Tag Archives: Örebro

Epiroc and Combitech continue to break new ground in mine automation

After three years of collaboration, Epiroc and Combitech’s traffic management solution for autonomous loaders at underground mines is coming to fruition.

In 2017, Epiroc and Combitech started to work on this technological leap. Together, they have combined technology from Epiroc and SAAB’s civilian product portfolio with knowledge of the way traffic management is to be systematised and developed.

At the end of the same year, a prototype, or ‘proof of concept’, was delivered and evaluated in Epiroc’s test mine outside Örebro, Sweden.

Eighteen months later, in spring 2019, the solution was installed and used at an Australia gold mine.

This solution is called Epiroc Scooptram Automation Total and is included in Epiroc’s 6th Sense offering.

“This solution, in which autonomous machines can perform complete assignments and interact with each other in a shared area, is much sought after within the mining industry,” Robert Raschperger, Consultant for Epiroc and Combitech’s Product Development Manager, said. “It is a matter of being able to create an even flow of material, avoid locking between machines in production and move employees away from an unsafe environment.”

The solution’s driver is a proprietary module known as the Traffic Management System (TMS). It allows machines to share roads, service locations and loading and dumping sites without collisions or locking events.

The module is generic inasmuch as it is applicable to other autonomous solutions, whereby machines, drones and trucks are able to independently perform pre-defined tasks, eg travelling from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’, and depositing a load.

Epiroc’s strategy is an “open automation system” that means other machine manufacturers can be integrated into the solution, such as integrating a remotely operated MacLean water cannon into the Epiroc automation fleet at Newcrest Mining’s Cadia East operation in New South Wales, Australia.

As well as the TMS module, there is the Fleet Management System (FMS) to automate assignment and resource management so that the mine operator can focus on the work to be performed, eg transporting 1,600 t from point ‘a’ and dumping it at point ‘b’. The system decides which machines to be used, when they should operate and which routes they should take.

The FMS module is based on the SAFE (Situational Awareness For Enhanced security) platform, which has been developed within the SAAB group.

The TMS and FMS modules are integrated into the mine’s overall production management, so work orders are received, implemented and reported in order of priority, while, at the same time, the system attends to other machinery and parts of the production flow, eg ore crushers and ore transportation systems.

Mattias Pettersson, Global Portfolio Manager Loaders, Epiroc’s Underground division, said: “Interoperability and openness have been key words in the development of Epiroc’s automation system and, thanks to this, the collaboration with a partner like Combitech has also worked extremely well.

“Besides the technical advancements made and the new functions, which we have succeeded to develop in record time, I’m almost more impressed with our collaboration and partnership. The future of digitalisation and automation development depends on our success in integrating different systems – where collaboration between people and organisations is just as vital as the technical aspects.”

Raschperger added: “A key to our success is that our team has different skillsets. Some of us are good at traffic-management logic, ie sending data and coordinating traffic patterns. Others are good at acquainting themselves with end-user problems, work culture and human-to-machine interaction. We also have sound expertise in development of systems so they meet the stringent demands around availability in a mine, typically 24/7, plus how modern software development should be set up and managed.

“It’s enjoyable seeing how knowledge can be used in new ways, and what results are attainable through collaboration.”

Epiroc’s Scooptram Automation Total allows machine operators to carry out remote work safely in a control room above ground level, where they can share the overall situation in real time and carry out tasks that still call for a human being’s experience and precision. The operators have good insight into what is happening within the production environment and can take over machines as and when necessary to carry out non-automated tasks.

The latest addition to the solution is the option of “easy control” of the security system that protects employees from harm if they accidentally enter the autonomous production area, Epiroc says.

“Putting it simply, various sections and passageways are permitted to be closed or opened for autonomous operation, allowing the mining operator to send in manned machines without stopping autonomous production any more than is necessary,” the company explained. “The function also supports smooth check-in and check-out of autonomous or remote-controlled machinery.”

Raschperger concluded: “With this solution we are breaking new ground, as we are bringing manual and autonomous operations closer to each other. A fully-autonomous mine is still a long way off, but the latest addition to the solution allows mining companies to actually proceed towards autonomous operation and increases the degree of utilisation of the investment in infrastructure, machinery and employees.”

This is an edited version of an Epiroc story that first appeared here: https://www.epiroc.com/en-uk/newsroom/2020/the-route-to-an-autonomous-mine

Epiroc slims Sweden workforce following COVID-19 related demand drop

Epiroc has provided a notice of termination to 425 employees in Sweden as it looks to adapt to the changing COVID-19 demand situation in the mining and infrastructure sectors.

The move is in response to lower global demand from these sectors amid the pandemic, and to position the company better for the future, it said.

Some 350 positions are expected to go at the company’s Örebro facilities, with 75 positions being removed in Fagersta, Sweden, of which half are positions in production, the company said.

Örebro is a main manufacturing and research and development hub for Epiroc’s underground and surface equipment as well as for service and spare parts supply, while Fagersta is home to Epiroc’s rock drilling tools business. Epiroc has about 3,100 employees in Sweden, out of a global workforce of some 14,000.

Epiroc said: “The action is the result of Epiroc facing a significant drop in demand from customers due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the global economy. The work reductions are also part of Epiroc’s continuous effort to become as agile and efficient as possible and follows various efficiency measures taken worldwide since 2019.”

The company, in April, announced it would consolidate the manufacturing of exploration drilling tools in Canada, gradually moving its base from North Bay to Montreal and Sweden over the course of 2020, with around 65 employees in North Bay, Ontario, being affected.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said: “We are taking these actions to adapt to the new market situation following the COVID-19 pandemic and to make us stronger and more resilient for the future. Unfortunately, we must take such a drastic action as giving notice of termination. We regret the negative consequences this will have for our colleagues and those close to them, and we will support our employees in this difficult situation.

“These actions will allow us to continue to prioritise innovation and to develop our technology leadership in order to support our customers’ operations and improve their productivity.”

Epiroc’s innovation investments have led to the mining and infrastructure industries becoming more productive, safe and climate friendly, according to the company, following the adoption of its automation, digitalisation and electrification solutions.

Epiroc starts work on ‘unique’ exploration drilling test centre

Epiroc is about to start construction on a new Test Center in Örebro, Sweden, that, it says, will help perform different types of exploration drilling tests and data acquisition.

The centre is a close collaboration between industry, research institutes and academia, according to the company.

With this Test Center, we can continue our way towards being the competence center within exploration drilling – and build networks within the industry,” Thomas Hallmén, General Manager Product Company Örebro, Epiroc Surface and Exploration Drilling division, said.

“It will create opportunities to cooperate with customers and universities as well as with researchers in order to improve our technologies and products for future requirements.”

The new Test Center, called Innovative Exploration Drilling and Data Acquisition Test Center (I-EDDA-TC), will provide a unique environment for the development of drilling, and related equipment and methods used for the exploration of mineral resources, such as borehole geophysics, according to Epiroc.

The goal for the future is to establish a leading centre that supports and creates innovation, Epiroc said, adding that it  features two boreholes each 1 km deep with fully characterised core samples.

Bjarne Almqvist, Project Leader for I-EDDA-TC and Researcher at the Department of Earth Sciences, Geophysics, at Uppsala University, said: Effective exploration drilling for mineral resources is an area where industrial innovation plays an important role. Despite this need, there is a complete lack of test beds that allow industry to actively test novel drilling equipment.”

He added: Our hope is that the Test Center becomes a focus for both small and large companies that work within exploration drilling and related technologies.”

The Test Center will be built next to the Epiroc Surface and Exploration Drilling division Production Center in Örebro.  It will be developed over three years and be available for customers from the beginning of 2022. The European Union has helped finance the project through the EIT Raw materials initiative.

The centre is a collaboration project between Uppsala University, Lund University, Luleå University of Technology, Technical University Bergakademie Freiberg, Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum , RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) and Epiroc Surface and Exploration Drillling division.

Epiroc breaks ground at heat treatment facility for rock drills

Epiroc has held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new heat treatment plant for rock drills at one of its global manufacturing hubs in Örebro, Sweden.

With heat treatment an essential part of rock drill manufacturing, the top-modern plant – to be built through an expansion of the current workshop building – will further boost rock drill quality and performance, according to Epiroc. It will also lower customers’ total cost of ownership and enable higher production volumes, the company added.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure, said: “The investment is a key step toward ensuring that this first-class manufacturing site remains as productive and competitive as possible for the long term.”

Production at the 1,400 m² heat treatment plant will be able to run 24 hours a day thanks to automation. It is expected to be up and running by late-2020.

Energy efficiency is a key focus for the design of the plant, with, for example, residual heat recycled internally to heat buildings.