Smart Grinding Control System for Optimized Mineral ProcessingBy Karin Dilge | Mon, 08/08/2022 - 12:33
Q: Why did the company decide to enter the mining industry and what has been its experience working in the sector?
SN: OPTECS is a software development company from The Netherlands with strong interest in AI technologies and their application in different industries. The company’s path to the mining industry started around five years ago. Through a client request, we came to learn more about mineral processing and its challenges, and this led to the idea of combining artificial intelligence (AI) technology with mineral processing knowledge to solve industrial challenges in the mining sector. From there, the company started to dig deeper into the best way to introduce AI to the mineral processing industry.
OPTECS identified the grinding circuit as the best place to start developing a solution due to the complexity, criticality and costs of grinding circuits for mineral processing operators. Although advanced process control solutions existed, a truly smart, adaptive and flexible solution for optimizing the whole grinding process, which is affordable and available for everyone, was lacking. As a result, the company has developed an AI-based self-learning solution to autonomously control the different stages and equipment in the grinding circuit and improve its performance on a continuous basis through deep learning algorithms.
Four years ago, OPTECS was incorporated in the EIT Raw Materials incubator program as innovative start-up and as a result our solution has been recognized as an innovative solution for the raw materials sector. We have carried out two successful pilot projects in 2021 and today we have two commercial licenses operating in two copper and gold mines.
Q: How is AI applied to the Smart Grinding Control (SGC) and how does it create value for customers?
SN: In its SGC solution, OPTECS deploys advanced fuzzy logic, deep learning and genetic algorithm to provide continuous operational optimization to our clients. The system can respond fast and autonomously to changes in the grinding circuit while learning from cause-effect relations to enable a better fit between our dynamic models and the clients’ processing line. The company’s motto is “reach optimum, stay optimum,” which is a major challenge for the mineral processing industry due to the difficult conditions in processing plants and the changing circumstances companies operate in. With our AI models, we can help clients “stay optimum.” Results from previous projects have proven that SGC is able to reach 98.9% of the desired capacity within the grinding conditions set by the client, and stabilize and maintain that performance over an extended period of time. In addition, OPTECS also uses AI models for internal purposes to offer better services to our clients, shortening implementation time by half and reducing costs by 60 percent compared to competitors.
Q: What is the return on investment for your clients?
SN: Using our dynamic pricing model we offer our clients, regardless of size and location, a ROI within 1-4 months. Direct benefits for the client include fully autonomous operation, increase in production, decrease energy consumption and reduced shutdown time. There will also be a reduction in the cost of consumables and water usage. Overall, OPTECS’ SGC will lead to a more stabilized and sustainable grinding circuit, allowing companies to produce more with fewer resources. On average, SGC can bring around US$3 million of annual added value for an average sized processing plant. Numbers vary depending on the capacity and degree of improvement which SGC can bring to the process.
Q: How successful has the implementation of SGC been in Mexico and what further potential does the company foresee for it?
JS: OPTECS has two commercial licenses operating in other parts of the world and is now looking to expand business activity to new regions and markets. Mexico is one of these markets due to its leading position in the gold and silver production.
Mexico is a very interesting market to enter as it has large, medium and small mining companies and there is significant room for technology adoption and automation. This represents an excellent opportunity for the company to enter Mexico and boost the industry. Thanks to the company’s low-cost service strategy we can target both the big mining companies as well as smaller mining companies with affordable solutions, which sets us apart in the sector.
Talking to mining companies, we have found that they are actively looking for new solutions and technologies that can further improve their processes, reduce costs and increase sustainability. OPTECS’ mission is not only to be a software solution provider; but to go beyond that and become a trusted partner of mining companies and collaborate towards efficient and more sustainable mineral processing plants and Mining 4.0.
Q: How is the company planning to convince the industry of the benefits of its technology?
JS: One of the company’s goals is to ensure that through the use of AI, the technology can be available for all mining companies regardless of their size or budget. We believe that the best way to convince potential clients is to let them use our solution so that they can experience the benefits for themselves. In this regard we offer our clients a free assessment of their grinding circuit with SGC value proposition and in a second phase an almost free pilot test on their plant. This way, clients will be assured of the benefits of SGC for their processing plant before purchasing the license.
Q: What short-term goals does the company have for the second half of the year?
SN: OPTECS is currently working on two new projects which it will finalize later this year. The overall goal for 2022 is to get three new projects of which at least one in Latin America.
Our goal regarding product development is to make our product more competitive and improve the performance for clients through new features and models; for example, having an integrated control system for the flotation and grinding circuits. OPTECS is also working on new technologically innovative modules for dynamic modeling that can lead to more sustainable and stable grinding and flotation circuits by reducing chemical use and energy consumption.
OPTECS develops advanced control systems for industrial processes using Artificial Intelligence (AI). SGC is the company’s advanced control software for the mineral processing and cement industries, which uses fuzzy logic, genetic algorithm and dynamic modelling to optimize grinding circuits.