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Articles from BLASTING & EXPLOSIVES (169 Articles), DRILLING RIGS (168 Articles)

Smart rig hailed as the 'surgeons' of drilling

Two SmartROC T40 drill rigs working inside the Italcave site in Statte, Italy have been praised for their seemingly surgical precision, operative efficiency and optimised management costs.

Quarrying is a particularly complex activity from a technical and managerial point of view, with profit margins being a key aspect. A carefully designed development plan, optimised in terms of timelines, operation cycles, and the use of technological solutions that unite productivity with limited costs are all factors that help reach this goal.

These considerations form the foundations of Italcave Spa’s extraction activities. Italcave is headquartered in Statte, Italy, in the immediate vicinity of Taranto’s famous iron and steel industrial facility, and is active in the mining, environmental and logistical fields.

For the development of its extractive sites, the company chose two Epiroc (formerly Atlas Copco) SmartROC T40 rigs.

Italcave was founded in 1973 by Saverio Caramia, today still firmly at the helm of the company, to manage and develop an inert calcareous material quarry. The result of the unification of three different extractive sites, today the quarry covers one million square metres.

“At the end of the 1990s, we began diversifying our activities, which today include environmental services, with the creation and management of non-hazardous waste disposal within the areas of the quarry that are no longer in use,” Italcave’s quarry director Giovanna Leone explained. He added that the company also specialises in logistics, with the provision of handling services at the Molo Polisettoriale di Taranto (Multi-Industry Port of Taranto) and “the management of a temporary deposit for petcoke and fossil carbon, as well as tourism”.

The company’s extractive activities are conducted within a step-extracted vertical pit mine with benches no higher than 10 metres and no deeper than about 40m, tied to the static groundwater level. The extraction cycle is broken into five phases. Quarrying the walls of the pit takes place through the use of explosives after the removal of the topsoil, with an average daily blast on a grid of 24 holes measuring 3.5m x 3.5m and 10m in depth, involving an area of about 300m2, to produce about 2700m3 of calcareous ungraded product equivalent to about 5000 tonnes.

The loading, transport and unloading of blasted material occurs via wheel loaders and dump trucks to the loading hopper of the main crushing plant. This is the production site for stabilised natural material (in 0-70mm grain size), stored in mounds, and 70-300mm pieces, partially stored and partially sent via conveyor belt to the secondary crushing and sorting plant. The second round of processing makes it possible to create other product grain sizes (0-4mm mill sand, 5-12mm gravel, 10-20mm gravel, 16-31mm gravel, 40-70mm stones), which can be mixed in varying percentages, according to their intended use.

Italcave’s calcareous pit operation dates back more than 40 years.
Italcave’s calcareous pit operation dates back more than 40 years.

The rigs

To carry out the execution of blast holes in the grid as established by the quarrying plan, Italcave entrusted its operations to the two SmartROC T40 drill rigs – the so-called “surgeons of drilling”.

Quarry banksman Carmelo Stroscio said that due to its sophisticated control program, “the SmartROC T40 top hammer drill rig is easy for the operator to use, offering both elevated production values and low maintenance costs. Thanks to the precise supply of power in each drilling phase, the rig optimises fuel consumption without compromising productivity”.

The SmartROC T40 has a Tier 4 Final/Stage IV-certified Caterpillar C7.1 engine, and AdBlue. It is able to generate up to 168kW of power within a technological package designed to minimise energy losses and maintain a high level of productivity. The operator can manually adjust the volume of the air discharge and the speed of the dust collector fan as needed, so that both systems operate under the program required for the desired performance. The engine and compressor speeds are automatically regulated according to the power demand; three variable displacement hydraulic pumps make it possible to limit the number of downtime engine revolutions, and even the speed of the radiator fan is automatically adjusted.

“Within the comfortable, clean design of the cabin, the operator has full control over the drilling cycle, thanks to the presence of two multi-function joysticks and an icon-based instrument panel,” Stroscio said. “The rigs are equipped with an automatic rod adding system, making it possible to drill to a preset hole length without the operator having to intervene, thereby expanding the life span of the consumables.”

To optimise the machine’s performance and availability, the SmartROC T40 has a limited number of components, a solution that facilitates assistance and maintenance. Compared to similar rigs on the market, this model has 50 per cent fewer hoses and 70 per cent fewer couplings, so as to reduce the risk of leaks. Hydraulic valves and electric modules are distributed and positioned in their usage point, making components easier to access.

Compared to models from the previous generation, the size of the hydraulic tank has been reduced by 65 per cent, a solution that optimises consumption by only supplying the amount of oil necessary for the operation, while also providing more available space and easier service access. In addition, each SmartROC T40 is equipped with double hose drums on the feed, extending the life of the hydraulic hoses, limiting friction and eliminating the need for greasing.

To optimise its performance, the SmartROC T40 is equipped with fewer hoses, couplings and other components.
To optimise its performance, the SmartROC T40 is equipped with fewer hoses, couplings and other components.

Satellite precision

One of the strengths of the SmartROC T40 rigs is the use of satellite positioning via the Hole Navigation System (HNS). The HNS option makes it possible to control the drill pattern via a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver. The HNS can set the hole position, angle and depth as defined in the pre-set drill plan. The result is a perceivable reduction in the drill and blast cost per cubic metre of material produced.

As Stroscio remarked, the HNS “makes it possible not only to position the machine with absolute precision, but also to have maximum control over all execution parameters of the blast holes.

“The rig is guided (in addition to the data coming from the satellite location system) in part based on the results of the geographic correction system found in the quarry, based on a topographical section polygon survey system that surrounds the quarrying site, which makes precision in the order of two to 2.5cm possible. The machine is also equipped with two satellite antennas which make it possible to optimise all drilling execution parameters, such as position, spacing within the grid, angle and depth, ensuring that the explosive blast loads reach maximum efficiency and thus get the best results.

“One further plus deriving from this system was a net improvement in monitoring the depth of the bottom of the quarry, which in this case is also obtained thanks to the maximum precision of the drill depths guaranteed by the HNS.”

The T40 is equipped with two satellite antennas (at the rear) that make it possible to optimise all drilling execution parameters.
The T40 is equipped with two satellite antennas (at the rear) that make it possible to optimise all drilling execution parameters.

Optimised production

As mentioned, quarrying the walls of the mine involves blasting with standardised, micro-delayed explosives, adjusted in the quantity and network of holes to limit noise and vibrations.

“The blast type requires the execution of 24 holes that are 102mm in diameter for a depth of 10m,” Stroscio said. “This allows us to remove more than 2500m3 of materials. The work cycle is almost continuous, according to a schedule that allows for an operational tolerance of at least three blasts to ensure the proper feed of the crushing and sorting plants.

“In this context, the two SmartROC T40 rigs have allowed us to optimise the production process, thanks to two main factors, one linked to the technological and construction properties intrinsic to the machine, and one linked to the HNS satellite positioning system. HNS allows us to carry out the drilling of the blast network with maximum precision, following the quarrying plan and the daily service order, which we manage through the ROC Manager software”.

“In terms of production and yield, in the first months using the machines, those parameters proved to be perfectly in line with the volumes planned for every blast, data confirmed by the load measurements carried out on the dumpers used for the materials,” Piero Pizzulli, Italcave’s head of vehicles and maintenance, said. “Thanks to the excellent degree of drilling precision, even the amount of explosives consumed per cubic metre was optimised, just as the timelines and fuel consumption were thanks to the new engines and a more efficient compressor, hydraulic system and drilling equipment.”

Source: Epiroc

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