Tag Archives: IIoT

Autonomous conveyor belt condition monitoring in times of a crisis

As the digitalisation of processes in mines progresses, machines linked into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) gain in importance, according to Bernd Küsel of CBG Conveyor Belt Gateway.

An important part of predictive maintenance and accident prevention is the continuous examination and diagnosis of steel cord conveyor belts, which are mainly used in the long-distance conveying of ores, coal and other raw materials. These conveyor belts are essential to many mining and loading facilities.

Many operators still rely on inspection personnel from service companies equipped with portable devices to inspect conveyors, but their appointment can be problematic. And, with today’s travel restrictions, this is close to impossible.

The problem comes as such inspections provide an insufficient picture of the condition of a conveyor belt that is reliant on interpretation by trained persons, with portable devices that only cover parts of a conveyor belt, according to Küsel. Moreover, inspections only offer a snapshot in time without the possibility to intervene in the case of threatening belt defects that could lead to a total failure of the conveyor system.

In times of crisis, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more important to use a self-sufficient, automatic diagnostic system, according to Küsel.

“The virtually maintenance-free CBGuard scanner provides complete knowledge of the condition of the conveyor belt in real time,” he says. “It is operated from the user’s control centre or via the Internet.”

Damage can be repaired at the best possible time for the customer, reducing unnecessary downtime and the associated costs and loss of production that come with this.

The CBGuard scanner can be an indispensable part of a predictive maintenance program, Küsel says.

“With it, conveyor belts can be integrated into the IIoT, ie into seamless communication with other electronically monitored systems. CBGuard provides a complete, detailed knowledge of the condition of the conveyor belt – non-stop and online,” Küsel said. “Virtually every cubic millimetre of the conveyor belt is checked during operation. The CBGuard scanner compares the detected values with the target values in real time. Every critical change triggers a reaction. The operating personnel are immediately informed of serious errors via SMS. In addition, the exact thickness of the entire conveyor belt can be measured and outputted as a contour map.”

The CBGuard Life Extender, meanwhile, detects internal damage such as steel cord breakage, corrosion, misplacements and other defects of the tension member. The exact condition of each steel cord can be viewed on a monitor in real time. The same applies to certain belt breakers and conductor loops.

Damage such as holes, foreign bodies, protruding ropes, edge breakage, bubbles, rubber cover abrasion and even insufficient belt cleaning are detected. Each defect automatically generates a predetermined, individual reaction. Information about the findings is additionally available at any time as a photo, video or inspection report, which tells personnel exactly what kind of damage it is, how severe it is and the location of said damage.

The CBGuard scanner also prevents fatal consequences caused by splice defects, Küsel said. As the weakest links in a conveyor belt, splices pose a greater risk to the operation – with potentially devastating consequences.

The CBGuard Life Extender scans all splices. Every single splice is individually assigned in the database and compared with its target state. Any critical deviation generates an alarm or a stop of the system in case of threatening defects.

“No other method available on the market can provide such exact and comprehensive results,” Küsel said.

The way CBGuard works is similar to that of X-ray machines in the healthcare sector or in airports.
The device consists of an X-ray generator with a tube, a receiver module and a control unit. The generator produces artificial X-rays from electricity, with the ionising rays penetrating the moving conveyor belt and then hitting the receiver module – an amorphous silicon imaging field.

It is a process like that of photo diodes in a digital camera. Countless, seamless images are continuously generated and defined by CBGuard’s smart software – based on advanced face and palmprint recognition algorithms – checking the condition of the belt, while accounting for the individual structure, size, colour and position of deviations and reporting them as a specific event (eg damage).

“Using a CBGuard is safe,” Küsel said. “The device complies with all international regulations on radiation emission. It does not contain radioactive material!”

The compact design and low weight of the CBGuard makes for a quick and easy installation on almost any belt conveyor. The scanner is also almost wear-free, according to Küsel, as it has no moving parts or contact with the conveyor belt.

All functions of the CBGuard Life Extender can be remotely controlled via TCP/IP, with maintenance or programming work possible from anywhere in the world. The analysis software runs under Windows 7 and 10, and the program is intuitive and easy to use, he said.

CBGuard has proven its performance in over 300 applications, according to Küsel, noting that large copper mines in Peru and Chile rely on CBGuard. There are many other applications in Australia and Asia in the limestone and coal sectors, he added.

The CBGuard scanner ensures fully automatic, complete monitoring of steel cord conveyor belts making inspections by personnel or devices that only cover a part of the conveyor belt spectrum unnecessary, Küsel says.

The gain in safety, the independence from personnel availability and the reduction of capital expenditure and operating expenditure are convincing arguments for the use of a CBGuard, he explained.

On the operation expenditure side, for example, there is no longer a need to employ internal maintenance personnel or outsource external services to inspect the belt. Such inspections, typically carried out weekly, are conducted in belt ‘creep mode’ and involve a full shut down, according to Küsel.

“With the CBGuard, you do not have any production downtime because it is carrying out the inspections all the time at the normally operating conveyor, at its normal speed,” he said.

Belt repairs also only occur when necessary, with details of failures coming from the CBGuard. “You will see serious damage immediately, so you can repair them before they get worse and cost much more money to fix,” he said.

This also provides capital expenditure benefits, with the CBGuard telling operators when and which part of the belt is worn out. In many cases, only part lengths will have to be changed, not the entire belt length.

This comes with inventory benefits too, with companies no longer having to carry extensive stock belting as the CBGuard is able to predict in good time when the belt will need to be replaced.

Maestro Digital Mine makes connections in Latin America

Maestro Digital Mine’s Latin America expansion is gaining traction, with the Sudbury-based company recently landing sales from major gold mines in Argentina.

Its flagship Industrial Internet of Things measurement and control instrumentation solutions, such as the Vigilante AQS™ and Zephyr AQS™ air quality monitoring stations, and the Plexus PowerNet™ last mile communication platform, are designed to provide the visibility and communication miners require to keep up productivity and improve safety while operating at increasing depths

Having successful launched these products in over 130 mines, in more than 20 countries around the world, Maestro started its strategic outreach and market research in Latin America last year.

Maestro’s says its distribution channels are vital to its success in this area and, as part of the Maestro sales team, provide valuable feedback, access and service to potential clients in Latin America.

This strategy saw it partner with associations that assist with market research and business-to-business meetings, such as the Mine Connect (formerly SAMSSA), and the Northern Ontario Export Program led by the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation (GSDC) and Mining Suppliers Trade Association (MSTA), as well as secure four new distributors/agents in the key mining hubs of Argentina, Chile, Peru and Mexico to support this growth.

This investment is already starting to pay off, with the company recently landing significant contracts across the region.

In Argentina, Yamana Gold’s Cerro Moro mine, in the Santa Cruz province, is installing the Plexus PowerNet solution. This delivers a high speed, low latency digital communication network that provides “PoE+ power” to Wireless Access Points, cameras and any other IP-based device, Maestro said. The system eliminates the need for costly outside fibre optic contractors and can be installed and maintained by any internal tradesperson, according to Maestro.

Cerro Moro, an open-pit and underground gold-silver operation, poured its first gold and silver doré back in May 2018 and, up until recent COVID-19-related restrictions hit mining operations, was expected to produce 117,000 oz of gold and 7.5 Moz of silver in 2020, according to the miner.

In that same province, Maestro has also installed the last mile communication solution at Newmont’s Cerro Negro mine. This operation includes five underground mines (Eureka, Mariana Central, Mariana Norte, San Marcos, Bajo Negro), one open-pit mine (Vein Zone) and one cyanide leach processing facility that yields gold recoveries of 96%, according to Newmont.

In Mexico, Maestro has installed Vigilante AQS – air quality monitoring stations in Peñoles mines. Peñoles, a subsidiary company owned by Grupo BAL, is the second largest Mexican mining company, the top Mexican producer of gold, zinc and lead and a world leader in silver production.

Coeur Mining has, meanwhile, installed and integrated the Vigilante AQS and MaestroLink software into its Mexican mines. This includes the Palmarejo silver-gold complex. The miner continues to expand Maestro’s digital solutions on each new level of its Mexico mines, Maestro said.

Maestro concluded: “With the support of our distribution partners, we are proud to be enabling worker safety and productivity in the mines of Latin America. It is through a collaborative model that Canadian suppliers can impact positive change in the global mining industry.”

Orway and Process IQ form JV focused on remote mineral processing consulting

Orway Mineral Consultants (OMC) and Process IQ say they have formed an incorporated joint venture, Orway IQ Pty Ltd, to deliver a remote optimisation consulting service for the mineral processing industry.

MillROC (Milling Remote Optimisation Consulting) will initially focus on comminution circuits, the partners said.

Headquartered in Western Australia, Orway IQ is led by Pieter Strobos (Chairman of the Board), Fred Kock (CEO), Brian Putland and Daniel Van Der Spuy (Executive Directors).

Process IQ, meanwhile, was among eight companies nationally to share in A$15.6 million ($10.6 million) of funding to support collaboration and innovation, and address mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector priorities, as announced earlier this year.

Its project, which included Orway as one of three partners, was aimed at enabling grinding experts to interact directly and in real time with grinding circuits on remote mine sites to ensure they are operating at their most productive levels. “The project will develop automated artificial intelligence software to emulate the experts as there is very limited supply of this specialist expertise, leading to increased processing efficiency globally,” METS Ignited said.

The joint venture draws on Orway’s expertise in comminution design, modelling and optimisation and Process IQ’s expertise in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), cloud-based computing, process control, automation and instrumentation, the companies said. Together the companies claim to have served the mining industry for more than 50 years.

Orway IQ’s MillROC uses real-time data in online process models and communicates the findings to the client, according to the companies. The product is a cloud-based reporting of all plant data related to circuit performance and optimisation, available anytime, anywhere – via the internet. Orway IQ expert consultants review circuits from around the world daily from its operations centre in Perth.

Orway’s Strobos said: “The joint venture company is aligned with the METS Ignited initiative to assist with the growth and innovation of the business. Process IQ, OMC and now Orway IQ are at the forefront of the digital transformation in the mining industry, having been recognised for their ground-breaking work in this space.”

Strobos continued: “We are receiving tremendous support from both Federal and State government and our consulting service, MillROC, has been recognised as having huge implications as a new product category for the mining industry.”

Orway IQ has also been chosen to participate in the RISE Accelerator program supported by the Western Australia Government Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, The Queensland Government, NERA and METS Ignited – which is run by KPMG. The program has been developed to spearhead innovation into industry and equip METS companies with the skills, capabilities and support to develop their innovation and grow their businesses.

Maestro Digital Mines’ Zephyr AQS leaves its mark at CIM convention

Maestro Digital Mine has used the backdrop of the CIM Convention and Exhibition, in Montreal, Quebec, to launch its latest digital industrial internet of things (IIoT) solution, the Zephyr AQS™.

Maestro’s Zephyr AQS is a compact, low cost environmental air quality monitoring station for underground mines. It is an IIoT device that connects directly to an industrial network without the requirement of adding an expensive and complex programmable logic controller (PLCs) and several analogue-based instruments, the company said.

“Since it is a digital device, not only are the real time environmental conditions reported back to surface via a single ethernet connection, but all the advanced diagnostic data is available too, assuring maximum uptime,” Maestro said.

Michael Gribbons, Vice President Sales and Marketing, Maestro Digital Mine, said at the launch event: “The Zephyr AQS was developed to satisfy 75% of all the air monitoring requirements of a modern mine. Airflow rate, airflow direction, gas levels, barometric pressure and wet/dry bulb temperatures can be measured in real time and, now, affordably.

“The Zephyr AQS is designed for any mine aiming to increase production, improve miner worker safety and reduce energy by monitoring and controlling ventilation air in an underground operation. The first step of working to control ventilation is the requirement of measurement. Only then can you start to understand and drive value to increasing production by getting the miners back to the face quicker and safer. Or, reducing the energy demand by providing enough ventilation air to the areas of the mine that need it and reducing air to the non-working areas of the mine.”

Like all Maestro solutions, the Zephyr AQS is a fully digital solution that can be plugged into a network switch without the requirement of PLCs, PLC cabinets and all the associated wiring, terminations, software and complex labour for integration into the network, the company said.

“Based on direct customer feedback, Maestro’s digital products save mining companies, on average, 40-60% of capital expenditure compared to conventional monitoring solutions,” Maestro said.

“All Maestro solutions are provided with lifetime, free firmware updates. The full savings to mining clients is in the range of 70-80% over the full life cycle with no hidden hooks or costs to bear in the OPEX maintenance cycle.”

The new Zephyr AQS air quality station features three fully configurable sensor inputs that can be freely mixed and matched according to the customer’s requirements. Like the Vigilante AQS™, the Zephyr AQS will be configured through built-in webpages similar to that of a home network router, according to the company.

All the sensors connected to the Zephyr AQS electronics are digitally supported by the way the Zephyr AQS communicates over the mine’s network using standard network protocols. Maestro fully supports both of the two most popular network communication protocols – Modbus TCP/IP and EtherNet/IP™. Alternately, the Zephyr AQS offers on-board analogue outputs (3 x 4-20 mA) and two relay outputs to tie into legacy systems.

David Ballantyne, Vice President of Development and Technology, Maestro Digital Mine, said: “The Zephyr AQS is considered the baby sister of the Vigilante AQS. Both provide plug and play sensors and both are fully digital. However, the Vigilante AQS supports seven plug and play ports versus three for the Zephyr AQS. The Vigilante AQS also provides four complete Proportional – Integral – Derivative control loops to allow it to run autonomously in the event of network failure. It can also integrate up to 24 RTD sensors used in primary fan and booster fan applications.”

The Vigilante AQS was created to solve 100% of the applications for mine ventilation monitoring and controlling, Maestro said, however solving all the applications with a single device adds extra costs for most of the simpler requirements.

Maestro has supplied over 120 mines globally with this equipment. “We recognised that a lighter version would be adequate for many of the mines price sensitive markets such as Latin America and Africa,” it said.

Maestro has 100 units sold, pre-delivery, from three existing hard-rock mining customers in Canada, the US and Spain.

GE Digital to unlock and leverage machine data with new IIoT division

GE has announced plans to establish a new, independent company focused on building a comprehensive Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) software portfolio.

The company, GE Digital, has a head start with $1.2 billion in annual software revenue already locked in, plus an existing global industrial customer base.

GE Digital is intended to be a GE wholly-owned, independently run business with a new brand and identity, its own equity structure, and its own Board of Directors, the company said. It plans to unlock machine data to turn valuable insights into powerful business outcomes, according to the company.

“The proposed new organisation aims to bring together GE Digital’s industry-leading IIoT solutions including the Predix platform, Asset Performance Management, Historian, Automation (HMI/SCADA), Manufacturing Execution Systems, Operations Performance Management, and the GE Power Digital and Grid Software Solutions businesses,” GE said.

In addition to this spinoff, GE announced an agreement to sell a majority stake in ServiceMax, a provider of field service management software, to Silver Lake, a private equity firm focused on technology investments.

“With these actions, GE will sharpen the focus of its IIoT portfolio to position the new business for future growth,” GE said, adding the transaction was expected to close in the March quarter, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals.

GE Chairman and CEO Lawrence Culp Jr, said: “As an early leader in IIoT, GE has built a strong business with its industrial customers thanks to deep domain knowledge and software expertise.”

The IIoT is a nascent market but is expected to have significant growth, GE said.

“GE’s independent software business moves into the market with a strong position, building on the company’s experience and success developing solutions to drive the outcomes that matter most for asset-intensive industries,” it added.

GE’s new IIoT business would provide software for these asset intensive industries with a focus on the power, renewables, aviation, oil and gas, food and beverage, chemicals, consumer packaged goods and mining industries.

“These industries build on GE’s foundation and expertise as a leading MES provider for nearly 20 years. With an already thriving business in these areas, the new digital organisation is positioned to accelerate GE’s ability to deliver IIoT solutions that meet the needs of these industrial customers, addressing the most impactful aspects of the asset lifecycle,” the company said.

With GE Digital CEO, Bill Ruh, deciding to depart GE to pursue other opportunities, the company plans to conduct an internal and external search to identify the CEO for this new independent company.

GE Digital’s Predix portfolio – including the leading Asset Performance Management and Field Service Management applications, as well as Predix Private Cloud – helps customers manage the entire asset lifecycle.

Underpinned by Predix, the application development platform for the Industrial Internet, GE Digital enables industrial businesses to operate faster, smarter and more efficiently, wherever their operations require, the company said.

Weir Minerals offers productivity, safety and throughput improvements with Synertrex

Weir Minerals has announced the launch of its Synertrex® platform, an advanced Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology, which, it says, is set to transform the mining industry.

Delivering an advanced level of understanding, it allows operators to monitor every aspect of their equipment’s operation, prevent problems and increase throughput, according to Weir.

It uses network connectivity to capture equipment data and relay it to service centres, service technicians, their customers and Weir’s design centres for trend monitoring, proactive components supply and product improvement.

Ricardo Garib, Minerals Division President, said: “We believe our Synertrex platform will have a significant impact on the mining industry, transforming customer operations through improved productivity and safety.”

The company worked with technology market leaders Microsoft and Dell to develop “sophisticated predictive software and hardware” robust enough to operate in extreme conditions across the globe, he added.

IIoT is a network of equipment that connects to the internet and shares data that can be converted into unique insights. Demand for IIoT-enabled products is growing rapidly, particularly in the mining industry where it is being used in a number of areas including analytics, machine learning, and robotics.

“Synertrex is a cutting edge IIoT platform which harnesses the latest digital technology to transform productivity, foresee risk and enhance performance,” Weir said.

Using cloud computing, it involves placing smart sensors on an array of Weir Minerals’ products to gather critical operating data for advanced analysis. The data is transformed into powerful insights relayed to the customer through a digital interface.

“It can identify problems before they occur, reducing downtime, and optimise equipment performance across an entire circuit,” Weir said.

“Remote management allows for simplified maintenance. Wear and tear can be easily monitored, and trouble spots detected before they escalate into major issues. Whether it’s a drive system, structural or lubrication issues, Synertrex provides the tools to keep mining equipment at its most profitable.”

Through the platform, customers have detailed real-time insight into how equipment is performing, and machines will be able to learn over time, according to Weir.

Information is displayed on an easy to understand dashboard, which can be accessed via any device or integrated into existing operational systems. It will convey real-time, fact-based insights into machine performance and health, remaining useful life and other crucial indicators.

Fred Bradner, Vice President of Global Strategy, Sales and Marketing, said: “This platform will redefine field service standards and lead to greater performance, reliability and ultimately return on investment.”

At this stage, the platform can be paired with Warman® pumps, Cavex® hydrocyclones, GEHO® PD pumps, Enduron® HPGR, Enduron® screens and Enduron® crushers; however Weir has plans to expand the range of compatible products.

Customers with existing Weir products who wish to enable Synertrex will be able to retrofit sensors to equipment.

John McNulty, Vice President of Global Engineering and Technology, said: “This technology is backed by our 147 years of experience and unrivalled service support. Our team travel to the customers’ site to install the sensors, connect to the cloud and provide training to ensure they fully understand how the Synertrex platform works and what it can do.

“The data gathered from Synertrex combined with our in-depth product knowledge, provides unique insights on performance that only the OEM can deliver. Our extensive service network can quickly act on the outputs from Synertrex to provide unrivalled on-site support to our customers.”