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Mining by Remote Control

Fiber optics and remote I/O boost safety and efficiency of mobile mining equipment

Jackson,MI, April 2, 1998 The Taiwan Cement Corporation faced a tough problem at their limestone quarry in Ho-Ping, a village on the east side of Taiwan: protecting critical mining gear from being buried in mud during the region's seasonal typhoons. TCC also wanted a single operator to control several pieces of widely-separated equipment from a central station, 4 km down the mountainside.

Teledyne Special Equipment CM Products, a manufacturer of mining equipment, responded by mounting one of their captive rock-breaker systems on a self-propelled rail car. The system is controlled through a pair of duTec I/O PLEXERTM Repeaters over duel 38.4KB fiber optic cables. The breaker system can be pulled back from the draw-point during typhoons and for periodic maintenance. A triple-redundant control system, including visual and audio feedback, lets the operator control the breaker and related crushing and conveyor equipment from a safe, central location.

When it rains, it pours

Jay Fisher, International Marketing Manager for Teledyne Special Equipment explained the problem. "The breaker is used to break oversize blasted rock that has been dumped down an ore pass front he mining operation on the top of the mountain. Anything too big to pass through the "grizzly" (a sizing grid) must be broken down to size. The Teledyne TB975 hydraulic hammer is mounted on a TM20X series boom, which operates like a backhoe to place the hammer against the rock.

"The typhoons pose a real problem. Ho-Ping is almost at sea level on the east coast of Taiwan, and the breaker system is over 1 km up a switchback road 4 km from the control station. So when the rain hits, the inner workings of the mine are inundated in a sea of debris and water. I've had to walk in knee-high mud to get to the equipment at times."

Teledyne, working with its Taiwan distributor, Jou International, proposed mounting its model TM20H/TB925XS breaker system on a self-propelled railcar of its own design. While in use, the breaker is clamped to the rails near the grizzly, where the blasted rocks come to rest against a low retaining wall. When necessary, the whole unit can be pulled to a safe distance back along the rails.

Mixed signals

To deal with the remote-control issue, Teledyne called on Multitest ATE, Canadian distributor for duTec's line of remote I/O control equipment. Multitest recommended a pair of duTec repeaters, model IOP-RAD. This low-cost device exchanges a mix of analog and digital signals over a serial communications circuit, with no host computer. The duTec device provides total electrical isolation and signal conditioning, and multiplexes over 50 analog and digital signal types with industry-standard plug-in modules.

The control system handles the rail car movement, 4 sets of proportional analog controls on joysticks from boom motion, and the digital hammer-firing mechanism. It incorporates two video cameras with pan and tilt control, an audio channel, and an imaginative three-way interlock. All controls are replicated at the control station, at electronic joysticks at a second control station inside the mountain, and also at hydraulic valves mounted on the breaker system.

Hearing is believing

"We found audio feedback to be an important supplement to the two video cameras in this application," said Woods. "It helps prevent 'blank firing', where the hammer is out of contact with the rock during activation of the hammer stroke. That can destroy the business end of the hammer. When the operator can hear what's happening, though, he detects blank firing easily, and takes corrective action. Audio also alerts him to unusual noise in the system. The extra feedback even tells him if the power pack is operating."

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Contact Information

For more information, you are welcome to call:

Jay Fisher, International Marketing Manager
Teledyne Specialty Equipment CM Products (an Allegheny-Teledyne Company)
Thombury, Ontario, N0H 2P0 Canada
519-599-2015 (phone), 519-599-6803 (fax)

Douglas Foust, Technical Specialist
duTec, inc.
6979 Wales Road
Northwood, OH 43619  USA
419-666-4700 (phone), 419-666-4702 (fax), info@dutec.net (email)
or visit duTec's website; click here

Mr. K. S. Hsu
Jou International
4F-8 186 Nanking East, RD, Sec 4
Taipei, Taiwan ROC
+886 2 257 76271 (phone), +886 2 257 94545 (fax)

Norris Sutton, Technical Sales
Multitest Electronics, Inc.
79 Milliken Blvd., #8
Scarborough, Ontario, M1V 1V3 Canada
416-609-8396 (phone), 416-609-8399 (fax), sales@multitest-ate.com (email)
or visit the Multitest website; click here

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