Tag Archives: ASI

Epiroc spots further agnostic automation opportunities

Having convinced iron ore miner Roy Hill to move ahead with plans to create the world’s largest autonomous mine, Epiroc and ASI – which the OEM owns 34% of – are ready to take on new equipment-agnostic automation opportunities, Helena Hedblom says.

Speaking after the company’s December quarter and 2022 results were released, Hedblom, President and CEO of Epiroc, said the company and ASI had progressed through three years of rigorous testing of the system, with the solution now entering the “scale” phase.

The Roy Hill project’s Production Verification phase was recently completed with 10 converted haul trucks fitted with vehicle automation kits and in cab clients using ASI Mining’s Mobius traffic management and on–board automation systems to navigate the mine’s virtual map, communicating with ancillary vehicles and the control room.

From March, the companies will start converting the mixed fleet of 96 conventional haul trucks to driverless operation, which is an increase from the 77 trucks originally set to be converted to running autonomously.

“There are certainly opportunities to deploy such solutions elsewhere,” Hedblom told IM. “If you look at how we started autonomous drilling with BHP, we took a step-by-step approach ahead of rolling that out to our customer base.

“We and ASI hope to be able to do that for this type of autonomous haulage solution too.”

Epiroc’s financial results highlighted another robust quarter where orders received increased 18% year-on-year to SEK13.7 billion ($1.3 billion), representing an organic decrease of 4% and organic growth of 3% when excluding Epiroc’s Russian business (which has now ceased). Revenues increased 25% to SEK13.9 billion, an organic increase of 8%, and operating profit increased 25% to SEK3.2 billion.

While this quarter saw fewer large orders than previous three-month periods, it did see the easing of supply challenges and good output levels, Epiroc said, adding that operating profit was at a record high.

The period also saw the company complete the acquisition of four companies – Remote Control Technologies (RCT), Wain-Roy, Radlink and Geoscan – continuing the acceleration of M&A activity Epiroc has become known for.

The purchase of RCT also offers another automation in-road, with the Australia-based company known as an OEM-agnostic automation specialist.

Listing off several of these acquisitions, Hedblom also highlighted the planned acquisition of CR, which has an offering covering surface and underground mining, and products including cast lips, teeth, and protective shrouds installed on mining buckets and loaders.

“CR and ground engaging tools represent a new niche for us,” she said.

When Epiroc announced the planned acquisition in December, it said the move was predicated on expanding its “first-rate offering” of essential consumables and digital solutions.

Hedblom, meanwhile, said the company would continue to evaluate further M&A opportunities as they appeared.

Outside of automation and digitalisation, Hedblom remained confident the company would hit its electrification goals in 2025 – goals that include offering a complete range of emission-free underground products.

“We actually had our first order for the underground tunnelling sector recently,” she said. “We are very well positioned to achieve these targets.”

Doosan Infracore demonstrates Concept-X ‘construction site of the future’

This week Doosan Infracore unveiled ‘Concept-X’ at its Proving Grounds in Boryeong City, Korea, a control solution that can be used to survey worksite topography via 3D drone scanning, establish operational plans based on topographical data, and operate construction equipment such as excavators and wheel loaders without human intervention.

While Concept-X is construction focused, some of the technology is likely to have potential applications in mining. This opinion is backed up by the fact that one of the project collaborations, ASI, is already a leader in autonomous solutions in the mining space.

Doosan says Concept-X realises the construction site of the future by having all dangerous construction work performed solely by equipment, leaving human personnel free to concentrate on more sophisticated analysis and management tasks.

Although certain individual unmanned technologies have already been introduced in the field of construction machinery, Doosan Infracore’s introduction of unmanned automation technologies to the entire construction site operation process – ranging from surveying to the operations of construction equipment such as excavators and wheel loaders – is a world first, it said.

“Concept-X comprises a wide range of cutting-edge Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies such as image recognition, cognitive/control technologies, autonomous driving technologies, 5G remote control, 3D drone surveys and accurate workload estimation and assignment, together with failure prediction technologies,” the company said.

The new technologies introduced during the demonstration included a technology designed to create 3D worksite maps with drone-surveyed data; a technology enabling construction equipment such as excavators and wheel loaders to perform optimised unmanned operations according to any site situation; and a technology that makes real-time monitoring of work progress possible through the X-Center’s control solution.

This solution will boost productivity and economic feasibility significantly by reducing the time and costs required for construction equipment operations, while introducing a revolutionary improvement to the issue of construction worksite safety, the company said. Doosan Infracore plans to commercialise Concept-X by 2025.

Pending its commercialisation, Doosan Infracore will introduce each of the above-mentioned technologies – including drone surveying, cutting-edge data analysis, and unmanned construction equipment operations and control – individually as soon as they have been fully verified.

Doosan Infracore President & CEO, Dongyoun Sohn, said: “Concept-X is not just an unmanned technology: rather, it integrates multiple state-of-the-art technologies that can respond immediately to all and any of the changes that may arise at construction sites simultaneously.

“It will become a human-centred technology that not only brings about remarkable improvements in economics and safety but also creates more jobs in high-tech industries.”

In addition to its independent technology development, Doosan Infracore has pursued various forms of open innovation including collaboration with other companies and schools, as well as investment in start-ups. The company has engaged in industry-academic co-operation with Seoul National University, Yonsei University and Hanyang University in order to develop new technologies related to AI-based construction equipment operations, drone 3D surveying and operational data analysis.

In 2018, Doosan Infracore, in partnership with LG U+, introduced 5G-based remote control technology for the first time in the world.

Danfoss and ASI to collaborate on autonomous technology

Danfoss and Autonomous Solutions Inc (ASI) have signed an agreement for a strategic partnership to collaborate on autonomous technology for mobile equipment applications and adjacent markets, they said.

With the strategic partnership, ASI, a leader in autonomous solutions in the mining space, and Danfoss will align the strengths of the two companies working toward a common goal of enabling more customers to adopt autonomous solutions for their applications, Danfoss said.

“Autonomous technology can increase safety and productivity, and also support tackling challenges like reliable food supply and sustainable primary industries,” the company added.

Kim Fausing, President and CEO of Danfoss, said: “This partnership demonstrates our ambition to invest in autonomy and be the innovative partner for our customers. It’s a promising partnership and we are excited about the potential in vehicle automation.”

ASI, which has been working on autonomous vehicle projects with the likes of Barrick Gold and Ferrexpo, was the subject of corporate activity last year when Epiroc acquired 34% of the company.

Mel Torrie, President and CEO of ASI, says: “ASI has been using the innovative Danfoss components over the last 20 years to support our autonomy development with the world’s leading vehicle OEMs. This new partnership will ensure manufacturers have the needed support to streamline their efforts in making autonomous industrial vehicles a mainstream reality.”

ASI is a longtime Danfoss customer, using the PLUS+1® software platform from Danfoss Power Solutions in several of the vehicles it has automated in the past, according to Danfoss.

Rio Tinto increases ‘responsibly produced aluminium’ drive

Rio Tinto says it is now offering independently certified “responsibly produced aluminium” from all of its Canada operations, with the extension of the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative’s (ASI) Chain of Custody certification to include the BC Works smelter and Kemano Power Operations in Kitimat, British Columbia.

The certification reinforces Rio Tinto’s commitment to responsible mining and metals production by providing independent verification that material can be traced through a ‘chain of custody’ spanning Rio Tinto’s Gove bauxite mine, in Australia, to its alumina refinery, aluminium smelters and casthouses in Quebec and British Columbia, Canada, it said.

Rio explained: “ASI certification means customers can be assured the aluminium purchased through Rio Tinto’s Canadian operations has been produced to the highest environmental, social and governance standards. Rio Tinto has led the establishment of responsible production certification for the aluminium industry as a founding member of the ASI, working alongside customers and a broad range of stakeholders.”

In 2018, Rio Tinto was the first company to receive the ASI’s first Performance Standard certification – the highest internationally recognised standard for robust environmental, social and governance practices – and Chain of Custody certification, covering five aluminium smelters, the Vaudreuil refinery, casting centres, port and railway facilities in Quebec, Canada. The BC Works smelter and Kemano Power Operations received certification against the Performance Standard in January 2019 and have now been included in the Chain of Custody certification. Rio Tinto is now working with the ASI on audits and certifications for other sites in its global aluminium business.

Rio Tinto Aluminium Vice President Sales and Marketing and ASI Board member, Tolga Egrilmezer, said: “This certification continues Rio Tinto’s leadership on responsible production. It increases the availability of ASI certified aluminium in a range of markets, giving customers the ability to offer end consumers products made with aluminium that meets the highest sustainability standards.”

ASI chief executive officer, Fiona Solomon, said: “This successful Chain of Custody certification demonstrates ASI’s potential to create impact through voluntary uptake of its program. We are seeing the positive upstream examples like this one now extending into downstream aluminium use sectors such as automotive, construction and packaging, and this is very encouraging.”

The ASI is a global, multi-stakeholder, non-profit standards setting and certification organisation. It works toward responsible production, sourcing and stewardship of aluminium following an entire value chain approach. ASI launched its Performance Standard and Chain of Custody Standard in December 2017. ASI’s 60+ members include leading civil society organisations, companies with activities in bauxite mining, alumina refining, aluminium smelting, semi-fabrication, product and component manufacturing, as well as consumer and commercial goods, including the automotive industry, construction and packaging, as well as industry associations and other supporters.

ASI receives US Army funding for AI-backed autonomous vehicle initiative

Autonomous Solutions Inc. (ASI) says it has received Phase I funding from the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Ground Vehicles Systems Center (formerly TARDEC) for an initiative that could improve the way heavy vehicles stop while operating autonomously.

As the advanced solution is developed, tested and proven, it could be used by ASI’s autonomous vehicles across industries such as agriculture, automotive, construction haulage, mining, facility robotics, the company said.

Jeff Ferrin, CTO of ASI, said: “Bringing large autonomous vehicles to a safe stop in varying environments can be challenging. Having additional funding from the Army to further develop this technology will help us make autonomous vehicles safer, which is always our number-one priority.”

The objective of the Army in awarding this grant is to develop and demonstrate a system that can be operated remotely and considers both the dynamics of the vehicle, as well as the environment, to optimally and safely bring a large ground vehicle to a complete stop despite the terrain, according to ASI.

“ASI has been working on terrain characterisation with the Army since 2014,” Ferrin said. “This project will use similar technology to make sure the vehicle is aware of the terrain around it. This model of the terrain will then be used by the vehicle to ensure a safer stop is completed.”

A significant focus of this intelligent urgent stop initiative is machine learning, ASI said. “This improved technology will continuously monitor the interaction between a vehicle and its surroundings and update the internal model that is used to properly halt the vehicle. This process will allow the vehicle to learn and adapt as the terrain and environment change.”

According to Ferrin, the system can be used with any drive-by-wire vehicle. “It will interface with the brakes and steering to bring the vehicle to a safe, controlled stop,” he said.

Details of the Phase I stage awarded to ASI include development of a concept design using commercial-off-the-shelf sensors to perform safe deceleration of a large ground vehicle. A concept design report and performance analysis report are required deliverables before Phase II can be awarded, ASI said.

ASI acquisition to reinforce Epiroc’s OEM-agnostic transition

Amid all the justified hype surrounding the launch of Epiroc’s second generation of battery-electric machines in Örebro, Sweden, this week, the company’s recent M&A activity was somewhat forgotten.

The acquisition of 34% of ASI Mining, a subsidiary of Autonomous Solutions Inc, is one of the more interesting buys the company has made in the past month or so and Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure, provided further insight into why the company made the move for the US-based company.

ASI Mining’s products include on-board hardware and software that convert vehicles to autonomous operation, as well as system level software platforms for command and control of autonomous fleets across various mining applications. The solutions integrate with various mobile mining equipment, regardless of make or model. While the company aims to provide a broad mining remit with its Mobius solution, it has so far only made inroads into the surface mining space.

Hedblom, first off, said ASI’s automation retrofitting capability would bolster Epiroc’s open-pit mining offering, which includes production and exploration drilling equipment.

The partnership with ASI will also reinforce a much deeper shift in the company’s future product and systems strategy.

Hedblom said: “Our strategy when it comes to system integration…is to be able to offer a solution that can really drive productivity for our customers. To do that, you need to combine the full system of vehicles. You cannot only do it with one type of equipment.

“That’s why we have a clear strategy to be OEM-agnostic in everything we do.”

She continued: “The solutions you will see here [in Örebro] and, also the capabilities ASI brings, is [all around being] OEM-agnostic. It allows us to respond to the needs that the customers have when it comes to being OEM agnostic…I do believe that is what the industry needs, otherwise it will not be possible to reach the full potential when it comes to productivity.”

This philosophy can also be seen in the latest generation of battery-electric machines and systems, according to Epiroc’s Global Marketing Manager – Electrification, Erik Svedlund.

“OEM-agnostic goes to everything we do. For example, in the charging of our machines, we have already selected the solution from surface where we use the same type [of charger] that the car manufacturers do. This is a super-fast charging system for the car industry, but it will be our standard charging.

“This is important because then we can standardise an open interface between all the OEMs and all equipment in mines can be charged from the same charging infrastructure. It’s very important not to lock in customers to special designs.

“We believe, long term, this will be a benefit,” he said, adding that this charger change came about from the learnings of some 65,000 hours of operations with its first generation of battery-electric equipment.

Epiroc eyes Baltic expansion with purchase of Estonia-based mining equipment distributor

Epiroc has made another acquisition, this time taking over Sautec AS, an Estonian distributor of mining and construction equipment.

Sautec is based in Tallinn, Estonia, and is active also in Latvia and Lithuania. The company, which has six employees, distributes underground mining equipment and construction demolition tools with related parts, services and consumables.

This is Epiroc’s third acquisition in as many weeks, after buying exploration rock tools manufacturer Fordia and 34% of mining autonomy major ASI.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure, said the deal was focused on expanding the company’s presence in the Baltic region.

Epiroc said the purchase price was not material relative to its market capitalisation and, therefore, had not been disclosed.

Sautec will become part of Epiroc’s Mining and Rock Excavation Service division.