Working at the coal face
It takes a stretch of the imagination to picture the softly spoken Dr Galina Mirzaeva in an open-cut mine working with massive mining equipment. A few minutes of conversation with her quickly reveals she is very at home among the thunderous equipment.
Mirzaeva, along with her team and resources from P&H and P&H MinePro is currently developing a tool with the potential to save the mining industry hours of lost time caused by machinery breakdowns each year.
With a group from the Cooperative Research Centre for Mining, Mirzaeva, an electrical engineer, is working on formulating a monitoring tool called the DC Motor Duty Meter.
The meter monitors the motor performance of mining machinery to its condition and provides data anticipating failure before it occurs.
The group has been given an industry-funded Australian Coal Association Research Program grant to develop a prototype of the Duty Meter and is establishing its unique test facility at one of the mine sites in the Hunter Valley area.
Mirzaeva said the recent Australian minerals boom had presented challenges for industry that could be addressed by the improved use of mining equipment and the development of automated mining systems.
While AC (Alternating Current) motor technology is increasingly gaining market share in the industry, DC (Direct Current) motors remain an attractive solution for mining applications because they are robust and simple to control.
"DC machines will continue to be used for up to several decades and the ageing of the existing motor fleet will intensify maintenance problems while mines make the move into an AC-dominated environment," she said.
"Condition monitoring systems can provide real-time information about DC equipment and prevent it from a catastrophic failure.
"We are talking about massive pieces of equipment with megawatt power motors operating in very harsh conditions with rapid shifts in speed and directions.
"Installing the tool on machinery is very cost-effective in terms of shutdowns and will also improve the safety for people operating the machinery.
"At a modest estimation, at least one week a year will be saved in breakdown time for each piece of equipment."
To develop the Duty Meter the group is running experiments on full-scale machines under controlled conditions in its facility in the Hunter Valley.
Mirzaeva said the team is investigating the influence of loading conditions on performance and extending the relevant mathematical models for the development of the DC Motor Duty Meter’s software.