Current methods for rock breaking pose challenges for mining operations. Rocks are passed through a screen to be crushed, but rocks that are too big must be crushed separately by an operator, which reduces productivity and increases expenses. Automating the rock-breaking process would increase efficiency, but existing technology can’t program machines to respond to the variables in rock sizes.
Sudbury-based Rock-Tech, a manufacturer of equipment for underground mining, is developing a semi-autonomous system that will give it a competitive advantage and help realize the company’s goal of commercializing a first-of-its-kind, fully autonomous system. The system increases productivity by allowing one worker to operate multiple rock breakers at once and minimizes losses due to product damage. It is also safer for operators.
Rock-Tech partnered with Cambrian College to develop the main component of its semi-autonomous rock breaking system, a customizable grizzly screen that can better handle rocks of various sizes. The project was funded by OCE’s Voucher for Industry Association (VIA) program, offered in partnership with the Ultra-Deep Mining Network (UDMN), managed through the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI). Two students, Emma Tugwood and Justin Midena, were engaged to develop the grizzly screen, taking the lead on all aspects from design to welding. Upon completing the project, the students had gained enough welding experience to become Level 2 apprentices, making them significantly more employable.
The grizzly screen now forms the centrepiece of Rock-Tech’s recently completed product testing and showcase centre. The company’s semi-autonomous rock breaking system, which has already garnered interest from large mining companies in Canada and abroad, is expected to be launched in the fall of 2017. After the commercialization of its current system, Rock-Tech will continue R&D of a fully autonomous rock breaker.
Return on Innovation
- When fully developed, technology will generate an estimated $5 million a year
- Rock-Tech estimates hiring 10+ full-time employees in the next few years as a result of the technology
- OCE Investment: $100,000
OCE©2016 Last updated 10/2016