Atlas Copco drill rigs for mine automation and communication - A totally new technology platform for advanced mining systems

In 1998, Atlas Copco released the RCS technology opening the way for a new generation of modularized and computerized drill. Drilling accuracy, information logging, and serviceability have all taken a quantum leap forward when compared with previous generations of drill rigs. The modularity also facilitates almost unlimited possibilities for the expansion and adaptation of drill rig functions.
The Atlas Copco product strategy defines three levels of machine automation: ‘basic’ with manual operation; ‘regular’ with semi-automated operation; and ‘total’ for fully automated operation.
The Atlas Copco strategy is to develop a complete program of electronically controlled drill rigs to meet the needs of the mining and construction industries. Thanks to the modular design and automation concept, individual customer needs can now be satisfied without major modification of the automation base concept.
The New Automation Platform
The new generation of computerized drill rigs have a rig control system (RCS) based on standard PC-computer technology. The rigs have been well accepted by the marketplace and more than 200 units have left the assembly line. The electronic modules in RCS are developed solely for the drill rigs. The units are ruggedized and great effort has been made to provide good protection. The system can easily be adapted and configured starting at a low level of automation and upgrading later to higher levels.
Versatile Computerization to Meet Customer Needs
There are three levels of advanced boom control (ABC): basic, regular, and total.
ABC basic includes:

rig control from a single operator’s panel;
system monitoring, including fault diagnostics;
feed angle and hole length indication; and
basic drill functions.

ABC regular is the second level of automation and includes ABC basic plus:

computer-guided positioning feeds according to digital drill plan;
logging of the drilled holes onto a PC-card; and
planning and evaluating using PC tools.

ABC total is the highest level of automation and includes ABC regular plus:

full automatic round drilling; and
boom collision control.

Common Automation Opportunities
There are additional automation options for the new generation Atlas Copco drill rigs such as:

Measure while drilling monitoring and logging drill parameters during drilling for predicting rock conditions.
Rig remote access integrating the drill rig in the site local data network enabling functions like digital drill plan handling, log data transfer, and remote troubleshooting.
Single machine remote control an advanced level of remote access which enables control of a drill rig from a remote control room.

Experiences
Since the first release of the Boomer L2C in 1998, the customer acceptance of the new technology has been positive. Presently, more than 90% of delivered Rocket Boomer RCS drill rigs are equipped with ABC regular/total options.
Operator learning time for this new generation of drill rigs is short. Drillers become productive after only a few days training. Mechanics require some understanding of electronics, but this threshold to personal improvement is overcome by training.
Drill steel economy and hole deviation has been improved due to a very precise adaptation of drilling parameters to actual rock conditions. We also see a reduction in over- and under-break. Mines using ABC regular/total experienced an increased pull by 15% per round and still reduce over-break by 10%.
Conclusion
Since the introduction of Boomer L2C in 1998 Atlas Copco has released more than 20 different configurations of drill rigs. This has been made possible mainly because of the modular concept now introduced.
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