Rock Products

JAN 2018

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www.rockproducts.com ROCK products • January 2018 • 31 Let's take a closer look at the evolution toward electronic controls, the main tool that enables the automation of drilling equipment. Over the past decade, increasingly stringent safety regu - lations have required mining operations to adopt complex and sophisticated controls and procedures to meet those regulations, leading to more complicated electrical circuitry and larger and more cumbersome control panels. Operating machinery becomes more difficult for drillers and so does troubleshooting. Computer-based control systems can overcome these chal- lenges. Safety interlocking functionalities, such as rotational barriers and automatic shutdown modes, and preferred operating methods are programmed into the system, sim- plifying circuitry and reducing the size and weight of the control panels. These features make it easier to operate machinery, while meeting industry regulations. The advantages of electronic controls are compelling: Enhanced Safety The number one benefit is significantly improved safety on site. Drillers can operate rigs from off the platform, away from the direct "line of fire." With traditional hydraulic sys- tems, drillers can only be as far away as the hoses to the control panel permit, which means they must remain close to the drill hole and its hazards. But with electronic control systems, drillers can run rigs from remote locations, with pro- tection from potential dangers and even weather conditions. Also, lighter weight and more portable control panels offer an advantage over heavier hydraulic panels for rig moves. With automated systems that encompass the handling of drill rods, drillers are also removed from the risks of injury involved with adding or removing rods from the drill string, including rotating parts, heavy lifting, awkward body posi- tions, pinch points, fatigue and repetitive strain. Increased Productivity A secondary, yet important, benefit is increased produc- tivity. Drilling tasks can be automated to an equivalent or quicker speed than a driller could perform. Electronic controls facilitate unattended drilling, allowing the rig to complete a rod run while drillers undergo a shift change or take a meal break. Drillers also can perform other value-added tasks while the machinery completes the manual tasks. The capability to set operating parameters means the system will automatically shut down drilling if those parameters are breached. This capability also allows supervisors to set parameters for less experienced drillers, so human error is reduced and produc- tivity is maintained. Information for this article courtesy of Boart-Longyear, www.boartlongyear.com. Evolution of Electronic Controls

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