The first hangup assessment and clearing robot has been installed in a Chilean copper mine.
Penguin Automated System’s unit, which is operating at Codelco’s Andina mine, was built to service the growing number of block caving operations, in an effort to increase safety and clear blockages on site without exposing operators to unnecessary risk.
“Of the estimated 200,000 drawbells in the world’s block caving operations, up to 10 per cent of them are blocked at any one time,” Penguin CEO Greg Baiden explained, highlighting the need for a robotic system for the procedure.
The Unit features an arm that reaches 4.6 metres horizontally and ten metres vertically through the throat of a drawbell.
At the end of the arm are 3D cameras, an infrared lighting system, drill, and shot loader.
It scans the inside of the drawbell, creating a virtual map of the hangup by collecting point cloud data in real time, using optical receivers.
“Typically, optical signals have to be point-to-point and aimed right on line, which would have been a problem, but we developed a way to collect the optical information in a 70-m hemisphere all around the receiver,” Baiden said.
It then allows an operator to remotely control the machine to position the arm, drill a hole, and then load the charge to remove the blockage.
The unit was also designed to overcome the issues of operating in limited or compact spaces by allowing the arm to extend fully horizontally, and then vertically.
The vertical arm is supported by a stinger that extends to the ground.
Penguin’s unit is fully electric and operates without emissions, making it safer for underground use.
Additionally it “is so quiet that Codelco wanted it equipped with beepers and lights so it could warn underground personnel of its approach,” Baiden added.
“There are several other potential applications for a robot with these capabilities – in sublevel cave mines and ore passes, as well as for explosives dismantling, environmental disaster response, or cleanup and remediation work at a nuclear power plant like Fukushima in Japan – where the Penguin robot can access and perform complex tasks without putting people at risk.”