VDMA

JAN-FEB 2018

Best of Germany 2014 - Mining Equipment and Mining Technology

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VDMA 13 2018 • VDMA MINING SUPPLEMENT conditions, Mavroudis explained. "Despite the dynamic and extreme mining conditions found underground, these optimized systems are adapting independently to their operating environment, and per- forming their own regulation and control functions." Another optional system developed by Eickhoff allows miners to observe all of this in real time with the Eickhoff Face camera system (EiFaceControl). The system's data exchange and analysis enables vir- tual longwall visualization, which gives the operator the ability to focus on monitoring and control functions from a secure room on the surface. At the same time, they can access historical data within seconds. "All of this enlarges the sphere of knowledge in the control room, which in turn allows the cutting sequences to be planned, implemented, and executed in a proactive and more precise manner," Mavroudis said. The nerve center for the control process is the state-based Eicon- trolSB automatic system. This is effectively the core element of the shearer loader, as it separates the cutting process, methodically into different and independent steps. The preconfigured process can be altered and extended by the user at any time so that it can be adapted to meet external requirements. The machine reacts independently and in a manner that is tailored to the changing conditions. The remote operator can correct parameters and alter the process accordingly. "The shearer follows a defined profile, cut by cut, until it receives a correction," Mavroudis said. "The shearer is operated completely un- manned with a 99% use of ranging arm and haulage automation." Initial results show a more even mining operation and better longwall conditions for the manless face in Australia. These new de- velopments in longwall mining will transfer people from monotonous, physically demanding and hazardous workplaces to other fields of activity. A main challenge is preparing and integrating the people into the new processes. In most cases, it's the longwall operators that are asking for and advancing this technology. But an important prerequisite for the success of such advanced automation projects is based upon the transformation in how the mines change their culture around managing a longwall. Mine operators and industry suppliers will have to undergo a fundamental change in vision and in strategic focus if the substantial changes needed are to be achieved. Machine Communications is Key to Autonomous Longwall Mining Longwall controls have developed progressively with continuous improvements in safety and reliability, increasing performance at the same time, explained Mark Becker, mining engineer with marco systems. "The industry is currently converting from electrohydraulic controls that automatically move banks of roof supports to a digital process that will automate mining," Becker said. "The next step will be the intelligent use of data to optimize the entire process." Drawing the bow to the principles of Industry 4.0, Becker add- ed: "At Marco, we apply the principles, which Industry 4.0 is mainly based on, in the following way: using a solid backbone, we meet the technological requirements of cross-linking, which allows us to consolidate all data in our control and visualisation system, called integrated face control (IFC). IFC enables a wide area of technical assistance and peripheral decisions, such as direct horizon input and intelligent cut planning." He outlined some milestones for the longwall industry to consider. Based on fully automated shield control, the milestones for autono- mous mining, would be face basis and position capture in 3-D, direct horizon input and shearer integration. "Many longwalls have already achieved fully automated shield controls," Becker said. "Then next step is to control the system in 3-D by controlling the horizon by direct cut inputting and planning the cuts intelligently." For full autonomous mining, the system will have to control the longwall face between the gate entries as far as asynchronous cuts (the shearer grades the floor correctly), and identify the coal-rock interface and marker bands. The systems would have to know its boundaries and how steer the longwall. "We not only want it to plan cuts, but we also want it to control the face mechanically and pro- tect the equipment from damage," Becker said. "We have to look at the entire longwall system as a numeric ma- chine," Becker said. "We need to know exactly where our extraction tools are located in relationship to the face. That data can be gained by sensors placed on the shearer that communicate with sensors on the roof supports." Ideally, the system would consider the angle to the conveyor for the advancing system while protecting the lemnis- cate and preventing the shearer from cutting into the canopy or the flippers on the shields. Marco is designing an inertial navigation system, which would be attached to the shearer. It would use RFID to talk to the PM32 on the shields. The data from the sensor could be downloaded either through the trailing cable or wirelessly. The PM32 controls the hydraulics on each shield and the data could be retrieved. Cameras with ethernet connection could also be used to support decision-making. "To make the system work autonomously, the shearer needs to be integrated into the process," Becker said. "Cut planning and feedback from the shearer makes it possible for the system to find a relative position to avoid collisions. Currently, the Eickhoff system would be the best option for data exchange. Once we can exchange and see the operating data, we can use the sensors and the cut profiles to transfer and get the feedback accordingly." He emphasized the use of cameras. "That is what customers are demanding," Becker said. "We have been looking at ways to improve and incorporate more video into longwalls. Our first step was the so-called hot spot strategy, where the operator doesn't need to click through dozens of camera screens to see what is happening where. Rather, we control the process in such a way that the screens will be shown that are relevant to the process at that point in time. The other screens are hidden." Manual cutting processes often lead to mistakes and they need to be optimized. Especially unexperienced shearer operators only react to the current situation, which can cause oscillations. This effect is exacerbated by information loss due to shift exchange. Correcting this requires time and at least three to five shearer cuts. Becker proposes intelligent cut planning as a solution with the marco's Horizon Control system. "There is always resistance to change, but it's more important that the operator understands what's happening within our system," Becker said. "We want to offer the operator the opportunity to visualize the cut sequence, the seam height, the seam thickness, the deviation, the general inclination and most importantly, the goal," Becker said. So how does intelligent cut planning work? The system gathers all the data and calculates the horizon. Using the data on the shield Manual operation versus planned automation for an optimized consideration of geological and operational issues.

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