November 2010

From the desktop to the mine face

Next generation simulators range from cost-effective to totally immersive

By Heather Ednie

Screen shot of a fully simulated vehicle from 3DI’s Living Mine simulation package 

An array of simulator technologies is working its way into the mining industry and proving to be powerful tools for both human resources and investor relations. A number of Canadian companies are among the leaders of this new technology development. Whether the advances come from established simulator market forces like Montreal-based Simlog and Edmonton’s 3D Interactive Inc., or from a newer player in mining simulation (but the world leader in simulation for aerospace and defense), CAE, the next couple of years promises a major shift in mine simulation applications.

Simlog has sold over 1,100 software licences to the mining, construction and forestry markets in 45 countries. The simulation software is developed in close collaboration with equipment manufacturers and training specialists to ensure that the realism of the experience is communicated effectively to the student. “Compared to costly turnkey simulators, ours are affordable and better for training basic skills,” says Mike Keffer, director of marketing, Simlog.

The PC-based platform requires a single computer and includes a wide choice of USB-ready controls. “Each of our ten types of equipment simulators offers a choice of levels of USB controls, from inexpensive and not realistic to higher priced, very realistic OEM controls built using real parts,” says Keffer.

Trainees work through a series of modules focused on core skills, with exercises becoming increasingly difficult. On screen, a generic mine site is modelled under ideal conditions, although plans are underway to add slippery and wet driving conditions as a future option.

Other developments in the works include a redesigned hydraulic excavator simulator scheduled for later this year, incorporating new digging simulation and much more realistic soil interaction. “This will then carry over to other simulators, such as a dozer simulator, to come in the future,” Keffer adds.

Bringing the classroom to life

Mining truck simulation softwarePeace River Coal in British Columbia was facing challenges of high operator turnover. They approached Northern Lights College to create an Aboriginal operator training program, which piloted last summer. The program included Simlog simulator time and classroom time, as well as real equipment operation at the mine site. Simulator performance results allow students to target areas they need to better develop.

Donna Merry, a workforce training/continuing education coordinator at Northern Lights College, says the simulator is a valuable asset to the program. “The trainers found an increase in student confidence and ability gained through using the simulator and program,” says Merry. “Now, all five of our pilot students are working as haul truck operators at Peace River Coal.”

Right: A scene from Simlog's mining truck simulation software | Photo courtesy of Simlog Inc.

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