Distance is the great tyranny of the Australian mining industry.
We have no trouble getting it out of the ground, but getting the ore where we need it to go - that's the problem.
Long conveyors, particularly in surface mining, have addressed this issue, but you still need to provide power and keep them running, all the while their motors facing the harsh mining environment.
Recognising this problem, Voith Turbo has developed a new fluid coupling - the TurboBelt 780 TXPL - for the drives of these belt conveyors.
The company has specially designed these drives for standard asynchronous six or eight pole motors that operate at speeds of 900rpm through to 1200rpm.
According to Voith's Christian Gold, the fluid couplings "are more compact and transmit twice the power that other couplings of the same size could generate," he told Ferret.
A crucial element of the coupling is a new circuit profile, which reduces slip losses by up to 50 per cent.
On top of this, its controlled start up with a precisely dosed introduction of torque is easier on the belt, as well as the entire driveline.
It even allows for start up times of up to several minutes to be individually set in the control system.
A major aspect of the development is the profile of the blade wheels in coupling.
Gold explained that fluid engineers created its profile using numerical techniques of flow simulation, which has allowed the blade wheels to transmit double the power with the same diameter - for example the TurboBelt transfers 1100kW at 900rpm, 1500kW at 1000rpm, and 1900kW at 1200rpm.
Power density is increased due to the direct attachment of the TurboBelt to the motor flange, as well as two flow circuits operating in parallel.
It also requires only half as much installation space compared to traditional couplings, Gold saying "it is easier to install as it is just mounted on to the electric motor, it is also much more compact as well as lighter".
The new wheel profile combined with a double circuit increases power density fourfold - which in turn reduces the coupling dimensions considerably.
By being mounted directly onto the electric motor allowing for pre-installation to be carried out in a workshop, while it also aids in alignment, further cutting down installation times
According to Voith Turbo, the size and weight of the entire coupling has been slashed by half.
Power transmission is also wear free due to its hydrodynamic couplings.
These hydrodynamic couplings provide additional advantages to conveyor belt operators - increased precision when controlling torque transmission protects the belt, in turn extending the conveyor's operational life.
This is because longitudinal and tortional vibrations in the belt can be more effectively avoided.
"The drive motors also run under less strain when using the 780 TXPL coupling, so oversizing them is not necessary anymore," Gold said.
"Even overfilled belt conveyors can be safely started using it, while unloaded conveyors can be run at creep speed."
Ferret was told it has an L10 bearing service life of 80 000 hours, with maintenance of the coupling extremely low - requiring its first overhaul after around 10 to 15 years.
"The coupling is designed for use under extremely harsh environmental conditions," Gold added.
It has a robust steel housing for heavy duty mining operations