Tag Archives: automation

Epiroc confirms mining market growth, automation uptick in Q3 results

The trend of equipment automation is no longer confined to certain regions or sectors; it is a global phenomenon. That is the impression Epiroc has provided in the last few months, as well as in its September quarter results, the latter of which was released today.

Having reported a swelling order book for this quarter – including record orders received of SEK12.2 billion ($1.4 billion) and a 29% year-on-year improvement in operating profit to SEK2.4 billion – the company’s fortunes continue to be representative of a wider uptick in the mining industry.

This was characterised by several large orders in the three-month period, five of which were valued at more than SEK100 million.

The variety of these orders – representing greenfield and brownfield operations – was interesting, reinforcing the idea that the equipment and service sales were attributed to growing – as opposed to sustaining – production levels from the industry.

What was also worth pointing out was the increased levels of automation that came with these bookings.

IAMGOLD’s order for six Epiroc Pit Viper 231 blasthole drill rigs for its Côté Gold operation in Ontario, Canada, included plans to use them in a “fully autonomous” mode; one of the Boltec machines being supplied to LKAB’s underground mines in Sweden will be equipped with a new automated pumpable resin system; and some of the drill rigs ordered by Eti Bakir in Turkey and Dazhong Mining Co Ltd in China will come fitted with Epiroc’s Rig Control System, which makes them ready for automation and remote control.

“We see that there are high levels of interest for automation,” Helena Hedblom, Epiroc President and CEO, told IM shortly after the results were released. “Depending on the site, there is always a consideration around automation.

“These are step-by-step developments, though.”

This is likely to mean some companies progress to the highest levels of automation, while others reap the benefits from tele-remote operation.

In addition to the productivity and safety benefits that companies are receiving from this operating transition, there is also a sustainability advantage, according to Hedblom.

Diesel-powered machines with automated elements are being fitted with more energy efficient components and are burning less diesel through optimised operation of equipment.

Ahead of a full on move to battery-electric machines – which are not yet automated – these benefits are important for an industry looking to decarbonise.

“Energy efficiency has always been a priority in our R&D investments,” Hedblom said on an analyst call on the same day. “We’re working on that with our diesel machines too.

“That is the fastest way we can have an impact on CO2 emissions for the industry.”

By continuing to work on the base machines – improving their efficiency as much as possible – the company is ensuring each new machine has a positive impact.

And, of course, the company is now offering an electrification roadmap to miners with existing diesel-powered fleets.

This is where the recently announced acquisition of Canada-based FVT Research is relevant.

“We see this transaction as a strategic move to transform the sector,” Hedblom told IM.

FVT played an integral role in a recent project to convert a diesel-powered Epiroc Scooptram ST1030 loader to battery-electric mode, and Hedblom sees the company helping create a much larger battery-electric rebuild program.

It also slots nicely into the company’s wider electrification plans, as Hedblom outlined on the analyst call.

“We can then take on a project, do the electrical mine infrastructure with the Meglab capabilities, we can convert some of the machines (FVT Research) and, at the same time, add new machines and then bundle it with Batteries as a Service,” she said.

Also of note in the results was the continued growth of Epiroc’s aftermarket business. In the three-month period, it represented 72% of revenues, up from 69% in the same quarter a year ago. For service, orders received increased 21% to SEK4.8 billion, corresponding to 13% organic growth.

Hedblom mentioned the company has continued to gain market share in this area, as it focused on keeping machines out in the field up and running.

Increased connectivity to these machines has helped support this, with the number of units delivered with connectivity increasing by more than 30% year-on-year, according to Hedblom.

More details of this development are likely to follow in the company’s December 1 Capital Markets Day, but Hedblom said this increased connectivity was underlining product performance, providing optimisation opportunities and showing potential market prospects.

Teck, Kinross and Vale join Axora’s mining and metals digital transformation community

Axora says it has launched the world’s first digital transformation community for the energy and metals and mining sectors.

The Axora Community intends to connect industry innovators, share the latest market research on key digital trends and initiate thought-provoking debates to help solve some of the biggest challenges facing these industries today, Axora said.

“Professionals in these two sectors face some of the world’s most dangerous environments while having to safely satisfy production demand and hit sustainability targets,” Ritz Steytler, CEO of Axora (pictured), said at the launch event in London last night. “By harnessing digital innovation, paired with knowledge sharing and collaboration, industry leaders can ensure worker safety, reduce environmental impact, and improve return on investment. That’s why we started the Axora Community.”

Axora’s two recent reports, ‘Innovation Forecast: Mining and Metals’ and ‘Innovation Forecast: Energy’, revealed that 99% of senior decision makers at energy and metals and mining firms across the world needed a global digital transformation community.

The Axora Community will include metals and mining, and energy industry professionals as well as technology providers, associations and academics. It has been set up with the help of 10 founder members and senior professionals from leading companies including Teck Resources, Kinross Gold, Vale and ArcelorMittal Europe.

Peter Stegmaier, Founding Member, Axora Community and Chairman, CLQ Global, said: “The energy and mining sectors have embraced digital transformation for some time, but there is still much room for improvement to ensure they fully realise the benefits of key growth drivers like artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and automation.

“For the first time, industry innovators will have a forum for information on digital solutions, can gain insights into how other industries are tackling similar challenges and learn best practice from their peers.”

The Axora Community intends to host exclusive webinars, invite-only roundtables, and access to live Q&A sessions with industry experts around the world. It will initially focus on the metals and mining sector and will expand to cover the energy sector at the end of this year.

Axora calls itself the digital solutions marketplace for industrial innovators, offering industrial companies a service to discover, buy and sell digital innovations for improved safety, sustainability and efficiency across their operations.

Axora survey reveals mining sector moves towards digital transformation

Axora, the digital solutions marketplace for industrial innovators, has published a new report into digital trends and key growth drivers in the global metals and mining industry, with digital transformation and innovation highlighted as crucial elements to meeting the rising demand from the energy transition.

The ‘Axora 2021 Innovation Forecast: Metals and Mining’ is based on a survey of 150 senior decision makers worldwide, as well as interviews with small and large operators alike. The findings indicate that the metals and mining sector is driving forward with digital transformation but there is still more to be done ahead of the energy transition, Axora says.

“There’s been a dramatic shift in how metals and mining companies perceive digital transformation,” Ritz Steytler, CEO, Axora, says. “As the sector emerges after a period of uncertainty, firms are realising the need for a more coordinated and strategic approach to ensure they deploy the right technologies, in the right places, at the right time.”

The key highlights of the research include the opinion that digital transformation and innovation are seen as crucial to meeting the rising demand from the energy transition:

  • Ninety-nine percent of decision makers now believe technology and innovation are critical to their organisation’s survival;
  • Ninety-four percent of respondents said their deployments were advanced or intermediate;
  • Those in North America, the UK and South America saw themselves as most advanced, whereas South Africa saw itself as least advanced; and
  • The biggest barriers to executing digital transformation were cybersecurity concerns (42% of respondents) and lack of IT infrastructure to handle data from digital solutions (38%).

Achieving more with less and improving working environments were popular reasons for deploying digital solutions, according to the survey, which highlighted that:

  • There’s more focus on using technology to boost direct productivity, foster a better working environment and improve return on investment than to prevent downtime;
  • Companies are taking a longer-term view when it comes to cost savings from digital transformation. In the next two years, 24% of respondents anticipate saving 1-5% from digital technology. Within five years, just 3% of respondents anticipate that level of savings, with most predicting 11-15%; and
  • More than three-quarters of respondents prioritised the value of digital technology over its cost.

Tech-wise, companies have focused on analytics and semi-autonomous equipment, with:

  • Seventy-three percent of respondents saying these had been deployed to some extent; and
  • Semi-autonomous equipment was most likely to be 100% deployed across the organisation.

Application-wise, there’s been emphasis on remote operations and automation, according to the survey, with:

  • Seventy-three percent of organisations having deployed remote operations technology;
  • Driver fatigue monitoring was the application most likely to have been deployed across 100% of the organisation; and
  • Seventy-two percent of respondents said their company had implemented a Remote Operations Centre, with a further 15% saying they’re planning to do so in the next year.

There are clear regional trends for technologies, Axora says, with, Russia and Kazakhstand expected to focus extensively on robotics in the next year. Over this same timeframe, Australia will focus on artificial intelligence (AI), with the UK-based companies focused on cloud-based platforms. North America, like Australia, is also focused on machine learning.

In the next five years, Russia is expected to gain a major focus on robotics as well as advanced analytics and sensors, North America on IIoT and the UK-based firms on autonomous haulage technology.

The survey uncovered that AI is seen as the main growth driver, with 57% of decision makers saying their organisation had deployed AI to some extent and 59% of respondents ranking it first for growth potential in the next year (followed by robotics with 45%).

“The focus on AI is particularly marked in Australia and the UK,” Axora says. “Although Russia and Kazakhstan are least likely to see it as a growth driver in the next 12 months, they predict a major push in the next three to five years.”

In contrast to popular opinion, the top drive for digital transformation is not safety, according to the survey, with respondents citing people safety as the third highest business priority over the next five years.

In the next two years, mid-sized companies are most likely to see people safety as a key business priority. In the next five years, small companies have the greatest focus on it, according to the survey responses.

One of the last findings to come out of the survey was companies need support to succeed with digital transformation, with:

  • Eighty-two percent of respondents saying a partner had the biggest influence on their digital technology adoption, with the preference being for generic rather than industry-specific ones;
  • Mid-sized companies, those in North America and senior site managers most likely suffering from digitalisation information overload; and
  • Ninety-nine percent saying they would benefit from a digital transformation community where they could learn from peers’ experiences with different technologies and applications.

Joe Carr, Industry Innovation Director, Metals and Mining, Axora, concluded: “The metals and mining sector has made huge progress and is forging ahead with digital transformation with clear regional trends in place. However, there are still opportunities to benefit further through partnerships and by looking more closely at the safety side for opportunities to revolutionise standard ways of working and accelerate the move towards zero harm.”

Glencore showcases automated longwall advancements at Oaky Creek

Glencore has highlighted the advances it has made in longwall automation at its Oaky Creek underground coal mine in Queensland, Australia, during a visit from the Federal Minister for Resources and Water, Keith Pitt.

The minister met production crews and was given a demonstration of the mine’s automated longwall, the company says.

Using ‘ExScan’ laser technology developed by CSIRO’s Centre for Advanced Technologies, Oaky Creek has become the first coal mine in Australia to fully automate its underground longwall operation, according to the company.

ExScan technology (picture courtesy of CSIRO) has a laser scanner and associated software capable of generating real time 3D maps of tunnels, walls and cavities underground where global positioning systems cannot penetrate, CSIRO says. These maps can be used for locating, steering and navigating equipment and vehicles.

At Oaky Creek, an above-ground control centre operates the longwall using 3D scans of the mining area recorded by ExScan sensors and transmitted to the surface.

The minister also saw how Glencore’s coal business is leading the way on land rehabilitation and emission reduction, the company says.

To date, Oaky Creek has achieved 132.8 ha of certified rehabilitation and, in the last year, cut emissions by up to 840,000 t of CO2-e by using methane emissions for electricity generation.

“That is roughly equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions avoided from 182,683 passenger vehicles driven for one year,” it says.

Ian Cribb, Chief Operating Officer for Glencore’s coal business in Australia, said: “Glencore has a world-class coal business in Australia and we welcomed the opportunity to show Minister Pitt some of the leading practices we have implemented, particularly around safety and gas management.”

Liebherr open protocol autonomy solutions, Hexagon Mining pact come to light at MINExpo 2021

Liebherr has presented the world premiere of its new Mining Technology Product portfolio at MINExpo 2021, in Las Vegas, which, it says, defines the company’s interoperable and scalable approach to its equipment, technology and service product offerings.

The Liebherr Mining Technology Product portfolio includes Machine Automation, Digital Services and Assistance Systems & On-board Analytics product lines, providing customers with, it says, flexible scope of supply solutions to increase safety and asset operational effectiveness.

Together, these products will support operator’s performance, optimise diagnostic processes and automate machine functions, while integrating machine data and OEM expertise within the customers chosen technology landscapes, according to the company.

For automation of Liebherr trucks, excavators, and dozers, the company is developing the next generation of autonomous solutions with the utmost safety and operational efficiency, supported by an open and interoperable mine autonomy platform, it says.

“Interoperable mine autonomation provides customers with the freedom to choose their preferred combinations of equipment, on-board autonomous solutions, and central control platforms,” it says.

Autonomous haulage solution

Liebherr’s autonomous haulage solution delivers the next generation of on-board intelligence, with reduced dependency on site infrastructure and centralised supervisory systems. Together with vehicle-to-vehicle technologies, Liebherr’s smart autonomous solutions provide on-board obstacle avoidance and load area path planning capabilities for optimisation of traffic flow. Liebherr’s solutions offer a high level of safety integrity with the introduction of an eight-layer safety concept, in combination with the latest on-board perception technologies for long range, high resolution and 360° coverage, which is unique to the Liebherr offering, it claims.

Oliver Weiss, Executive Vice President R&D, Engineering and Manufacturing, Liebherr-Mining Equipment SAS, provides an overview of the new Autonomous Haulage Solution at MINExpo 2021

Liebherr offers flexible scope of supply solutions giving customers the freedom of choice in selection of best-in-class base machines, automation, traffic management and fleet management systems. These scalable solutions, Liebherr says, meet all use cases, ranging from stand-alone to fully integrated large-scale life of mine deployments:

  • Autonomy ready kit: machine designed and configured with drive-by-wire capability;
  • Autonomy kit: autonomous machine equipped with on-board perception and robotics, capable of integration via an open protocol to traffic management solutions;
  • Complete solution: complete autonomous haulage solution integrated with traffic and fleet management systems

Open protocol

Liebherr’s interoperable autonomy products for mixed fleet applications, have the capability to interface with multiple traffic and fleet management systems.

Liebherr has developed and, it says, proven the world’s first open software interface between its Autonomy Kit and independent suppliers of Traffic Management Systems (TMS). The protocol will not only enable customers to choose their preferred Traffic Management solution, but will also enable autonomous machines, including autonomous light vehicles, to coexist within a common autonomous ecosystem, according to the company.

The interface control document (ICD) developed by Liebherr enables the next generation of interoperable mine automation. Having proven the software interface with multiple TMS providers, Liebherr will now make its protocol available for wider industry adoption. The protocol will also be provided to the International Standards Organisation as Liebherr continues to pursue its vision of open interoperable mine automation for the benefit of the industry’s operators and suppliers.

Having just announced a global framework agreement, Liebherr and Hexagon Mining have integrated their complementary technology products using the open software interface, Liebherr says. As a result of this agreement, Hexagon technology, including its autonomous mission management system, will be used in the mine automation options offered by Liebherr to customers.

Hexagon said of this agreement: “The autonomous mission management system will orchestrate autonomous fleet and unmanned mine traffic movements throughout the mine for optimised autonomous haulage. It is fully integrated with our fleet management and enterprise analytics and reporting portfolio products.”

Andrew Crose, VP-Autonomous, Hexagon’s Mining division, added: “We are thrilled to partner with Liebherr, which shares our vision of an autonomous future and is equally committed to the safety of miners.

“We’re very proud of the autonomous mission management system. From one platform integrating multiple life-of-mine solutions, it embodies our mission to empower an autonomous future.”

“From the beginning, our approach has focused on developing machine automation solutions that are truly interoperable,” Scott Bellamy, Head of Product Management – Mining Trucks, Liebherr Mining, says. “As a result, our system architectures enable seamless integration at multiple layers to unlock value for customers that has not been possible until now.

“We’re looking forward to making some more exciting announcements in that regard as we continue to work with our business partners to deliver the next generation of machine automation.”

Excavator automation

Liebherr Mining excavators are designed with the technological foundations to enable the integration of the future automation systems. Liebherr Automation Readiness provides drive-by-wire capability with the required interfaces, technical support and access to excavator built-in functions, it says.

Liebherr offers on its new excavator generations on-board control and actuation systems to provide semi-automatic machine functions supporting the operator with productivity, consistency and safety performance.

The Bucket Filling Assistant (BFA) is the first automation product to support the Liebherr hydraulic excavator portfolio, paving the way towards machine automation. A combination of two innovative engineering developments, the Liebherr Bucket Filling Assistant allows faster and easier bucket filling with consistent bucket fill factors especially in blocky or hard digging conditions, according to the company. As a result, the overall effectiveness of bucket filling is maintained without being influenced by operator fatigue.

Semi-Automatic Bucket Filling allows the operator to realise the bucket filling cycle automatically with a single joystick movement.

Teleoperations for Liebherr dozers

Liebherr is developing new operational capabilities through teleoperation. This new technology will enhance operations and ease logistical challenges, moving the operators away from the field. Teleoperation associated with Liebherr automation systems will progressively change the way of operating excavators and dozer toward autonomous operations.

Introduced for the first time at MINExpo, Liebherr Remote Control (LiReCon) teleoperation system offers increased safety, comfort and productivity for the operation of Liebherr mining dozers in challenging and dangerous work conditions, the company says.

Suitable for all dozer applications, LiReCon is the result of continuous development from Liebherr and its expertise with dozers and teleoperation systems. This next generation teleoperation system consists of the Liebherr Remote Control teleoperation stand (an operator workspace with all required controls) and on-board dozer installations: cameras for all different angles and views, microphones for recording machine sounds, radio link receiver and transmitter.

The high-resolution main screen provides complete view of the worksite and around the dozer. The optional active person recognition system identifies people and obstacles in the work area further enhancing safety.

As standard, LiReCon uses a secure self-contained radio mesh network that can be extended by additional gateways, enabling high signal quality even in difficult terrain or long range. The LiReCon package can be tailored to each customer and mine site depending on their specific requirements and can also integrate into an existing network.

LiReCon allows fast shift changes between operators and reduces idle and downtime. As the operator is no longer tied to the machine, LiReCon also enables customers to access new extraction areas, safely extending the range of applications for Liebherr mining dozers.

Sandvik, Exyn combine capabilities in new autonomous mine inspection concept

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions and Exyn Technologies have furthered their strategic partnership looking at new horizons of mine autonomy with the introduction of the Sandvik Exyn inspection concept.

An autonomous mapping solution that can co-operate with autonomous machines without stopping production, according to Jussi Puura, Research and Technology Development, Digitalization Lead at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, the pair launched the concept at MINExpo 2021, in Las Vegas, today.

Back in March, the companies expanded the strategic partnership they initially signed in 2020, looking to integrate drone-based data processed using Exyn’s on-board 3D mapping technology with Sandvik’s OptiMine® Mine Visualizer solution for analysis and optimisation of underground mining production and processes.

The integration, the pair said, allows mining customers to benefit from comprehensive underground aerial 3D mapping with visualisation that increases overall transparency of mining operations – including for GPS-denied, hard-to-reach, or hazardous areas, or locations that would be time-consuming to survey and inspect using conventional methods.

Exyn and Sandvik deployed this integrated solution at gold exploration and development company Rupert Resources’ Pahtavaara project in Finland, using the ExynAero drone to autonomously create a 3D point cloud of an underground stope. This 3D data was then uploaded to Sandvik’s OptiMine Mine Visualizer and georeferenced to the CAD mine model for further analysis and visualisation.

The companies said back then that it planned to further develop the partnership to integrate more hardware and software systems, and they have now done just that, premiering the new concept at this week’s MINExpo.

The concept works by an operator indicating the area they want surveyed on the OptiMine 3D visual screens, and then ordering that survey. The ground-based machine then starts the assigned mission at a time that is convenient and does not cause any production interruptions.

After deployment and when the wheeled inspection vehicle cannot drive any further, the on-board autonomous UAV is deployed to complete the survey of the area of interest.

When the survey mission is complete, the UAV lands on the ground-based robot and both return to the charging station to await the next mission. The data from both vehicles is then automatically uploaded to the Sandvik Data Management Server, part of the OptiMine suite.

The server processes all data automatically and georeferences it to existing data in the server, using the survey team’s data as ‘anchors’ and ‘ground rules’ for the new data. The data is automatically merged into an updated model of the mine.

In addition to merging and ‘cleaning’ the data, the system can be set up to run automated analysis on the data. For example, automatic reports on change detection, shrinkage detection, road condition, etc can be run after every survey.

The solution results in better planning, increased safety and less production stops, according to the companies.

Nordic Iron Ore enlists the help of ABB to ‘future proof’ Blötberget project

Nordic Iron Ore says it has appointed ABB to scope process control and management systems for a “future-proof and fully-digitalised mining operation” at the Blötberget iron ore mine project, in Sweden.

ABB, in this context, has provided mine design consultancy and recommended scope of supply for the opening of the old Blötberget mine near Ludvika in the Dalarna region of Sweden.

The Blötberget iron ore mine is expected to be operational in 2024. Iron ore was mined until 1979 when it was closed due to low iron ore prices. Nordic Iron Ore was formed in 2008 with the main aims of resuming mining operations in Blötberget and Håksberg and conducting exploration of the expansion potential of the Väsman field, together forming the Ludvika Mines, in southern Dalarna.

ABB’s recommendation addresses automation, digital and electrification for long-term, safe, sustainable and efficient mining operations at the site. ABB analysed a detailed feasibility study by Nordic Iron Ore and made significant advancement on the definitions and scope of supply of the automation and electrification aspects of the mine, it said. ABB also looked at electrical infrastructure requirements for the Blötberget mine, including surface and underground containers, switchgears and transformers.

Lennart Eliasson, Managing Director of Nordic Iron Ore, said in the latest press release: “Mining and the support industries are a significant part of the Swedish economy, with some of the most advanced and efficient mining operations anywhere in the world. There are many challenges when opening a new mine. We want to draw on the strong technology knowledge that exists in Sweden to open a mine with low environmental impact and footprint and that is also competitive and safe. The early involvement from ABB, which has a track record of working with innovative mines in Sweden, ensures that the construction, design and planning for the development of the mine can take a significant step forward and with improved costs and benefits forecast accuracy.”

Just last month, Nordic Iron Ore’s Technical and Marketing Advisor, Paul Marsden, told IM that there was potential for leveraging the technology learnings on projects such as LKAB’s Kiruna and Konsuln mines, Boliden’s underground operations and Lundin Mining’s Zinkgruvan operation to make Blötberget “future ready”.

He added: “We cannot automate and electrify it all from the off, but we can lay the groundwork to eventually automate and electrify just about everything in the mine.”

Björn Jonsson, Hub Manager, Process Industries, ABB, said: “ABB can provide assistance at an early stage in mine development for electrification and automation and routinely collaborates with mining companies from initial feasibility studies through to full deployment. Swedish mines are already benefiting from ABB solutions, using ABB Ability™ System 800xA distributed control system and the integrated ABB Ability™ Ventilation Optimizer.”

Nordic Iron Ore and ABB will continue the development of the project and have recently signed a memorandum of understanding for further collaboration at Blötberget.

VTT, Nokia, Sandvik on board with 5G-powered underground mining research project

VTT, Nokia and Sandvik, recognising the potential of faster network coverage for unlocking efficiencies in mining for improved productivity, safety, environmental sustainability and global competitiveness, are to collaborate in a 5G-powered research project on next generation underground mining technology.

These benefits will be realised through the introduction of next generation mining technology, including autonomous, connected machinery, digital automation and advanced analytics for real-time situational awareness and control, to enable safety, productivity and sustainability improvements in mining operations.

Next Generation Mining (NGMining ), is, the partners say, a new project, funded by Business Finland, bringing together industrial 5G private networks, edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI) technology-based solutions to enable digital transformation in mining.

The goal of the NGMining project is to build proof of concept experimental systems to evaluate integrated connectivity solutions to be tested in harsh underground mining environments. The objectives pertaining to the 5G network infrastructure cover spectrum usage in the underground mining environment, 5G modems integrated in relevant machinery and user equipment, and edge computing. Identified challenges include: understanding signal behaviour in underground environments, harsh environments for ­“HW”, and network design requirements to ensure underground connectivity with respect to bandwidth, frequency range, latency, reliability and scalability.

By engaging with key industry players in the mining segment, the intention is to drive joint experiments for mining digitalisation. The target is to develop a mine-compliant connectivity infrastructure, with integrated solutions that incorporate safety and tracking technologies and AI enablers, for safe and efficient operation of autonomous connected working machines in underground mines.

Project phases include use case definition for autonomous machinery in mining, solution evaluation via testing platforms with 4G/5G wireless capabilities, selection of most value-added results for development and commercialisation, and pilot implementations in operational customer mines.

Finland’s unique industry ecosystem enables creation and piloting of technologies, solutions and business models, and the partnership will continue to grow as it takes on new challenges and additional partners, both domestic and international, according to VTT.

VTT is coordinating the joint R&D project with Nokia and Sandvik as the leading industry experts.

Sauli Eloranta, Vice President, Safe and Connected Society, VTT, said that the organisation would support all project partners by coordinating the project.

In its research, VTT is applying and further strengthening the competences related to telecommunication technology, situational awareness, sensor technologies, edge computing and AI on new application areas in a mining context, Eloranta added.

Jarkko Pellikka, Director, Nokia Unlocking Industrial 5G program, said: “Collaboration across the ecosystem is essential for developing winning technology solutions that will meet productivity and sustainability targets and capture global market share in the growing mining business.”

Miika Kaski, Commercialisation and Networks Lead at Sandvik, said the OEM was conducting research on 5G connectivity use cases in the mining environment and the NGMining consortium would help facilitate this with its network partners.

The NGMining project is also collaborating with the Sustainable Industries X initiative, as the results on autonomous connected working machines can also be exploited in other industries.

The two- year NGMining project kicked off in May 2021, and also includes input from the University of Oulu as a research partner, as well as company partners Epec, SATEL, Huld, Terrasolid, Outsight, Etteplan, Noptel, Unikie, Iiwari, Millisecond and Wizense ja Indagon. The project advisory board includes representatives from Outokumpu and Agnico Eagle, Telia 5G Business, Kalmar and Ponsse.

HARD-LINE readies Auto RockBreaker, TeleOp Assist and Brow Alert for MINExpo crowd

HARD-LINE plans to unveil a diverse line-up of new mining products geared towards automation and safety at MINExpo 2021 next month.

The company’s Auto RockBreaker, TeleOp Assist and Brow Alert will be just some of the company’s booth highlights from September 13-15, in Las Vegas.

HARD-LINE’s Auto Rockbreaker is going to “disrupt” the mining industry, according to the company.

“For the first time ever, operators will have the ability to automate many rockbreaking tasks” HARD-LINE said. “With Auto Rockbreaker, mining companies will be able to reduce maintenance and operator training costs, decrease wear and tear while extending the life of all rockbreakers.”

The system has many functions, including auto deploy and auto park, as well as other features making the operator experience that much more intuitive with its 3D User Interface, it said.

TeleOp Assist is the latest addition to the company’s TeleOp suite, which equips the base TeleOp system with intelligent steering assistance and collision detection to keep machines off walls while driving.

Using real-time 3D LiDAR scans, Assist will automatically steer to handle the articulation adjustments required to keep the machine as centred as possible within the drift, the company said.

“With Assist’s adaptive technology, a pre-scan of the drift is not required – providing significant cost savings,” HARD-LINE said. “The system does not require any training when moving from one level to another.”

Brow Alert, meanwhile, is an added level of protection for underground mining operations.

It serves as an add-on system designed to deter an operator from manually driving a vehicle past the brow line of a stope by using sensors and modules.

The system is easy to install, reduces risk of workplace injuries and fatalities, encourages accountability and keeps operators a safe distance from the brow, the company says.

Auto RockBreaker, TeleOp Assist and Brow Alert will be joined by the likes of RRC (Radio Remote Control), TeleOp system, vehicle conversion kits (drive-by-wire), and HARD-LINE’s low-profile loader series (LP401 and LP301) on the company’s MINExpo booth.

PERFORATOR develops industry-first automated friction welding machine for drill pipes

PERFORATOR has started producing drill pipe with the industry’s first automated friction welding machine, it says.

In July, the Walkenrieder, Germany-based company kicked off production with its brand-new robotic tube handling system, which comes with a friction welding machine for drill pipes.

“This friction welding was developed according to our specific requirements and is unique in the drill pipes industry,” Johann-Christian von Behr, CEO at PERFORATOR GmbH, says. “We needed it to work for a maximum range of products, from very small to extra-large diameters. We are now able to friction weld all kinds of drill pipes within this range: 40-220 mm diameter; 4-25 mm wall thickness; and 0.5-13 m length.

“At the same time, it provides additional functionalities that enable us to perform our friction-welding processes much more efficiently and with more flexibility.”

The new system was assembled and installed on site during the past 10 months, in close cooperation with several providers. Special features include the automated loading and unloading system – made up of individual separating and conveyer systems – and two robots that allow more flexible use of the friction welding machine.

Set-up and training times have been reduced and the loading system obtains its data automatically from the controls of the welding machine, according to PERFORATOR. In addition, the cycle time can be lowered.

von Behr explained: “We were looking for a welding machine with automated loading system that could accommodate our various demands. As we couldn’t find a suitable complete solution on the market, we contacted various suppliers and, together with them, we were able to engineer an individually designed machine.”

With this “unique” installation, PERFORATOR says it has been able to improve the quality of its products and improve its process reliability through friction-welding, a process, it claims, is more efficient than traditional arc welding technology.

With this investment, PERFORATOR says it has enhanced its competitive position, particularly in the drill pipes industry.

PERFORATOR, a Schmidt Kranz Group company, is specialised in the design and manufacturing of a wide range of horizontal and vertical drilling technologies. Its core competencies are in the field of drill pipes, drilling tools and injection and grouting pumps.