Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology, in an effort to speed up rock drill innovations, has opened a new Rock Drills Innovation Center in Tampere, Finland.
Announced during day one of its Innovation in Mining event this week, the centre will introduce state-of-the-art production and testing facilities for this core Sandvik technology. It will be home to extensive rock knowledge and drilling technology expertise, creating a hub for innovation, the company says. The centre will also complement Sandvik’s existing leading drilling technology competence centre, consisting of an R&D centre, an underground test mine with laboratories, a modern factory environment and university cooperation.
IM put some questions to Timo Laitinen, Vice President of the Rock Drills business unit, to find out more about the €18 million ($21 million) investment.
IM: How will the new innovation centre help the Rock Drills business unit more rapidly develop new products?
TL: We wanted to bring all key functions needed in the development and production of rock drills under one roof. This makes communication between different functions more effective and enhances cross-functional work when developing new products.
Also, as reliability is the most important characteristic in rock drills – and the key feature of Sandvik rock drills – based on our recent customer survey, we increased our durability testing capacity. Now we can do even more endurance testing in a shorter calendar time.
Thirdly, our factory investments speed up prototype production, minimising waiting times between the iteration rounds. All these speed up time to market.
IM: What new technology, expertise, innovation, etc will you be leveraging to speed up the R&D and product development pipeline?
TL: In addition to what I mentioned above, we utilise a Lean & Agile methodology in our R&D with increased customer involvement, transparency and cross-functional cooperation. As Sandvik’s drilling equipment development, as well as digital technology development, happens for the most part here in Tampere at the same site, we can leverage that work for rock drill development too. Digital technology helps read data from Sandvik drilling equipment and service operations around the world, which we utilise to create even better rock drills. Sandvik’s expertise in machining solutions has helped us to integrate advanced quality assurance solutions in our production system. This generates valuable information for rock drill research and development.
IM: Will the Rock Drills business unit have a designated area of the Tampere Test Mine to test prototypes? Was the division previously using the existing test mine facilities?
TL: We have always had a certain designated area in our test mine for rock drill testing. With this investment program for the Rock Drills Innovation Center, we did build a new area in the test mine for this purpose with increased safety and functionality, more capacity and more space.
IM: In terms of R&D, what areas will the innovation centre focus on? What problems/challenges are your customers continuously talking about that you hope to address with this new facility?
TL: Drilling the holes for explosives comes first in the drill & blast production cycle, followed by the other phases of the cycle. Therefore, it was not a surprise to us when the customer survey result was that ‘reliability’ was the most important feature of a rock drill; followed by productivity and operating cost per metre. In addition to further developing these features in Sandvik rock drills, digital technology is sneaking into our rock drills. Our Rock Pulse technology is a prime example of new technology, which helps our customers drill more, better and at lower cost.