Tag Archives: Robotics

Australia has much to gain from resource sector technology advances, report says

Harnessing new technologies in the mining, oil and gas industries will add A$74 billion ($50 billion) to the Australian economy by 2030 and create more than 80,000 new local jobs, according to a new report from METS Ignited and NERA.

Titled ‘Staying Ahead of the Game Report’, the report says data analytics, automation and robotics technologies continue to transform the resources sector and Australia needs to be at the forefront of technological progress or risk other countries taking the lead.

The report was designed to attempt to predict the nature and scale of how Australia’s resources industries, including both the producers and their supply chains, might change if they fully embraced the latest advances in operational technologies such as analytics, automation and robotics.

It further analysed what these changes mean for employment and workforce development (especially in the operations areas across regional Australia), and the wider economy.

To estimate the impact of these technological changes, the report analysed 30 types of technological innovation considered most relevant and carried out more than four dozen interviews with industry and technology experts to support the findings.

It also laid out a four-step roadmap that, it said, will lead Australia to success. The four steps were around strengthening collaboration, creating and supporting national cross-industry automation technology clusters, expanding the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” and boosting skills and research and development.

Australia’s Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, said Australia has one of the most competitive mining, oil and gas industries in the world which will continue to boost its economy as it transforms.

“A vibrant and competitive resources sector is vital to Australia’s economic future and the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies will be a key driver of industry transformation,” she said. “The use of analytics and robotics not only provides significant safety and environmental benefits, it is also rapidly increasing job opportunities.”

Andrews added: “This kind of technology opens up new, unexplored opportunities for the resources sector and what this report shows is the huge economic opportunity if new technology is embraced.”

The report was produced by METS Ignited and NERA, two industry growth centres established to drive innovation, productivity and competitiveness.

It comes shortly after a A$2 million Future Technology Project Fund was made available through NERA for projects that accelerate the commercialisation of science and technology, improve the uptake of innovative digital technologies, and encourage future investment, productivity and global trade, in the oil, gas and energy sector.

EU-funded robotics project to confront underground mining challenges

The European Union (EU) has agreed to fund a project through its Horizon 2020 program looking into the development of a “bio-inspired, modular and reconfigurable robot-miner” for small and difficult to access underground mineral deposits.

The 48-month ROBOMINERS project held its kick-off meeting in Madrid, Spain, on June 13-14, 2019.

The project has been set up with the long-term strategic objective to facilitate EU access to raw materials – including those considered strategic or critical for the global energy transition – from domestic resources. This is all in an effort to decrease the EU’s import dependency.

ROBOMINERS’ approach combines the creation of a new mining ecosystem with novel ideas from other sectors, in particular the inclusion of disruptive concepts from robotics, the European Commission said.

“The use of the robot miner will especially be relevant for mineral deposits that are small or difficult to access,” it said. “This covers both abandoned, nowadays flooded mines, that are not accessible anymore for conventional mining techniques, or places that have formerly been explored but whose exploitation was considered as uneconomic due to the small size of the deposits or the difficulty to access them.”

Within the project duration, the consortium aims to:

  • Construct a fully functional modular robot miner prototype following a bio-inspired design, capable of operating, navigating and performing selective mining in a flooded underground environment;
  • Design a mining ecosystem of expected future upstream/downstream raw materials processes via simulations, modelling and virtual prototyping;
  • Validate all key functions of the robot-miner to a Technology Readiness Level 4, and;
  • Use the prototypes to study and advance future research challenges concerning scalability, resilience, re-configurability, self-repair, collective behaviour, operation in harsh environments, selective mining, production methods as well as for the necessary converging technologies on an overall mining ecosystem level.

Led by the Centre for Automation and Robotics of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and the Spanish National Research Council, ROBOMINERS will be implemented by a consortium of 14 partners from 11 EU countries, that covers a wide range specialities, consisting of geo-scientific SMEs, academics covering both mining and robotics, non-governmental organisations, and governmental bodies.

The European Federation of Geologists, which has a network of more than 45,000 geoscientists across Europe, will lead the dissemination and communication efforts within ROBOMINERS.

METS Ignited backing analytics, automation and robotics technology developments

METS Ignited, an industry-led, Australia government-funded, growth centre for the mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector, is making A$4 million ($2.8 million) available to companies focused on the application of analytics, automation and robotics in mining operations.

The investment is part of the fourth round of METS Ignited Collaborative Project Funds for METS solutions able to help demonstrate the productivity, competitiveness and innovative capacity of the sector in Australia.

METS Ignited Acting CEO, Ian Dover, said: “Australian METS companies have a long history of supplying reliable and innovative solutions to the mining sector. This round of funding is focused on accelerating the adoption of analytics, automation and robotics into Australian METS and mining with the objective of making a significant contribution to the economy and creating more jobs in our domestic mining supply chains.

“The time is now, for Australia to get ahead of the curve and make the most of our home-grown advantage.”

Round four of the Project Funds invites METS companies to collaborate with a minimum of two other METS companies and an end user, to deliver projects with real commercialisation potential, METS Ignited said.

FLSmidth completes laboratory mining solutions line with IMP Automation Group buy

FLSmidth says it has completed its portfolio of automated laboratory solutions for the mining industry with the takeover of IMP Automation Group.

The market for automated laboratories is growing due to a combination of high exploration activity and an increased focus on productivity, automation and digitalisation, according to FLSmidth.

“IMP is the global leader in automated laboratory solutions for the mining industry and has a strong foothold in Australia and South Africa. Its solutions complement the products FLSmidth offers for quality control and optimisation for the mining process,” the company said.

The acquisition includes more than 130 IMP employees, including the Managing Director, Boyne Hohenstein.

Hohenstein said: “In FLSmidth, we have found a partner with the right global sales network to take us to the next level. For years, we have combined profound laboratory process knowledge with automation skills and developed novel and innovative solutions. I am very excited that we now can reach a global audience with our offerings and solutions.”

Manfred Schaffer, President Mining for FLSmidth, said: “Knowing your ore characteristics from the mine and all the way through the processing plant is of increasing importance in mining as declining ore grades make it necessary to increase productivity by process optimisation. We see a strong match between some of our digital initiatives in FLSmidth and IMP’s automation solutions that will help miners get better data on their ore and assist in optimising the processing.”

Included in the transaction is IMP’s 50% share in a joint venture, which provides complete operations and maintenance-based solutions for automated labs.

The acquired parts of IMP Automation Group, including the JV, generated revenues in excess of DKK250 million ($38 million) in 2018, with the acquisition expected to be accretive to FLSmidth Group margins.

The takeover is subject to customary closing conditions and closing is expected in the June quarter.

IMP says it works with like-minded customers to provide innovative robotics and automation solutions from sampling to analysis that improve ergonomics, health and safety for laboratory operators, improve integrity, quality and precision of analytical data and improve efficiencies.

It designs and supplies manual, semi- and fully-automated robotic sample preparation and process control laboratories, turnkey sampling systems and laboratories for mining, metallurgical, cement, non-ferrous industry and steel plants.

Its customers include Anglo American Platinum, Freeport McMoRan, BHP and Rio Tinto

ABB reaffirms four pillar strategy following Power Grids sale to Hitachi

Hitachi has agreed to acquire 80.1% of ABB’s Power Grids division in a deal that come with an enterprise value (EV) of $11 billion.

ABB says this divestment is an expansion of its existing partnership with Hitachi that dates back to 2014. The EV is equivalent to an EV/operating profit EBITA multiple of 11.2 x 1, ABB said.

ABB said: “Since 2014, Power Grids has been significantly improved under the ownership of ABB. The latest results (Q3, 2018) are at the target margin corridor, having more than doubled margins, with positive third party base order development recorded for the last six consecutive quarters.”

The Power Grids division serves utility, industry, transportation and infrastructure customers and is focused on addressing key areas such as the integration of renewable energies, growing network complexity, grid automation, and micro-grids.

ABB continued: “In the fast-changing world of energy infrastructure, with a shifting customer landscape and the need for financing and increased government influence, ABB believes Hitachi is the best owner for Power Grids.

“As a stable and long-term committed owner, with whom ABB has developed a strong business partnership since 2014, Hitachi will further strengthen the business, providing it with access to new and growing markets as well as financing. Hitachi will accelerate Power Grids to the next stage of its development, building on the solid foundation achieved under ABB’s previous ownership.”

As part of the deal, ABB will initially retain a 19.9% equity stake in the joint venture, but the transaction agreement includes a pre-defined option for ABB to exit the retained 19.9% share, exercisable three years after closing, at fair market value with floor price at 90% of agreed EV.

The joint venture will be headquartered in Switzerland, with Hitachi retaining the management team to ensure business continuity.

ABB says this deal is all part of its efforts to simplify its business model and structure. Effective April 1, 2019, ABB will discontinue its “legacy matrix structure”, allowing its four leading businesses to serve customers even better, it said.

These businesses are the Electrification, Industrial Automation, Robotics & Discrete Automation and Motion.

“Each business will be either the global #1 or #2 player in attractive markets with strong secular drivers. ABB’s established domain know-how, world-class engineering and technology expertise, will position the four businesses well to deliver innovative products and solutions for enhanced customer value,” the company said.

“Based on ABB’s common digital platform ABB Ability™, the businesses will provide tailored digital solutions, driving enhanced customer value. Building on emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and its strong software offering, ABB Ability will meet the increasing demand from ABB’s customers for digital solutions in the rapidly changing industrial world.”

ABB CEO, Ulrich Spiesshofer, said: “Our four newly shaped businesses, each a global leader, will be well aligned to the way our customers operate and focus stronger on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence. The continued simplification of our business model and structure will be a catalyst for growth and efficiency in our businesses. Our businesses will be further supported through the transfer of experienced resources from today’s country organisations.”

The Electrification business, which presently has an addressable market of $160 billion, will have strong exposure to rapidly growing customer segments including renewables, e-mobility, data centres and smart buildings, ABB said. It will be led by Tarak Mehta, currently President of the Electrification Product division.

The Industrial Automation business will include ABB’s industry-specific integrated automation, electrification and digital solutions, control technologies, software and advanced services, as well as measurement and analytics, marine, and turbo-charging offerings. The addressable market of $90 billion is expected to grow on average by 3-4%/y over the long-term. The business will be led by Peter Terwiesch, currently President of the Industrial Automation division.

The Robotics and Discrete Automation segment has digital solutions and services that provide customers with enhanced safety, efficiency, up-time and speed, and cater to the growing customer demand for flexible and integrated manufacturing solutions, ABB says. It will be led by Sami Atiya, currently President of the Robotics and Motion division.

The Motion business, meanwhile, will provide customers with a range of innovative electrical motors, generators, drives, and service, as well as integrated digital powertrain solutions. It will be the number one player in the sector and be led by Morten Wierod, currently Managing Director Business Unit Drives.

ABB intends to host a strategy update alongside its December quarter results, expected on February 28.

Deloitte urges miners to take proactive approach to disruptive technology, cybersecurity

Professional services company Deloitte today has released two global mining reports to coincide with the opening of the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne, Australia.

The two reports explore cyber risk (An integrated approach to combat cyber risk: securing industrial operations in mining) and human capital trends (Beyond HR: rethinking work and operations in the mining industry) and their impact on the global mining sector.

Deloitte’s National Mining Leader, Ian Sanders said that based on findings from both reports, organisations needed to prepare for the changes that would come with developing future mines.

“Disruptive technologies are prompting massive transformation for mining companies,” Sanders said, adding: “A survey of energy and resources leaders reveals 76% consider artificial intelligence and robotics as critical factors for success but just 31% are ready to adopt the technology.”

The cyber risk report examines how cyber threats are disrupting the mining value chain and outlines approaches companies can take to secure their operations.

“Despite cyber attacks growing in number and sophistication across many industries, the mining industry has been spared in comparison,” Sanders said.

“But as the industry advances towards digitalisation and intelligent mining, it’s becoming more and more important to proactively secure operations against cyber threats.”