Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) in the Australian Mining Industry

Mining in Australia is a significant primary industry and contributes almost 8% to the Australian economy *.

 


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Mining in Australia is a significant primary industry and contributes almost 8% to the Australian economy *.
In today’s mining industry competition is at an all-time high. Irrespective of the material being mined or the geographic location of the operation, mining industries continuously strive to find better ways to increase output, improve quality and uphold the highest safety standards while decreasing cost and protecting the environment. The need of the hour is deploying rugged, reliable systems capable of handling the hostile environment and intelligent enough to handle a host of operations with minimal human intervention. The use of highly versatile automation systems, custom-built to manage specific activities in mining is of utmost importance.

One proven method in automating a process is the use of Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). A PLC is a digital computer used for automation of industrial processes, such as control of machinery in factory assembly lines. Unlike general-purpose computers, the PLC is designed for multiple input and output arrangements, extended temperature ranges, immunity to electrical noise, and resistance to vibration and impact, all of which are prominent at a mining site. Programs to control machine operation are typically stored in a battery-backed or non-volatile memory. A PLC is an example of a real time system, where input conditions are monitored continuously and suitable output conditions are generated, within a preset time, to support smooth operations. PLCs have a range of distinguished advantages over other computer based automation. For one, it is more reliable than an general purpose computer, since it is programmed to focus on a specific set of operations.

Key Benefits of PLC
             Flexibility:  one single PLC can run many machines
             Quicker Testing: generally testing takes 30% less time
             Ease of Alteration:  changes, testing, corrections are done faster 
             Lower Cost:  PLC cost significantly less than cumbersome electrical components
             Space Maximisation: PLC- based equipment occupies less space compared with other similar systems
             Enhanced Monitoring & Trouble Shooting:  PLC applications allow for visual observations of ongoing
              processes making trouble shooting easier

Applications of PLC in Mining
             Mining Blasting

             Mining Excavation

             Mining Transportation

Drilling it Right   PLC-based systems can be deployed to enable tele-monitoring and control of the drill equipment. This ensures that precise drilling instructions are programmed into the drill equipment including the angle, location and depth to drill the holes, all from a remote location.

Feedback received from the sensors on the drill equipment allows monitoring and  adjustments as necessary. This not only helps in remote management of mines but also and more importantly, it ensures both personnel and mine safety.

Enhanced Detonation    A PLC-based electronic detonator overcomes limitations faced by current systems and enables precise programming of each blast to ensure that a controlled blast is achieved.

Explosive Handling   Explosive handling and placement can also be automated and monitored remotely by  cameras mounted on the equipment.

Seamless Mine Transport System   PLCs can be used to manage conveyor belts, buckets or hoists used for ore, and personnel transport. The use of PLC-based systems enables electronic switching and can reduce or eliminate the use of “fault-prone” components, such as large electrical switches and relays. This optimises transportation by having on-time deliveries and lessens down time. Remote monitoring of transport and carriage systems can also be achieved far more easily.

Enhanced Positioning and Navigation of equipments PLC equipment can be fitted with laser beams, gyro systems and accelerometers, which will aid in positioning and navigation and thereby optimising productivity.

Why PLC from LX Innovations?
Though there is a host of generic PLC equipment available, it is always prudent to go for a custom-built application. Since each mine is unique, a custom-built system always helps with enhancing a mine’s efficiency in the long run. LX innovations provides custom design and manufacture service for PLC-based equipment.

The benefits of custom PLCs are

·         Optimisation of each system

·         Accuracy and reliability

·         Improved interoperability between systems

·         Optimal productivity and efficiency

·         Lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) compared to generic systems

·         Continuous improvement in efficiency

·         Easier change management – if needed modifications, are easier to carry out

Conclusion
An efficient custom PLC-based system can be automated and controlled remotely, and assist in monitoring the entire mining process. With real time process information, informed decisions regarding each operation can be made: plans reviewed, work scheduled and equipment located and their status reviewed, maintenance and service scheduled, process steps and continuous process improvements monitored, all of which ensure shorter cycle times, thus lowering costs while improving productivity and safety.

About LX-Innovations
LX Innovations is an electronics design company in Australia (www.lx-innovations.com.au). LX designs custom electronics, firmware, and software for many industries, including the mining industry. LX Innovations is a pioneer in customer product development using PLC based electronics.  Clients benefit from custom designed electronics by receiving a PLC that has a lower TCO, that is smaller in size, has greater reliability and better performance. LX Innovation’s expertise in building PLC based applications reduces the time in bringing a concept to reality.

Keywords: PLC, Programmable Logic Controller, Mining, Australia, drilling, excavation, detonation, benefits of PLC

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Australia