Sandvik digitises mechanical cutting equipment to improve safety

29th September 2020 By: Simone Liedtke - Writer

In addition to performance and extensive safety features, engineering company Sandvik says its mechanical cutting equipment also offers effective digital solutions to boost productivity, reduce operating costs and maximise equipment lifetime.

One such mechanical cutting equipment solution is Cutronic, or the Sandvik MH621, which is an automated cutting system for increasing productivity and improving mechanical cutting accuracy.

The hard-rock miner is an electrically powered and crawler-mounted roadheader that is engineered to excavate roadways and galleries in strong rock formations.

This heavy-duty machine also has a powerful transverse cutter head mounted on a telescopic cutter boom and is designed to excavate rock with high compressive strengths.

Other advantages of the automated mechanical cutting system include improved safety features (like ensuring a safe underground working condition and less operational hazards); the availability of different cutter heads for a wider range of rock conditions and applications; as well as various digitalisation options like the Cutronic, which enables semi-autonomous machine operation and increases customer value.

These digitalised options also increase the machine life “because it optimises the way the machines are always used,” Sandvik sales support director Thomas Vallant said during a September 29 virtual conference hosted by Sandvik.

Available in a programmable logical controlled variant, Vallant said the technology had been in development “for a number of years” after having first been trialed at a German underground mine, with roadheaders.

Roadheaders are often a more cost-efficient alternative and eliminate the need for drilling, blasting, mucking and reducing ground support costs.

Rock is conveyed directly onto haul trucks as the roadheader continuously carves out an accurate tunnel, minimising overbreak.

“With the roadheader you just don’t see the blast damage. You don’t shock the ground,” said a customer testimonial during a panel discussion at the virtual Sandvik Innovation in Mining conference.

The automated cutting system was birthed from a strong demand from customers in the global market, explained Sandvik roadheaders and digitalisation product manager Uwe Restner, who added that the system formed part of the company’s future digital offering strategy.

“The plan is to have a phased development with intermediate targets, which can then be rolled out to the market as a single product,” he said.

However, he added that the company’s automated approach had led to the system being an underground mechanical cutting machine that could operate autonomously and be brought to surface using a tele-remote station.

While the automated mechanical cutting machine have onboard artificial intelligence, such as the Cutronic system, Restner said the machines would also be equipped with an offboard tele-remote station, which “provide a safer and a more convenient working environment for the machine operators”.

It also provides a significant gain in machine utilisation, as the machine can be kept in operation during shift changes.

In terms of the current development status of the tele-remote operation project, Sandvik mechanical cutting commercial parts and services director Jurgen Grossing mentioned that the company had “been working on remote monitor for several months”.