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Delivering predictive maintenance for exploratory drilling with ifm technology


Cortex Intelligent Systems, a company engaged in automated exploratory drilling, is using ifm technology to remotely control the drill rigs under extremely harsh working conditions, with the collaboration resulting in considerable cost-savings for Cortex’s customers.  

Cortex uses ifm CR711S controllers and a suite of ifm sensors including proximity switchers, coders and inclinometers to collect and collate information from the drill rigs. The data is then fed into Cortex’s software program, SYNAPSE, where real-time analysis of mineral samples down-hole allows operators to auto-adjust core processes.  

Cortex founder and managing director, Chris Hold, says collecting such reliable information from the drill rigs would not have been possible without help from the ifm control systems. 

Exploratory drilling is one of the harshest environments you can get on the planet. Electronic equipment in such applications need to withstand extreme heat, highpressured water, fluctuating power and other such issues,” Hold says.  

One of the prime reasons that Cortex works so closely with ifm is the robustness of their equipment under difficult working conditions. We’ve been around the industry for a while and we know that apart from ifm, there are no other products in the market strong enough to do the job.” 

Hold says using the ifm technology to collect data in real-time, the  Cortex SYNAPSE system provides the rig operators full oversight over the entire fleet of rigs. 

A key component for collision avoidance in the ecomatmobile series is the O3M photoelectric 3D sensor.

The real-time data stream allows the operations and maintenance crews located in the metropolitan areas to react to systems alarms and incidents within seconds, often before the operators of the rig are aware of a problem being present,” he says. 

Predictive maintenance is especially critical in mining and quarrying operations that take place in remote areas. If there’s an issue with one piece of equipment, technicians need to drive or fly to the remote site to fix the problem, causing considerable loss in downtime. 

While a lot of the sensors and controllers used with mobile equipment have more or less similar functions as those used with fixed industrial equipment, ifm’s ecomatmobile series control systems are designed specifically to withstand the rugged environments of the mining and quarry sites. 

Aditya Kunder, ifm Australia’s mobile industry sales manager, says all products in the ifm ecomatmobile  series, including controllers, Input/Output (I/O) modules, sensors and cameras, have been designed to withstand extreme conditions such as heat, cold, moisture, dust and vibration to offer maximum reliability in any harsh environment. 

“When we are talking about applications such as drilling or trucks operating on a mining site, we are dealing with high temperature variations, as well as shock and vibration. While previously the same systems traditionally used for fixed machinery were implemented on mobile machines, these systems cannot withstand the extreme conditions that mobile machines are exposed to,” says Kunder. 

Kunder says apart from predictive maintenance, ifm’s ecomatmobile control systems are used extensively for collision avoidance on mine and quarry sites.  

“Quarry sites are often very dusty environments and it’s difficult for the driver to see individuals, particularly when reversing the vehicle. The ifm 3D sensor detects the reflection from the individuals’ vests and sounds an alarm for the operator to stop,” says Kunder. 

To avoid vehicle collision, reliable sensors need to be installed in strategic locations on the vehicle body and the information from these sensors should be effectively communicated to the driver.  

A key component for collision avoidance in the ecomatmobile series is the O3M photoelectric 3D sensor, which measures the distance between the sensor and the nearest surface point by point using the time-of-flight principle.  

The unit illuminates the scene with an external infrared light source and calculates the distance by means of the light reflected from the surface. 

The O3M can be used on mine and quarry sites to detect any object that the sensor is programmed to detect. For example, Kunder says, one quarry site uses the ifm O3M sensors on their moving machines to detect the reflective vests worn by the personnel. 

Once a signal is produced by sensors, controllers need to respond quickly and reliably and provide the signal to actuators.  In addition, a graphical visualisation module ensures the indication of system messages and simple display instruments so the operator can be alarmed immediately. 

From remote control of equipment to predictive maintenance and collision avoidance in mobile equipment, mines and quarry sites are using the rugged ifm sensors and control systems in a range of applications to enhance operational efficiency and safety.  

Kunder says ifm Australia supports its customers with any technical requirements or demonstrations to make sure the solutions deliver what the customer needs. 

“The ifm Australia technical team is always happy to implement solutions for customers that bear the optimum results. We work closely with our customers to integrate our solutions it with their existing systems to deliver to them the best results,” he concludes.  


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