Transmin wins 2013 PACE Zenith Machine Builder Award

PACE Zenith Awards 2013: Machine Builder category sponsored by B&R

WINNER: Transmin
Project: Rocklogic

Transmin developed the Rocklogic rock breaker control and automation system, eliminating safety risks associated with critical mining operations. It greatly increases the efficiency of rock breaking operations by minimising downtime, increasing throughput and annual revenue.

Transmin 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 breaking is an operation that resumes the flow of ore to the processing plant caused by oversize material that has formed a critical blockage that interrupts crushing operations. Often the rock breaker operates in a confined environment, often underground and near to blast-zones or hazardous dumping and crushing operations.

This means staff are required to operate the machines in dirty, dusty and dangerous conditions. Operating a rock breaker on site exposes staff and operators to a large number of risks including: machinery and vehicle risks (including on-site travel), working in confined spaces, working at heights, fly-rock, heat, hazardous atmosphere, ground disturbances, noisy areas, and many more. Many of these risks are highly likely to occur with major or catastrophic consequences.

The hazards associated with the mining operations, as well as the isolation of WA mine sites, have driven industry demand for increased safety, efficiency, and intelligent automation. As such, the automated system is now being supplied to many of Australia’s major mining companies for both underground and open pit environments.

The system senses its position to avoid collisions, and communicates with nearby vehicles, providing information and control to a remote user. 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 guidance technology to provide automatic parking and deploy operations. A priority for Transmin was to eliminate inefficiencies and interruptions caused by complex processes, by comprehensively integrating the solution with existing automation control systems, simplifying interactions between its Rocklogic system and other mine-site capabilities.

Armin Fahnle (L), Director - Operations, Daanet, congratulates the winner Adrian Boeing, Senior Engineer, Transmin.

Armin Fahnle (L), Director – Operations, Daanet, congratulates the winner Adrian Boeing, Senior Engineer, Transmin. 

Rocklogic has been in use 24/7 at a number of sites ranging from underground mining applications to applications in municipal waste handling. Rocklogic has a number of operational modes. A remote operator can initiate an automated movement with the press of a button to automatically park or deploy the rock breaker.

Alternatively, Rocklogic can operate in a “drive-by-wire” mode where all inputs by the user are modified by the system into safe and smooth control commands to the machine. If there is a failure with the site communications network then the system can be operated from a local portable radio control console by selecting one of several fall-back operation modes.

Rocklogic consists of four major components. The remote operator workstation consists of a remote joystick control console and a PC equipped with the rock-breaker user interface, plant control software, and audio/visual feedback (e.g., CCTV). This is typically located in a control room many kilometres away from the rock breaker.

The Rocklogic panel contains a high-performance ruggedized computer, a programmable safety system and plant control devices. A rock breaker Input/Output (I/O) panel, located directly on the base of the rock breaker, houses a specialised I/O controller responsible for interfacing with all instruments, sensors and actuators on the rock breaker.

Rock breaker position sensors for accurately determining the extension of the hydraulic cylinders. A remote operator can issue instructions to the Rocklogic system via the site’s communications backbone. These instructions can be high-level instructions (e.g., automatically park the machine), drive-by-wire instructions (e.g., slew left), or system functions, such as resetting alarms or turning on the hydraulic power unit.

The Rocklogic computer then executes the higher-level control algorithms and issues lower-level motion commands and receives sensor signals from the I/O controller. The system also receives information from the plant control system and fleet management systems, and presents the information on the integrated systems state back to the operator. The system is designed such that a novice can use it with only minimal training required.

The skill set of the team that developed the technology included software, electrical, electronic, mechanical and mechatronic engineers, as well as draftspersons, project managers, sales, marketing and business development personnel.

This project had a large research and development component, as it required the development of a number of world-first technologies for large hydraulic manipulators including developing a robust and reliable sensing technology, and full 3D active-braking collision avoidance system including predictive motion algorithms and continuous collision detection.

In addition, the system required a number of advanced technologies ranging from HMI and SCADA systems to fault-tolerant designs. To achieve this goal Transmin’s development team includes industry-leading engineers with specialised engineering knowledge and high levels of qualifications, including multiple PhD graduates.

Transmin worked together with a number of world-class institutes to complete development including WA universities, CSIRO, and supercomputing institutes (iVEC). Transmin’s Rocklogic technology has been adopted by many Australian mining organisations, including one of the worlds largest mining companies, operating the equipment from a centralised remote operation building.

Being a 100% Australian innovation, the technology has generated significant revenue, creating a number of new jobs in process and control engineering.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Machinery Automation & Robotics
Project: MAR Robotic Idler Replacement System

Machinery Automation and Robotics (MAR) identified issues with the processes surrounding the maintenance of mining conveyors, which presented significant downtime and risks of injury, and therefore loss of productivity. Together with Rio Tinto, the robotics firm developed a solution which uses robots to perform the manual handling tasks associated with changing conveyor idlers.

With the expansion of the mining industry, productivity and safety issues associated with conveyor maintenance have also become more acute. Replacing conveyor idlers is one of the difficult tasks faced each day, which are manual, labour intensive, yet necessary processes resulting in vast amounts of downtime.

Current methods pose a high risk of back injury occurring, loss of productivity and efficiency due to required downtime and difficulty in achieving consistent results. Manual handling accounts for approximately one third of all injuries within the mining industry.

MAR engineered its Robotic Idler Replacement system to combat these issues. The solution 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. The Robotic Idler Replacement System is capable of replacing idlers on loaded, operational conveyors, providing mine sites with the ability to conduct routine maintenance on conveyors with zero downtime.

The Robotic Idler Replacement eliminates the need to shut the conveyor down and removes individuals from hazardous zones. This pioneering and non-intrusive conveyor idler replacement method assists in increasing conveyor up-time and removes workplace health and safety (WHS) risks currently associated with conveyor servicing, maintenance and breakdowns. 

Since there is no need to isolate the conveyor system, downtime is reduced. Issues with limited accessibility to the idlers, and the difficult removal of seized idlers are also effectively eliminated with the solution. MAR performed a workshop trial of the robotic system in January 2012, at its Sydney Offices. This was conducted on a static section (6m) of conveyor structure that was fabricated for the purpose of demonstrating that a robotic manipulator had the potential to change out conveyor idlers on an operational conveyor belt. 

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.  

In order to carry out the required maintenance the MAR Robotic Idler Replacement system is mounted on a mine specified vehicle for surface and underground operations. It is controlled using an HMI located in the cabin of truck. Safety scanners are attached to the purpose built truck, meaning the operator will not need to exit the cabin, keeping him out of harm’s way.

Presenting its manipulator to the conveyor stringer the MAR Robotic Idler Replacement system scans the conveyor idler frame, stringer and belt. The information gathered during this stage allows the MAR Robotic Idler Replacement system to position a lift unit under the belt, clamp to the stringer and lift the belt.

The solution can change tooling during the conveyor idler removal process, allowing the MAR Robotic Idler Replacement to remove and replace the failed idlers, while stowing replaced idlers on the mine specified vehicle. The robot-based solution is suited to both surface and underground operations. It allows online and “live” idler inspection without requiring isolation. Maintenance planning is both reduced and rendered more accurate, with a marked reduction of unscheduled maintenance required.

These successful on site demonstrations provided the feasibility and assisted in the development of the current prototype. The expected completion date for the MAR Robotic Idler Replacement Solution is August 2013.

This cutting edge, first of its kind technology will provide not only high financial returns but improve safety within the mining industry. MAR Robotic Idler Replacement system will revolutionise the way maintenance is carried out on all future conveyor systems as well as the ability to be fitted into existing mining tools.

B&R sponsors 2013 PACE Zenith AwardsThe 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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