An increased emphasis on productivity, improving equipment up-time and a lot of emphasis on automation or semi-automation, are some areas of key focus Buschling identified as emerging issues in longwall equipment R&D.
Joy is supporting the ACARP driven longwall automation project in Australia and will be supplying the AFC to the Beltana project of Enex Resources in NSW. The mine is the designated site for fitting and testing aspects of the automation technology within the research project.
“What the industry would be interested in would be a fully automated system on demand but that’s probably well into the future,” he said.
Buschling predicts that horizon control issues will be one of the major issues to be overcome before full automation can be realized.
“It is an even more complicated issue than just staying in-seam because in some cases you need to leave a certain amount of coal in order to have roof control or because of added sulphur content. What is complicated is understanding where the seam is you want to cut. It isn’t outside the realm of possibility but it’s not imminent,” he said.
In other company news, recent major equipment releases include the 14CM27 high voltage mid-seam miner, unveiled as a prototype at MINExpo in Las Vegas in 2000. Prototype testing has since been completed and this calendar year Joy is already produced six of these miners for the US market.
“We did 460,000 tons with that [prototype] machine but we didn’t want to go any further than that because from an R&D perspective I wanted to tear the machine apart to see what was happening rather than doing forensics,” Buschling said.
An independent evaluation conducted on the prototype suggests it is capable of 40% improvement in cutting and loading rate over industry standard 14CM15, Buschling said.
With seams lowering all over the world miners like the 14CM27 – with a cutting height of 3.5m and below – is expected to be of greater interest in the next 2-3 years.
The machine will be 2300 volt in the US and is expected to be 3300 volt for other markets such as Australia and South Africa.
Another new release is Joy’s Flexible Conveyor Train (FCT), as a replacement for other forms of mass haulage, and is particularly well suited to bord and pillar or entry development operations.
Joy has made FCT’s before but the latest version offers significant improvements on previous models.
The machine has been simplified and is more robust; traction systems have been reduced and variable frequency drives introduced for straight driveage.
The belted unit, which requires only one operator, can extend to 450 feet, allowing a mine to extend to nine-entry development, as opposed to seven.
According to Buschling, the FCT coupled with Joy’s “Dynamic Move Up” unit reduces the requirement to perform belt moves to roughly once a week.
“In a mine where you need high production it is able to take the coal away from the face as fast as you can cut it.
“In the US with the FCT and our 12CM27 a mine has achieved 4,700 tons in a shift with a 6,200 ton/day average over two shifts; rivalling the output of small longwalls,” Buschling said.
Equipment design within Joy is moving towards greater emphasis on modular designs, and utilising standard componentry across several machines. The major benefits are a lowering of inventory levels carried by both the OE and by customers.
The same universal variable frequency drive for example runs on the FCT and the 14CM27 and will be put onto 12CM27s as an upgrade. Work is underway to look at using the same drive on shearers.
Buschling said the market could expect news of other exciting equipment developments around mid-year.