RCT says it has released the first digital Wi-Fi communications network designed specifically for machine automation and control in underground mining operations.
RCT Connect is designed to be user friendly and portable and can be installed into a production area and commissioned with minimal time and expertise, according to the automation leader.
The company has already made significant headway with RCT Connect, with the network having been tested at a mine site in Western Australia and recently deployed in an underground mining operation outside of Australia.
RCT Connect has been built to withstand the harsh conditions, common in underground mining environments, and can operate in temperatures ranging from -20°C (-4°F) to 60°C (140°F), RCT said.
It uses a coaxial cable able to transfer power and information to access points for up to 1.5 km before additional power insertion is required along the length of a drive, according to RCT.
“This feature offers several major benefits over traditional Wi-Fi deployments such as reduced requirement for configuration, eliminating costly cables to run between access points and a simple installation with only two connections,” the company said.
Once operational, RCT Connect provides a simple connection to a ControlMaster® Area Access Control at strategic locations which then links into the mine-wide communications backbone to transfer information to a machine operator located in a ControlMaster Automation Centre on the mine’s surface, the company said.
The platform operates at 2.4 GHz and is capable of carrying out remote diagnostics, live machine tracking and delivering live health and production data from the machine, according to RCT.
RCT Product Manager Automation & Control, Brendon Cullen, said RCT Connect offers several distinct advantages over commercially available digital communication networks.
“RCT Connect is specifically designed to ensure uninterrupted communication between the machine and the operator regardless of location,” he said.
“The platform has very stable performance with low, consistent latency and so ensures reliable communications between command inputs from the surface station and subsequent machine activities.”
He added: “We have also optimised the platform to enable smart roaming and, therefore, seamless handover between wireless access points so that there is no dropout along the length of the drives.”
In other commercially available communications networks, node handover is configured differently so if the machine is looking for a node or hangs on too long then communication failures arise, Cullen explained.
RCT Connect can be sold as a standalone package or in conjunction with RCT’s ControlMaster automation products.