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Modern tech incorporated

The above image depicts the equipment set on display at the Epiroc Customer Day event on June 30, 2023

EPIROC CUSTOMER DAY Equipment put on display for Epiroc customers at the Epriroc Customer Day event, on June 30, 2023

18th August 2023

By: Lynne Davies

Creamer Media Reporter

     

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Modern technologies are increasingly being incorporated into original-equipment manufacturer Epiroc’s range of mining machinery and systems as it embraces newer and safer ways of using its equipment.

Traditionally, companies relied solely on the skill of equipment operators to execute machinery-related tasks effectively. This is no longer the case, however, as the development of Epiroc’s modern control systems has enabled mining companies to reduce the performance gap between highly skilled and novice equipment operators, Epiroc business line manager Vikesh Chiba tells Mining Weekly.

“The functionality and operation of our machines are incredibly seamless,” he states, adding that Epiroc has developed smarter and better-integrated control systems that use real-time sensor data combined with modern processing algorithms. This consequently enables the Epiroc machines to operate more autonomously or fully autonomously, whether onboard the machine or from a remote-based control room.

Epiroc has developed technologies in a broader spectrum to address not only autonomous mining but also integrate their collision-avoidance systems into equipment, thereby providing an additional layer of safety.

The collision awareness and avoidance systems, demonstrated at a customer day hosted by Epiroc on June 30, use real-time sensor data to detect a person or object in the equipment’s path and, consequently, decide how to handle the situation.

A collision awareness and avoidance system-equipped machine demonstrated for Mining Weekly how it automatically stopped moving when it sensed an object in front of it, thereby proving its effectiveness in protecting equipment, assets and people in underground and above-ground operations.

“Advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are being incorporated into our product development, allowing us to understand what the machine is doing to provide a variety of smart analytics, from descriptive analytics that can be analysed after the shift, to forward-looking predictive maintenance and safety-based solutions,” explains MineRP marketing VP Empie Strydom. MineRP is a mining software company owned by Epiroc, and forms part of the Epiroc digital solutions division.

Epiroc has developed a range of battery electric vehicle (BEV) solutions, primarily deployed underground, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while also providing safety benefits from a noise and underground gas perspective, explains Chiba. The BEV vehicles, in comparison with the more traditional diesel-based drivetrains, are more responsive and operate much smoother.

Epiroc has advanced on the interoperability of different types of machines, with Chiba citing the example of the company’s surface drilling equipment that has a remote control platform that is able to operate a combination of platform drills and crawler drills from a single control station.

“In the past, there would be multiple control stations, each with an operator for different equipment,” he explains, adding that “automation therefore presents the opportunity for increased machine use while also upskilling operators”.

Remote and automated operation eliminates the need for operators to travel to and from equipment, resulting in increased usage of available machine time. Additionally, these systems also provide added safety benefits, as operators are removed from hazardous mining conditions.

“If a machine is operating autonomously, all that an operator needs to do is oversee and monitor the machines, occasionally intervening in scenarios of exceptions.”

VR in Mining

Chiba says that, with the advancement of computational and higher-performance computing capabilities, Epiroc is driving toward creating simulated virtual realities (VRs) to play out scenarios to aid key stakeholders in making more suitable decisions.

In terms of training and skills development, Strydom notes that VR and augmented reality (AR) are used in Epiroc simulators as a way for operators to train and enhance their skills in safe, but realistic, environments.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer

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