GKN Wheels reported that it has addressed a current issue facing truck-fleet customers in the global mining industry, launching a new system known in the industry as “Bigfoot.”

Mining operations today are facing challenges of tire shortages, specifically on the widely used 57-in. size tires. Given this situation, GKN Wheels has developed an innovative system to allow a 63-in. rim assembly to be adapted to a 57-in. hub for the Unit Rig MT4400 haul truck. This allows mining operations to retrofit the larger, more readily available 63-in. tire on haul trucks that would normally use only standard 57-in. rims and tires.

Australia-based Downer Mining created the Bigfoot concept to alleviate the risk of short supply in the standard tire size for 240-ton-capacity haul trucks. In order to take the project from concept to solution, Downer Mining approached GKN Wheels.

GKN Wheels North American Technical team collaborated with Caterpillar Unit Rig engineers to develop a solution that adapted to the truck without interfering with the standard components.

The technical engineering work for the rim arrangements was carried out at GKN’s Technical Center in Chicago, Illinois, USA, with manufacturing at GKN’s facility in China. Downer Mining now uses the product at its mining operation in Western Australia.

Commenting on the program, Downer Mining Executive General Manager Plant, Danny Boyling said, “We challenged the engineers to develop a product that would resolve the tire availability issue, and as a result of the collaboration between GKN Wheels and the Caterpillar Unit Rig, the Bigfoot program has produced an innovative and effective solution.

“Bigfoot provides us with many advantages, including increased productivity and tire life, with a reduction in potential tire stress and mechanical heat separation events. The predicted benefits run into the millions of dollars for a medium-size fleet haul truck. This all equates to a very attractive tire option for our production teams. With demand severely outweighing global production capacity of the 57-in. tire, Bigfoot helps to prevent truck downtime and ensures that mine productivity is not threatened by tire availability,” he added.

GKN said it is increasingly expanding its capability within the mining market, highlighted by the launch of its Swift Wheel Technologies range at MINExpo 2012. As the company explained, the time required for the inspection, maintenance and replacement of wheels on heavy mining equipment creates a significant cost consideration for mining operators. Changing tires on large wheels also requires considerable care to ensure personnel safety.

Designed to reduce the time involved in these tasks, GKN’s new 63-in. Swift Change Mega haul truck rim has a double gutter design, which the company claims minimizes the time needed for tire changes, leading to increased on-site productivity. The Swift Change Rim also offers improved safety for tire maintenance personnel.

Jules Carter, global engineering and product development director at GKN Wheels, said, “The new range of larger mining wheels complements and extends our existing product lines and will enable us to meet the needs of the mining marketplace in China and throughout Australasia. Trial wheels have been running on Caterpillar and Komatsu mining trucks in the Asia Pacific region since 2009 and are performing strongly, attracting some positive customer feedback.”

GKN also introduced its new Swift ID Chip technology at MINExpo. This, said the company, will allow operators to access key information on the wheel with a scanning device. Initially, the data chips will allow access to manufacturing date, operational hours and maintenance due dates. The product, according to the company, represents the first stage in a phased program that will progressively provide operators with the ability to monitor a range of information relating to aspects of wheel operation.

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