Mining Robot Designed to Automate Blasting ProcessMining Robot Designed to Automate Blasting Process
ABB’s robot, created in collaboration with mine operators Boliden and LKAB, automates the process of blasting mines with explosives to access mineral deposits
November 2, 2023
ABB has completed testing of its mining robot, designed to automate the process of blasting boreholes in a mine site to access deeper ores.
The robot, developed alongside mine operators Boliden and LKAB, was tested in a pilot project at Boliden Garpenberg, the world's most productive underground zinc mine located north of Stockholm.
The process of filling boreholes with explosives is one of the sector’s few remaining manual processes. According to ABB, blasting in larger underground mines can take place up to 15 times per day and leaves human workers exposed to potential injury from the unsupported or destabilized rock face.
By automating the process, the partners said they hope to improve safety standards at mines.
The ABB Robot Charger features a camera to scan the rock face and detect boreholes, a small robot that handles the detonators and a larger robot that fills drill holes with explosives.
“This is a significant technology development for ABB and the wider industry where safety is part of overall ESG commitments,” said Vedrana Spudic, ABB’s head of technology. “The robot locates the drilled holes on the rock face using a vision system, and these recent tests show all can be reached and charged with the cycle fully automated. This removes the need for human operators in a small, unsupported area right at the face.”
ABB said it is now embarking on the final stage of development for its robot, to give full control of the robot to the customer.
“The completed testing phase confirms the effectiveness of integrating the robot charger with a carrier vehicle, communication with bulk emulsion and vision systems and incorporation of a second robot arm to assemble prime and detonator,” ABB said in a statement. “It ensures full reach to all borehole levels and areas of the rock face and remote control for operators.”
ABB is also speaking with additional mine operators to potentially co-develop the project, to test the technology in mines across different regions and environments.
ABB developed the robot charger technology with vision systems and automation solutions to communicate with the truck, crane and ABB industrial robotic arm. The solution can be retrofitted to any truck.
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