Automation Gains Traction in MexicoWed, 10/18/2017 - 12:40
Q: What benefits does the new drill rig SmartRoc CL offer your clients?
A: One of the key design features of the SmartRoc was to substantially lower fuel consumption, so we designed a clutch system to disengage the compressor when air is not required. This system, coupled with exceptionally fuel-efficient hydraulic and control-system design, enables the SmartRoc CL to use up to 45 percent less fuel than competing technologies. The SmartROC CL is efficient, productive and an outstanding solution for quarrying and surface mining. It is a drill rig that combines the high penetration rates of tophammer drilling with the superior hole quality of down-the-hole drilling.
The most important aspect of the SmartRoc CL is that it continues our drive toward automation, which has been steadily gathering pace. All of our machines were designed with the same control system, which can be updated to handle automatic operations. One of the largest operators in Mexico has already purchased and installed a number of our retrofit kits for semi-automatic and remote operation, and we hope that the next step will be to move into fully automated machines like the PV 275 CA, which is the first fully autonomous and cabless Pit Viper blasthole drill.
Q: How do underground mines differ from open-pit operations when it comes to automated machinery design?
A: Designing solutions for open-pit projects is slightly easier than underground, where wireless networks are not only difficult to install but also require much more advanced software to function efficiently. In an open-pit mine everything is visible and there are fewer communication difficulties.
Mexico is relatively advanced in terms of autonomous technology. It is one of the biggest consumers of our remote-control systems, the first step toward automation. In the future, mines will be several kilometers underground, conditions for workers will be more challenging and so automation is inevitable. We already have several underground drills working with different levels of automation and we have developed prototypes for fully automated underground loaders and shovels being tested. Our goal is to have a full line of automated equipment by 2020.
Q: How much of an impact has the new facility in Zacatecas had on Atlas Copco’s business in Mexico?
A: We decided to build the plant because we recognized that much of the fleet in the market was coming to the first overhaul and the former plant did not have the enough capacity to handle the increasing number of overhauls. The new facilities started operations in September 2015 and it has been a vital addition to our Mexican operations, enabling us to improve our client support throughout the country and especially in the Zacatecas region. This facility has been particularly useful in improving our delivery time through a state-of-the-art system that receives and ships parts and consumables efficiently. The training center is being developed to increase the competences of customers, students and our personnel by using simulators that are a replica of the real operating cab of different rigs.
Q: What are the company’s primary objectives for Mexico in 2017?
A: Our focus will be to stay at the forefront of technological development. We believe our remote-monitoring systems, which can measure all the working parameters of each machine and track performance to the finest detail, will be particularly valuable to our customers going forward. These devices are easily installed, require only a reliable wireless network to function and dramatically reduce machine downtime.
We hope to carry out testing on our electrical, batterypowered loaders for underground mines, which will not only bring environmental benefits but also safety advantages. We already have developed a 7-ton loader; our next step is to go to a higher capacity rig.