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The STA is a new type of scooptram (LHD) used for underground mining. The fully automated and battery driven LHD breaks new ground in safety and efficiency when it comes to the process of loading, hauling and dumping content from the mine. The automated vehicle does not require a driver and therefor brings the miner into protected safe zones within the mine. The battery provides a green solution of energy which is not relying on ventilation which is in most cases the highest production cost in an underground mine.
The new “Grizzly” grid provides a better solution for the process of dumping the content of the bucket into underground shafts. The grid focuses on separating boulders from the rest of the load facilitating the process of crushing boulders. This process saves time and energy, increasing the efficiency of extracting the content from the mountain.
The term project of the Advanced Product Design Program at Umeå Institute of Design was held in collaboration with LKAB and Atlas Copco. LKAB is the worlds largest underground mine extracting iron ore from the very northern part of Sweden.Atlas Copco is the worlds leading provider of industrial productivity and was a collaborative partner throughout the project.The initiation of the project started with a field trip going down 1365 meters below ground level to explore the complexity of the mining process. During the field trip interviews with workers and miners were conducted to receive a bigger understanding of their daily work and their professional needs.
Working in a mine includes an extreme environment and is a dangerous work place for the miners. The surroundings are dark and unsecured walls and ceilings as well as seismic activities of the mine remains a risk for the workers. A strong focus point for many mining companies is to get people out of the mine and into safe zones.
The market of battery driven LHD’s is very limited. Semi automated LHD’s exists but fully automated vehicles is a greater approach to create a more efficient and safer environment. The solution provides the mine with the opportunity to bring the supervisor of the vehicle into an environment far from where the LHD is working and reduces the risks the miner would otherwise face. An automated vehicle also reduces the risks of damaging the vehicle which is otherwise most commonly done by the driver of the vehicle.
Underground mines are also facing the problem of reducing ventilation which is mainly used for the diesel fuelled vehicles in the mine. The stress of ventilation costs is universal for most underground mining businesses as it can reach 30% of the total running costs in a mine. Costs also increases as the mine has to increase in size or in depth. Going deeper down the mine also increases the danger for the miners and therefor the focus of bringing the miners into safe zones is of highest priority.
The process of dumping the iron ore into the mine shafts can be time consuming and wearing on machines. As the LHD dumps the load into the shaft, some pieces (boulders) are to big to fit. A “pedestal boom” is then used to crush the boulders into smaller pieces thus making them fall down the shaft. The crushing is a remote controlled task and can take minutes to manage. During this period the LHD remains static in the waiting of dumping the iron ore. This procedure is costing the company up to 10% of its capacity in loading the shafts.
The choice of battery power reduces the need of ventilation and creates a cleaner and less noisy environment in the mine. The energy source is based on carbon dual batteries which are superior in power and efficiency. The point of creating a battery driven vehicle is that electric power is the future. Electricity is superior from the point of view that it is energy efficient and the purest form of energy we know today. The electric vehicles are up to 70 % more energy efficient than diesel options and provides significant cost savings. With green energy the ventilation may be reduced and save profit for the company in line with being more environmental friendly. ??A pantograph on top of the LHD raises automatically when reaching areas with electrical infrastructure in the ceiling. This provides the battery with new energy as well as the electrical engines inside of the wheels.
The new grizzly grid divides the boulders from the shaft making it possible to continuously unload while the pedestal boom is crushing the boulders saving the company both time and money.
The STA is acquired by the mining company and brings greener and cheaper energy as well as higher efficiency through automated driving. The main user of the vehicle, the miner, is in charge of supervising the vehicle and remote controlling it when needed. The user benefits from not having to sit in a rough and boisterous environment within dangerous zones of the mine. Instead he or she may position themselves in a ergonomically adapted environment within a greater safety area.
The main target group is high standard mining companies which are planning on long term investments in continuous running or expansions of their mine. Regulations on safety and environmental friendly solutions creates a gap in the market where the STA stands in line with what many mining companies are missing today. The providing of spare parts and service is done by the manufacturer of the LHD as well as updating and improving the product.
The greatest challenge in the design process was to realise a fully automated LHD which puts the miners into the safe zones. Facing a new market when making a fully automatic vehicle brings the challenge of making a vehicle with a trust worthy design and understandable semantics. A challenge was also how to visualise that the energy source is coming from a battery and communication in how to plug in, maintain and eventually replace the battery as it runs out of power. Maintenance areas and how to reach these was also a part of the challenging design work for this extreme industrial vehicle.
For the Grissly grid the main design challenge was how to make a sustainable construction which is not relying on hydraulics nor external energy and does not require any moving parts. The construction were also to be able to mount and dismount on place where the shaft is located.
The STA scooptram + the Grizzly Grid is a unique concept of a battery driven and fully automated LHD together with a new solution for underground shafts. Together it is a realistic vision of of how the near future will look like within the mining industry.
Incredible collaboration in the sense that the overall aesthetic works well, and the solutions went really deep into process.