Current trends within the global mining industry seem to be following convergent paths leading to a major milepost labeled “Do more, with less.” In the surface equipment sector, this is illustrated by the gradual shift toward larger but fewer units in mine loading and haulage fleets. With such large shares of hourly production riding on fewer trucks, shovels and support equipment—and with the capability for autonomous mining operations waiting just over the horizon—the role of comprehensive maintenance training in a company’s strategic business plan will continue to expand.
Against this backdrop, many mining companies face the problem of obtaining quality technical training for their employees, and continue to seek ways to transfer technical knowledge from experienced employees to less-seasoned technicians. In the fall of 2010, Flanders Electric addressed one of these challenge head-on by staging its first Electrical Engineers Technical Conference.
The conference, which Flanders expects to conduct annually in the future, brought together mine electrical supervisors, planners and engineers to Flanders’ headquarters in Evansville, Indiana, USA, where they attended technical sessions led by subject experts. Jed Jensen, director of Flanders’ training academy, provided the following synopsis of the inaugural event.
The academy’s mission, he explained, is to provide high-quality training experiences within the Flanders organization and externally to customers worldwide. The conference’s instructional program consisted of classroom lectures and discussions along with shop tours, demonstrations and hands-on lab sessions. Topics included Ward Leonard loop control and protection, power quality, AC and DC drives, substation design, and Babbitt and thrust bearings. Sessions also covered synchronous motor control and protection and motor design and repair considerations.
The focus was on high-level technical training in practical aspects of electrical maintenance for management-level electrical staff. Industry standards were outlined and application-issues specific to the mining industry were presented.
A synchronous motor control and protection presentation included lab exercises to reinforce presentation discussions. This training session featured discussions on the theory and components of induction motors and differences exhibited in the operation of synchronous motors. The application and use of synchronous motors, the purpose of synchronous motors and the advantages offered to the synchronous motor user were addressed in detail.
The conference gave participants an opportunity to learn more about issues and considerations that accompany the design of new motors. Attendees also were given a series of lab tests and exercises to familiarize them with testing procedures involved in the manufacture and repair of electrical motors. This hands-on experience served to solidify the information presented in the classroom.
The topic of hydrodynamic bearing maintenance received thorough attention. The construction and use of the bearings were explored, bearing care considerations were discussed and performance indicators, causes of bearing failure and bearing inspection techniques were presented. This session generated a great deal of discussion on methods to improve the use of hydrodynamic bearings in practical applications.
The group spent time discussing Ward Leonard loop control systems and the application of these systems. During these discussions and lab exercises, course participants learned the principles, development and control of Ward Leonard loops. The lab session for this section featured electrical acceptance and maintenance tests, and included a motor and generator load test.
When the topic of discussion moved to variable-speed drives, the course work began with a review of the parts and theory of various types of drives. Drive components and drive topology began the discussion and practical aspects of dealing with power difficulties caused by drives were a major part of the drives discussion. This portion of the conference included a lab session during which participants were able to see a live demonstration of Flanders Electric-designed AC drives controlling a Flanders Electric MAC 1024 motor directly coupled to two GE 824 motors.
A session devoted to substation design, protection and grounding provided participants with a generic specification for a portable mine duty substation and included discussion of each of the component parts of those substations. The participants gained a better understanding of the requirements of substations and the manner in which the parts of substations work together to provide a functional power supply system.
Jensen described the week-long conference as “highly successful, as evidenced by the comments received. One of the participants commented ‘the instructors’ willingness to share their knowledge and desire to have participants thoroughly understand technical issues, confirmed their passion for their specific field.’”
Web App Offers Mining Avatars for Social Networking
Mining software developer Gemcom recently launched its Mining Buddy Builder online app which enables people in mining to create their own avatars for social media applications, user forums, instant messaging, mobile phones, computer desktop wallpapers and other uses in the digital world. The free app, available at www.miningbuddybuilder.com, takes visitors on an animated adventure through an underground mine where they can quickly create likenesses of themselves.
According to Gemcom, a recent survey of mining professionals indicated 82% of respondents use social media both professionally and personally. Of these users, Facebook is used by 73%, LinkedIn by 39% and Twitter by 26%. In mining, an industry facing the many challenges associated with living in a global community, the use of social media and instant messaging tools is becoming a common way of connecting individuals across borders and time zones. The mobility of people in the industry, and the entry of younger, media-savvy workers, is only accelerating its adoption.
According to Gemcom’s survey, only 56% of users upload their actual photo to online profiles. Among the reasons why users would want to use alternative profile images in social media applications, are the loss of control over their photo and simply not wanting to share it with the world. Gemcom’s Mining Buddy Builder gives people the flexibility to visually represent themselves and their interests without giving up control over their photos. Mining Buddy avatars can be used across multiple social networking and communication tools such as AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more.
In addition to launching the Mining Buddy Builder app, Gemcom also unveiled a new, redesigned Web site (www.gemcomsoftware.com) offering downloadable resources for the mining industry. Visitors can browse through a selection of webinars and videos covering a wide variety of software-related mining topics ranging from geology, optimization, planning, scheduling and more. The new Web site also includes white papers on numerous exploration and mining subjects, and customer stories that review real-world applications of technology from exploration through mine production management.