Equipment downtime is a key concern for any business that relies on machines. In some industries, downtime can be particularly painful to bear. According to a study from Senseye — a leading machine health management company — “Mining, metals and other heavy-industrial companies lose 23 hours per month of production time to machine failures, at the cost of $187,500 per hour”. This equates to 1.2 million unplanned downtime hours a year, costing companies in this sector $225 billion cumulatively. As a result, the study also found that 87% of large manufacturing and industrial firms collected at least some of the data that can be used to support predictive maintenance.
That's where 3D LiDAR monitoring specialist, Flasheye, comes in. LiDAR is an acronym for “light detection and ranging.” It is sometimes called “laser scanning” or “3D scanning.” This active sensing technology measures relative distance using millions of laser pulses per second reflected back from objects within the sensor's field of view. It's a powerful technology to identify production anomalies and prevent stoppages, malfunctions, and accidents.
The value of rugged technology in raw material mining
The raw material mining industry relies on very high-volume, continuous production to realize efficient return on their investments. Mining companies manage huge amounts of raw material and frequently operate 24 hours a day, often in some of the harshest environmental conditions imaginable that include airborne dust or chemicals, vibrations, and extreme temperatures.
For example, in northern Sweden near where Flasheye is based, temperatures have been recorded as low as -42.3°C (-44.1°F). Because the area is north of the Polar Circle, polar night stretches from December 11 to January 1st, meaning the sun never rises. Mining technology solutions for these types of conditions necessitates the use of components and computers specifically engineered for industrial applications.
Benefits of a predictive maintenance strategy
Not only is downtime financially costly, but equipment failures also present risks to workers, both when the damage occurs and during repairs. This has led mining companies to implement predictive maintenance programs. The goal is to avoid any deviation in production standards that might cause critical consequences for their production, people, or the environment.
"The conveyor belts used for material transportation are one of the most common causes of production variances, unplanned stops, and safety risks," says Flasheye COO, Ida Rehnström. "With 3D LiDAR, we can monitor both the material — including size distribution, foreign objects, volume, leakages — and any unexpected belt sidetracking or movement deviations."
Using real time data and analysis, Flasheye 3D LiDAR technology detects unexpected changes when compared to standard operation models. The unexpected changes could signify spillage or that a piece of equipment needs servicing, for example. The system works in complete darkness as well as direct sunlight, allowing for installation wherever it's needed; a critical feature for the mining industry.
Efficient LiDAR data handling
One of the challenges that Flasheye initially faced in building their solution was managing the large amount of data 3D LiDAR generates. Data handling for their customers needed to be fast enough to ensure that information could be processed in near real time, particularly for safety-critical applications. LiDAR sensors have no inherent data processing capacity, leading Flasheye to develop an LPU (LiDAR Processing Unit) based on OnLogic Industrial Computers.
“Flasheye’s easy software configuration solution and LPU, based on OnLogic industrial computers, helps our customers get started with 3D LiDAR quickly and affordably, and there is no need for former experience in data processing or LiDAR technologies.”- Flasheye COO, Ida Rehnström
Flasheye utilized OnLogic's 30 Day risk-free hardware trial program, TryLogic, to validate their hardware solution. The team ultimately chose the OnLogic Karbon 400 Series of rugged computers. The Karbon 400 was ideal for the Flasheye LPU because of its rugged design, small form factor, wide input power range, and advanced Intel Atom® processing.
The resulting solution is ideal for the harsh conditions that mining operations present. Flasheye has even tested the devices above the Arctic Circle to verify resistance to the extreme cold.
“We selected OnLogic as our hardware provider for the Flasheye LPU because of their high quality product, customization capabilities, excellent sales engineering, solid delivery and responsive support. In our time working with them, it's become clear that OnLogic is a brand you can trust.”- Flasheye CTO, John Carlson
What's next for mining technology?
As evidence of the value that technology holds for the mining industry, Flasheye was recently awarded with one of two prizes for "Best Innovative Idea" in Swedish Mining Innovation’s annual idea competition that took place at the Euromine Expo. They intend to use the prize money to continue researching new ways to help their clients operate more efficiently and more safely. To that end, they're currently testing the OnLogic MK200-70 Edge Server for some of their installations. The system features additional LAN expansion, which would accommodate even more LiDAR sensors. Ultimately, Flasheye hopes to help mining companies focus on efficient processing and reduce costly and dangerous downtime across their facilities.