly points out that this reliability means rarely will he get sales out of replacing broken equipment. Most of AI Automation’s work now comes from either expansion or superseded equipment replacement.

Many advantages

Heath summed up the advantages of the project for the client as "mobility, reliability, configurability and cost".

Through the use of Mitsubishi’s equipment and control technology, AI Automation was able to build a solution to address the client’s need for a flexible solution.

By mounting the plants on self-powered trailers, the firm opened the door to a solution which can be quickly and cost-effectively rearranged to deal with a wide variety of tasks and material.

This innovative form factor, along with the proven reliability of the equipment, meant AI Automation’s client has been blissfully quiet about the project since its delivery.

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