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Ground engaging tool monitoring could save billions

12 October, 2011

AN Austrian and Australian partnership has developed a system that is said to address a billion dollar mining industry challenge.

Identec Solutions has launched what it has dubbed the “i-GET”, a device that monitors ground engaging tools (GET), the large steel teeth that are affixed to the bucket of mining diggers.

"Ensuring the safety of personnel while significantly enhancing operational visibility and control has been our mandate from the beginning," Frank Wehus, General Manager, Centre of Excellence, Oil & Gas, Tunnel & Mining at identic Solutions said.

"It was obvious that the industry was in need of a highly reliable solution that was easily integrated while also ensuring absolutely no change to current site operations…i-GET is set to have a tremendous impact on ensuring the safety of personnel as well as in the prevention of production and material losses."

The GET are consumable wear components that are designed to penetrate the earth while also protecting the bucket hardware from damage. However, serious problems can arise when GET break off. In the event a GET contaminates a truck load of ore and is tipped into the crusher it can jam and significantly damage the crusher or be violently ejected and potentially injure onsite personnel.

Extraction of a GET from a crusher is exceptionally dangerous, while the repair of damaged equipment can take days. Estimated to cost the mining industry between one to five per cent of total production each year, broken GET are a multi-billion dollar problem.

To address this industry challenge, Identec Solutions, in partnership with Perth-based Encore Automation, developed the world's first "intelligent GET" – a technological breakthrough in the real-time, wireless sensing of GET components.

"Broken GET are a massive global problem for the mining industry," Ian Hamilton, Managing Director of Encore Automation, said.

"Until now, there has not been an effective technology available that suits every digger type, operates under any mine conditions and is completely maintenance free. i-GET delivers all this, and benefits the miners with incredible safety, efficiency and productivity gains."

Inside each GET or "tooth" a small encased micro-size sensor is placed. Designed to fit easily into a digger's hollowed GET, the typical replacement of worn GET components requires absolutely no change to current procedures. Highly robust, further protection from extreme temperatures, pressure, shock and vibrations is assured by the sensors bullet proof encasing.

All sensed data is processed by the solutions i-GET software. In the event a tooth breaks off from the digger, the i-GET software issues a real-time alert via a visual cue to a screen in the digger operator's cabin as well as other infrastructure to inform management and operations of the event.

Once the operator receives an alert, the digger with the damaged GET ceases work, the damaged GET is retrieved and mining operations recommence. For added assurance, GET sensors can be read even when buried in ore enabling a second check point where haul trucks pass through a fixed reader installation. Hand held readers allow personnel to locate missing GET in the ore.

The return on investment to a mine upon installation can usually be realised in a matter of days.

"Innovation is about constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible," Gerhard Schedler, President & CEO of Identec Solutions said.

"Ten, even five years ago we could not have imagined imbedding wireless- intelligence in a diggers GET, or on a bottle or boxes for real-time information on its content levels. We have only just begun to tap into the application possibilities of asset intelligence."

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