After a decade of continual learning and progress in developing autonomy within the mining industry through ARDVARC, FLANDERS is excited to be celebrating 10 years as a leader in the development of advanced drill-rig control systems.
ARDVARC is a premier drill-rig control system offering multiple levels of autonomy for multi-pass, vertical, angle, hammer and rotary drilling applications. By applying ARDVARC technology to an existing OEM drill, customers have seen improvements in safety, productivity, availability, machine life and fragmentation. However, this highly sophisticated technology was just getting its start 10 years ago and we are excited to share the story with you.
History of ARDVARC
In 2006, a large surface mining customer requested repair and troubleshooting of its electric drill motors. It was concluded the shortened motor life was due to the improper control of the motor drive system. FLANDERS proposed a solution to upgrade the drives, resulting in a custom solution providing better overall drill productivity. The upgrade of the drive converted the use of monitoring the RPM (varying levels of drilling speed) to the use of monitoring torque (varying levels of drilling pressure). This upgrade ultimately became a primary feature of FLANDERS’ current ARDVARC One-Touch drill system. This collaboration resulted in 20% increase in productivity for the mining customer.
Based upon the increase in productivity, the following year FLANDERS was engaged to develop autonomous technology for all of the mining company’s drills. Using the ARDVARC One-Touch, the operator simply positioned the machine over the desired drilling target, and with a touch of a button, the machine completed the remainder of the drilling process: leveling the machine, collaring the hole, drilling to desired elevation, retracting the drill string and resetting the jacks in preparation for the next propel cycle. The One-Touch drill control system provided status of the machine, allowing the machine operator to simultaneously evaluate drill functionality and drilling elevation. As a result, the first iteration of the autonomous effort was the completion of the ARDVARC One-Touch drill control system.
In addition to converting the drills from manual operation to a One-Touch drill system, FLANDERS also provided high precision GPS for the operator by integrating the drill’s existing GPS system into a guidance screen for the HMI (Human Machine Interface). When FLANDERS added full data collection and data transport features, it allowed for designed hole pattern information to be wirelessly sent to the drill, eliminating the need for the operator to manually survey each drill location. This provided operator assistance through live onscreen feedback of current location versus the desired location, increasing the positional accuracy. The data collected through the ARDVARC One-Touch system allowed the customer to compare and realize a 22% increase in productivity, compared to manual drilling. By the end of 2008, over a dozen ARDVARC equipped drills were in production in the U.S. and Indonesia.
While the One-Touch drill system functionality was a great first step toward full autonomy, the same customer envisioned this fully autonomous drill as a part of a fully autonomous mine. FLANDERS has always been driven by the need to develop better products and techniques and was up for the challenge.
By 2010, FLANDERS engineers had produced their first fully autonomous drilling solution which provided accurate and precise autonomous positioning on the designed blast hole and safety monitoring of the surrounding area for obstacles and hazards using the FLANDERS HazCam 3D imaging system. This breakthrough in automation resulted in up to 30% productivity gain over manual drilling.
By the end of 2013, FLANDERS had deployed seven ARDVARC systems in Australia, two fully autonomous ARDVARCs with special mobile command centers in the U.S. and fully autonomous ARDVARC drills in South Africa and Brazil. Today over 65 ARDVARC installations have been completed with operation in six countries.
FLANDERS COO, Allen Patterson notes, “Our approach to doing business is captured with our tagline, ‘Listen. Innovate. Serve.’ Solving customer problems has driven us since the beginning. Our employees are our greatest asset because we’re all of the same mindset – which is to serve and solve problems for our customers.”
Future of ARDVARC
The future of ARDVARC will be just as innovative and exciting as the past, if not more. FLANDERS’ long term goal is to completely integrate ARDVARC into a completely autonomous mining operation, in addition to removing the operator from the command center.
Baldor Electric Company, the largest motor and mechanical power transmission company in North America, has awarded the Baldor Eagle Award to FLANDERS for being an outstanding distributor in 2015. As a Baldor distributor for over 15 years, FLANDERS has been servicing heavy industry and the mining community to power their operations for nearly 70 years.
“Baldor provides a number of universal motors used by a large number of our customers, which enables us to provide quicker turnaround times,” shared FLANDERS’ Midwest Sales Manager, Jed Elkins.
FLANDERS recognizes that in order to be a true partner to heavy industry and mining, it requires going the extra mile. By affiliating with some of the finest motor and electrical component manufacturers in the world, including Baldor, FLANDERS is able to ensure quick turnaround and always with the highest focus on quality. Through an unwavering commitment to quality, service and innovation, the privately held company has become a worldwide force within the industry.
The Western Mining Electrical Association (WMEA) conference will be taking place May 24-26, 2016 in Gillette, Wyoming at the Ramada Plaza Gillette.
Ben Balbach, FLANDERS’ Heavy Industry & Power Systems Solutions Manager, is scheduled to speak on Wednesday, May 25, 2016, at 8:15 a.m. MDT. Ben’s presentation will focus on FLANDERS’ advanced and innovative technology products, including the benefits of upgrading from a DC to AC controller.
The objective and purpose of WMEA is to enhance communications between people who have a common responsibility of maintaining, improving and utilizing electrical mining equipment. At regular meetings there are high quality technical presentations from industry representatives and members on topics relevant to the maintenance and operation of electrical mining equipment. There is discussion of safety concerns and action is taken to improve safety, problems and improvements to AC and DC drive systems, mine-grounding systems, vibration and condition-based maintenance protocol, PLC and communication networks including LAN-based as well as other topics which are of concern to mining.
WMEA provides a camaraderie within the mining electrical community that allows for expedient assistance with information and equipment, when needed.