Preventing digger downtimes

An unavoidable aspect of mine site vehicles is the wear and tear that comes from use, age and the inherent harshness of the mining environment.

Being able to predict the life span of a vehicle and take preventative measures to ensure its maximum output is a funda­mental issue in mining.

However, indentifying the way in which a component is wearing internally is almost impossible with out visual inspection.
This results in costly downtimes as the machine is removed from the site and each compo­nent individually inspected to appraise its current rate of wear and tear and its poten­tial working life span.

On top of this, the rate at which a machine’s components wear depends on the role of the machine, its environment and how it is used in the field.

This means machinery often requires a specialist approach to maintenance.

However, there is another, less invasive method to deter­mine machine component wear and tear.
Oil and fluid analysis is the most effective way to moni¬tor vehicle wear without pulling the machine apart.

Komatsu Australia has established a number of Komatsu Oil and Wear Analysis (KOWA) centres across Australia to provide a Condition Monitoring Service for machinery fluid and oil breakdown and analysis.

“This is like a blood test for your machine,” Komatsu business development manager Daniel Hopkin-Jones said.

The process involves taking a sample of oil from a machine prior to servicing, critically analysising which components are wearing and at what rate using data from a number of fluid investigations.
Samples are taken onsite using a KOWA sampling kit, which is then sent to the KOWA laboratory.
“In the lab we identify micro­scopic contaminants, impuri­ties or deposits in your lubri­cants, coolant, grease or fuel and then run these results against your machine history to attribute specific wear and tear trends,” Hopkin-Jones said. 

Any abnormal wear or unusual contamination data uncovered during these tests is processed immediately and reported to an operator who sends the results to the machine owner either online or via
hard copy.

From a series of analyses,the overall remanining life span of a component or engine can be predicted from its current rate of wear and tear.

This allows the machin­ery operator to opportunity to alter the working condi­tions of the vehicle, to effectively prolong its life span.

It also enables the opera­tor to predict the working life span of individual compo­nents and to schedule the most effective maintenance down­times for the machine to replace or repair the worn compo­nents before it unexpectedly fails, which may cause further damage to the overall machin­ery as well as costly unsched­uled downtimes.

This allows operators to maximise the working life cycle and in field availability of a machine.

The process is able to be applied to a number of machines despite its opera­tional age and can also be
tailored to suit vehicles that have had replacement parts fitted and installed.

This preventative program allows for predictive moni­toring of vehicles without inva­sive testing methods that result in removal of the machinery from the field and unneeded downtimes.

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