New technology being developed at the University of Newcastle could be the key to making mining equipment more reliable and saving the industry millions of dollars.
The team from the Cooperative Research Centre for Mining* is developing a tool which, when added to existing motors on Australian and international mining machinery, will predict when maintenance is required and reduce equipment downtime and costs.
Dr Galina Mirzaeva and her team have received close to $160,000 from the industry funded Australian Coal Association Research Program to develop a prototype of the DC Motor Duty Meter to be tested on mining rope shovels.
"Imagine dozens of megawatt power motors operating on an excavating machine in extremely harsh operating conditions," said Dr Mirzaeva.
"Mining equipment is highly dynamic with frequent rapid changes in speed and direction. This means that there is constant pressure and stress on the motor.
"Operating equipment in an efficient and controllable manner means that we can improve safety for people operating the machinery and reduce the risk of unscheduled maintenance and downtime costs.
"Rather than simply watching for early manifestations of a fault or malfunction and then trying to relate it to a corresponding cause, the DC Motor Duty Meter will allow us to track the history of the machinery by online measurements and continuously determine the best time for the next maintenance."
Dr Mirzaeva said installing the tool on the existing or new rope shovels would mean less downtime for planned maintenance and emergencies. Even for just one rope shovel this could potentially save millions of dollars.
While new machinery for the mining industry is constantly being developed, Dr Mirzaeva said it was important to maintain the motors still in use.
"The University of Newcastle is a leader in the field of dynamic systems and control, as well as power electronics and drives, and the mining industry has recognised that we have the expertise to develop solutions to meet its needs," said Dr Mirzaeva.
*CRCMining is an internationally recognised multi-million dollar mining research centre, established by the Commonwealth Government. It is supported by 11 industry and four university participants, including the University of Newcastle.