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Meeting mining motor and drive demands

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Ferret speaks to Rockwell Automation 's drives product manager Andrew Hoch about how motors and drives are meeting mining's demands.

Ferret: As mining expands to deeper and more extreme locations, what is required from motors and drives to meet these demands?
 
Andrew Hoch: A trend in the mining industry that is becoming increasingly apparent is the role of drives in mining operations. Drives are becoming much more common across a variety of mining disciplines as they provide the benefits of improving process control and energy savings.
 
F: What are the biggest developments in mining technology?
 
AH: As a result of challenging market conditions, higher production requirements and increasingly stringent environmental standards we are seeing mining companies placing enormous emphasis on optimising their operations.
Leading companies are investing in technology to improve automation, safety and productivity of their operations. Customers are realising the benefits that an integrated drive and control system can provide.
Complete integration and interoperability between the control system, drives, motors and HMIs deliver increased uptime by simplifying the design and commissioning process, assisting with maintenance and troubleshooting whilst also providing increased data from the field to improve visibility of machine operation.
The integrated architecture platform from Rockwell Automation enables optimisation of site operations. The platform promotes agility through connectivity between the HMI, controller and drive systems; productivity improvements through the ability to see and act on critical machine parameters and sustainable production for mining applications.
 
F: Have there been any advances in the reliability of motors and drives in mining?
 
AH: While the reliability of motor and drive technologies are improving, it is inevitable that there will come a time when they will fail or require maintenance.   
Drives can provide information to help predict when there may be a problem, before it escalates and results in significant downtime. We are seeing mining operations increasingly utilising remote diagnostics to identify, isolate and then fix the problem to minimise downtime. This allows the use of offsite skill sets during commissioning and fault finding.
Key to the success of this philosophy is the power of Ethernet/IP connected drive and control systems. Ethernet/IP also allows for the automatic configuration of drives that have been replaced. This can greatly increase the time to get a drive system operational in a breakdown situation.
Once a maintenance issue is determined utilising modular products that are easy to repair and diagnose uptime can be improved by reducing the mean time to repair which is the ideal outcome for mining operations.  
 
F: Can an integrated system provide improved safety for mining operations?
 
AH: Mining operations are large scale production facilities with a variety of processes occurring simultaneously over a large and potentially multi-site area. Having an integrated system provides many benefits throughout the lifecycle of a project.  
Productivity can be increased through integrating information, automation and power systems with an Integrated Architecture platform. Safety is an important consideration in mines and integration allows for the coordination of discrete motion, process and safety control.  
With regards to safety, we are also seeing an increased movement towards utilising Category 3 Safe Torque Off for stopping of drive/motor systems.
 
F: What do you think will be the trends of the future in mining technology?
 
AH: The mining industry is moving very much towards requiring real time data and insight into production dynamics so there is no doubt that mining will continue to become more data intensive.
As a result of this we are likely to see more mining operations optimising and integrating their processes with a focus on monitoring a very granular view of how the mine is running.
Technology is continuing to improve and the reliability of EtherNet/IP is such that we will see more companies utilising remote diagnosis, maintenance and troubleshooting and commissioning.  
Customers are increasingly requiring highly detailed information from the operation of specific machines. Of particular interest is real time power monitoring.
As the global mining industry is facing many challenges, companies will continue to invest in innovation and integration to face these challenges and optimise their mining operations.  

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