Drone survey and inspection specialist Rocketmine has designed and developed the digital twin solution that enables mine operators to successfully visualise and monitor mining operations through three-dimensional (3D) technology. Mining assets and operations can be monitored and managed in real time through data input.
With the increasingly complex nature of mining operations, mining professionals continue to seek technology that will assist with the optimal functionality of these operations. The digital twin technology aids in this functionality.
This technology, that has been in developmental progress over the past three years, provides users with a complete digital visualisation of all the functions and processes of a mine at any time.
“The digital twin is a virtual 3D replica of all physical assets, structures and equipment at a mine site. It is an accurate and dynamic copy of the real-world assets and serves as a base line for data input that takes place through supervisory control and data acquisition (Scada),” explains Rocketmine business development manager Devon Hasenbroek.
He notes that the digital twin is not only a 3D replica of physical assets but also an open and connected working data environment. It is equipped with functional intelligence such as material information about the plant and all its working components.
“While the 3D replica is extremely detailed and quite appealing to look at, each asset is represented in the virtual model in extreme detail. This allows for operations to run smoothly, pre-emptive and preventive maintenance to be conducted, as well as remote functionality, which has been an extreme benefit during the current pandemic.”
Hasenbroek explains that Rocketmine uses the Microsoft HoloLens 2, which is an augmented reality headset that enables individuals who are working remotely to see everything that is happening on site.
“There are instances during the pandemic, where engineers are unable to be on site. The augmented reality headset enables the engineer, who is working remotely, to see everything that the wearer, such as mineworkers, can see on site,” he explains.
The benefits of the digital twin range from an “all immersive view” of every mine asset to timeline changes, with constant updates, owing to new data that is collated as and when changes and maintenance take place, serving as a single source of truth.
“Of all the benefits provided by the digital twin, the greatest feature of this technology is that it allows for minimum downtime and preventive maintenance,” Hasenbroek notes.
The technology enables mine operators and engineers to see which assets or components are not functioning optimally: “If a certain component needs to be maintained, mine operators and engineers can see if there are other components that can run at a higher capacity to limit downtime or how much time will be lost during the maintenance”.
Meanwhile, the digital twin is an ongoing project between mines that would make use of this technology as assets are constantly updated. Hasenbroek explains that the extremely detailed and data-intensive nature of the digital twin means that it is a long-term project.
“This could easily be a five-year project between Rocketmine and the mine. The reality capture and building of the 3D model can take up to six months, with the data input and asset tagging taking between six and 12 months. The Scada input can also take between six and 12 months, with scenario planning aspects and components adding to this timeline.”
Hasenbroek notes that the digital twin is being implemented at the flagship mines of two large mining houses in South Africa and adds that, while the entire process takes place at different levels – increasing in capacity and complexity at every level – the benefits and rewards for mining operations are “endless”.
“We are at the forefront of high technology advancements and the applications could extend far beyond mining,” he concludes.