Rethinking the entire machine
The mine of the future will be electrified and digitalized, realizing a range of benefits ranging from lower emissions and improved working environments to greater productivity and cost savings. Reaching the full potential of electrification and meeting customers’ needs will require rethinking the fundamentals of mine equipment design.
To drive innovation in mining, it’s essential to understand the issues facing mining companies now and in the future, as well as which of those problems are the most pressing. That means every aspect is explored when looking at how mining vehicles are designed and constructed.
In the past ten years the speed of innovation in the underground mining industry has been remarkable. In the first generation of BEVs (battery-electric vehicles), the diesel engine and fuel tank were basically taken out and replaced with a battery. Today the vehicle is built around the battery, with great improvements in efficiency and performance.
We constantly adapt to the latest technologies
“We need to rethink the entire machine starting from the ground up,” says Kyle Hickey, Vice President of Engineering at Sandvik. “We must “throw away” everything from the diesel machine and look at what is really required to make the best battery-electric machine for this industry.” One key, he says, is to look at other sectors to ensure access to cutting-edge technology.
“An important factor when we talk about our BEVs is being able to utilize the latest technology coming from other markets such as automotive and other industrial sectors,” Hickey says. “When we see technologies that could be leveraged for industrial applications we focus a lot on how that can be applied to not only improve the machine but also reduce complexity, reduce cost and improve reliability.”
Hickey predicts that the next few years will see continued development. “I think we’ll see the biggest advancements in the area of battery technologies,” he says. “Just as in the automotive market, batteries are rapidly evolving, and every year there are new advancements. It is key that we constantly adapt to the latest technologies and stay at the edge of what is possible.”
The mine of the future is very much electrified and digitalized
A strong global momentum for electrification is boosting customer interest in the technology, further helping the pace of innovation.
In terms of electrification, it is very easy today to get customers on board, says Mikko Valtee, Manager Applied Research at Sandvik. “We are co-learning,” he says. “We learn from them and they learn from us.”
More sustainable mining
The direction for the mining industry seems clear. “For me, the mine of the future is very much electrified and digitalized,” says Jani Vilenius, Director Technology Development and Services at Sandvik. “It is great to be part of the technology shift that is going on in the industry. There are many mines in the world, and we can influence the future through more sustainable solutions.”
Elina Pykköö, Vice President, Product Development and Product Management at Sandvik, echoes that view. “Making the shift, advancing the world through engineering,” she says, “it’s a great opportunity to be part of the journey with our customers to introduce more sustainable, more productive and safer mining.”