Let’s get flexible – how plug and play cables could be the secret to securing mining communications

In a world of deeper mines, rising energy costs and infrastructure shortages, mining companies remain under exceptional pressure to control costs, heighten efficiency and improve safety performance. Although there is no single easy solution, it is becoming increasingly apparent that technology will play a growing role in the mining industry of the future.

As the fourth industrial revolution progresses, data connectivity is taking a more pivotal role – information from sensors, data-heavy automation solutions and data analytics must be conveyed across large distances and through challenging environments. The mining industry is deploying automation technologies at a rapid rate, meaning the demand for flexible and high-bandwidth communication is soaring.

Fiber optic networks are a critical enabler of this bandwidth, providing a bridge between devices, data processing units and control systems which are increasingly being adopted across many sectors. With fiber optics come additional benefits including immunity to electromagnetic fields, galvanic insulation and future-proof advantages with regards to bandwidth extension. But mining environments pose a risk for the physical integrity of these networks.

With mines reliant on their communications infrastructure for essential safety systems and the critical link between operations underground and those working on the surface, network failure is not an option. So how can mining companies ensure high-performance, quality, reliable and long-life solutions that enable seamless underground communication networks?

 

Rapid and easy to deploy 

In mining, production depends on full and continuous availability of the network to ensure reliable communication with sensors, between machines and workers. Any damage to a mine’s fiber optic network, therefore, translates into significant expense and potential safety hazards. Hitherto, fixing damage was time-consuming and dependent on the arrival of a qualified fiber optic technician with suitable and calibrated termination tools and components.

Today, while network failure and damage cannot be avoided altogether, mining companies are able to massively reduce downtime as a result of network outages. This is due to a new solution created jointly by HUBER+SUHNER and Ampcontrol to enable rapid deployment of fiber optic networks in mines.

Leveraging the extensive experience of HUBER+SUHNER in providing solutions for optical connectivity in harsh environment conditions and Ampcontrol’s renowned expertise in providing integrated electrical and electronic equipment and power solutions for mines in Australia and elsewhere, the harsh environment reticulated fiber optic solution – H3RO – enables fast deployment of fiber optic networks in mines. The solution is based on standardised components that can be combined in a tool-box like manner. The solution’s modularity implies it is flexible in design, allowing for dynamic and easy modification and expansion of network architectures. This is critical in mines, where the network topology changes continuously as the mine grows/moves along. Also, because mine workers are frequently unskilled in communication technologies, simplicity of use and robustness against mishandling is essential.

Putting the theory into practice

The benefits brought by solutions of the two companies have been experienced by many mining customers, one reference case being an underground gold and copper mine in Western NSW, Australia when an existing communications cable was severed.

H3RO was deployed from an existing FOBOT (fiber optic break-out terminal) panel for a distance over 1 km along the roof, through a number of vertical drops and into another existing FOBOT enclosure. The solution’s plug and play cables and modular components made it the ideal choice for the fast deployment of cabling for this work. The IP68 connectors and bulkheads allowed a neat, maintainable solution that integrated seamlessly with off-the-shelf IP68 bulkheads and pigtails to match the existing patch panels.

Due to the modular installation and low-loss connectors, network expansion and recovery from similar incidents in the future is now hassle-free. The entire cable run consists of a quantity of four 260 m 12-core H3RO cables, making swapping any section out easy, rather than replacing the entire run or requiring expensive and time-consuming fiber field splicing in the mine’s harsh environment. The H3RO cables allow the addition of break out terminals (BOTs) at any cable joint allowing standardised and flexible network access/extension as requirements evolve.

H3RO components are manufactured in state-of-the-art facilities, all items are tested and shipped with quality reports. This offers a more cost effective, reliable and risk-free solution to field splicing in an underground mine where constraints such as time, darkness and the dirty working environment all affect the quality of the job.

Find out more about H3RO 

‘Super sewer’ emergency back-up power project a success in London, UK

The existing sewer system in London, UK, built around 150 years ago, was originally constructed for a planned population growth of four million people. With London’s population now nearing the nine million mark, the city decided to invest in the Thames Tideway Tunnel, dubbed London’s new ‘super sewer’.

The Ferrovial Agroman/Laing O’Rourke Joint Venture (FLO JV) was selected to build the central section of the new 25km Thames Tideway Tunnel to run under the River Thames. As part of this landmark project, Ampcontrol was contracted to assist with the provision of emergency back-up power.

Ampcontrol provided 1,100kVA of emergency back-up generation capacity and the associated cabling for the tie-in to the distribution system of the project.

Due to the project’s time sensitivity, temporary generators of equal capacity were supplied during the manufacturing period of the new units. Ampcontrol also provided onsite pre-commissioning support to ensure smooth installation and operational readiness of the new units supplied.

Ampcontrol is proud to have successfully completed the scope of generation capacity supply and support within the required timeframe to one of the most significant UK tunnelling projects in the heart of London.

Steven Edmund, Ampcontrol’s Managing Director in the UK, said, “A very high standard of quality is demanded by the UK industry and in true Ampcontrol style this was achieved by following sound engineering principles, providing high quality equipment, being customer centric, and recognising the requirements of all stakeholders and the environment.”

Read our Thames Tideway Tunnel case study here.

Rockstarter hits the road

Rockstarter, Ampcontrol’s latest product for the hard rock mining sector, has completed its first production run today, with 16 units heading out the workshop door of our Cameron Park facility for two different customers in Broken Hill and Orange, NSW.

Two years in the making, Rockstarter is a direct result of our continued investment in research and development of products specifically for our customers across a range of different markets.

It has already been a busy year for the Rockstarter, which has been clocking up some serious frequent flyer points following product demonstrations at MEMMES in Dubbo, NT Resources Week, a customer roadshow in Mt Isa and IMME in India. A unit is now in our UK facility to kick off the European leg.

“It has been an exciting year for us with the official launch of Rockstarter to the market, so to see the first units head out the workshop door today is an amazing achievement and testament to the hardworking, collaborative and innovative team of people we have here at Ampcontrol,” said Global Product Manager, Scott Dallen.

Rockstarter is a new, fully integrated, multifunction, multi-voltage outlet starter that enables quick and seamless application changes, from powering a pump one day to a drill rig the next.

To find out more, visit the Rockstarter page to access product information and submit a product enquiry form.

Providing Transformer Lifecycle Support

Ampcontrol provides full lifecycle support for Power Transformers. Following the initial design, manufacture and installation however, how do you ensure that your Transformer is operating reliably and effectively?

Transformer lifecycle diagram

Ampcontrol provides a range of Transformer testing and maintenance services and has extensive experience in oil sampling, testing and diagnostics, oil regeneration, vacuum filling and the supply of filtration and dry out systems to ensure optimum Transformer operation.

We know the operational value of your high voltage infrastructure, which is why we combine these transformer oil maintenance services with our high voltage and onsite services to ensure operational availability and compliant management. Our onsite service teams are located in key regions across Australia to provide scheduled and on-call support when and where you need it.

Thanks to our new partnership SDMyers, Ampcontrol can also connect customers with internationally recognised transformer maintenance trainers to participate in three specialist courses targeted at electrical, industrial or utility technicians and engineers, maintenance managers, engineering management, electrical contractors and service companies.

The courses include Transformer Maintenance Essentials, Electrical Testing and Load Tap Changer and will run in October this year. For more detail on the content of these SDMyers courses, and to register your interest, click here.

To find out more about Ampcontrol’s Transformer capabilities, check out our Transformer overview and our Transformer refurbishment case study.

Providing product commissioning and training support to the Indian coal Industry

Continuous mining mass production and longwall mining technology is an integral component of the Eastern Coalfields mines in Jhanjra, India. To provide essential power to this operation,  Allenwest Ampcontrol was commissioned to produce a AW2000 1.5MVA 6600/1100/550V flameproof power centre. The power centre was installed with International Standard Quality sockets for 1100v and 550v outlets.

In addition to this installation, Allenwest Ampcontrol facilitated a comprehensive training session with mine staff to ensure they could competently operate the system.

For more information about this project, please read the case study.

Ampcontrol Named NSW Minerals Council 2018 Outstanding Supplier For H3RO

On 15 March, Ampcontrol were named as the 2018 NSW Minerals Council Outstanding Supplier at the annual Industry and Suppliers Awards Dinner at NSW Parliament in Sydney.

Ampcontrol’s General Manager of Sales, Garry Hillier accepted the Outstanding Supplier Award for the development and supply of H3RO, a fibre based communications and networking solution for underground mining and industrial applications, which has been adopted by 16 mining operations since its launch in 2015.

Rod Henderson, Ampcontrol CEO and Managing Director said “Our H3RO product has been an innovative game changer for Ampcontrol, enabling the effective use of fibre technology in underground mining operations that has historically been difficult to achieve.”

“We knew our customers wanted a reliable fibre optic solution for their underground operations, so we listened to their feedback and proactively addressed the challenges they were experiencing by providing a robust, cost effective, portable and easy to install fibre optic solution.”

“Being recognised as Outstanding Supplier of the Year is a true testament to everyone at Ampcontrol and it’s humbling to know that the H3RO product has been so well received in the market” added Mr Henderson.

The Universal Appeal of the H3RO solution

Ampcontrol’s H3RO product has also been on display this week at the Leading Age Services Australia 2018 Conference on the Gold Coast, welcoming 350 delegates through the conference exhibition stand.

As H3RO is a fibre optic communications solution, it is applicable to support the continued development of aged care infrastructure projects.

John Hooper, H3RO and Networking Automation Product Manager said “We’ve been demonstrating how H3RO can be used as part of passive optical network architecture to improve ICT reliability, while reducing the cost and complexity by converging the connected services for smart buildings.”

“This can support new and legacy technologies in aged care facilities including phones, nurse call systems, wifi, CCTV and digital TV/Foxtel,” he said.

Ampcontrol celebrates its 50th year of business in 2018 and continues to be a vital supplier to Australia’s resources sector with its complete range of electrical, electronic systems solutions and service support.

 

Our Award Winning Projects

Throughout Ampcontrol’s 50 year history we’ve sought unique solutions to help our customers tackle their operational challenges. We’re known for stepping outside the conventions of traditional problem solving and this has been recognised time and time again with a number of prestigious awards.

Research and Development Leads to New Products

In 1998 Ampcontrol won our first National engineering Excellence Award for the development of the iMAC monitoring and control system.

Ampcontrol’s iMAC system helps customers meet the challenges of maintaining safety whilst maximising productivity on both underground and overland conveyors.

iMAC remains an important cornerstone of Ampcontrol’s electronics product range and has a solid history of installation on some of Australia’s longest conveyors.

Find out more

We’re the First to Say ‘Yes We Can’

When challenged with an AFC that was impractical to power at the 3.3kV industry standard Ampcontrol looked outside the box.

The Blakefield South 11kV longwall was a world first and represented a significant step change for longwall mining.

Critical to the success of this project was proving the safety of 11kV electrical circuitry in a hazardous areas zone. This required extensive engineering, design review, calculation and verification testing.

Ampcontrol together with project partners Xstrata Coal and Joy Global won the 2010 National Engineering Excellence Award for this project.

Find out more

Stepping Outside Traditional Problem Solving

Seven years of research into the significant hazards variable speed drives can cause in earth fault limited networks culminated in the Engineers Australia National Innovation Award in 2013.

This project exemplified the role of engineering in developing and testing theories to solve real world problems, educating the industry and providing commercially acceptable solutions.

Find out more

Setting Industry Benchmarks in Arc Fault Venting

This project encompassed two key innovations: the development of a novel measurement method using energetic materials and the development of a composite high speed rupturing vent.

Motivated by the need to ensure higher levels of safety for personnel, plant and equipment in the vicinity of live electrical enclosures, this project exemplifies Ampcontrol’s commitment to safety.

This research and development won Ampcontrol a 2015 Engineers Australia, Newcastle Division, Engineering Excellence Award.

Find out more

Celebrating Multi-Disciplinary Design

Ampcontrol are committed to enhancing our products and delivering unique solutions to ours customers challenges. That’s why when it was time to re-design an outdated phone we started with the end user, what they needed and why.

The result was the VoiceCom Phone a lightweight, user friendly, robust and reliable phone for day to day and emergency communications.

The VoiceCom Phone has set a new standard in quality and performance of product design and was awarded NSW Good Design Selection in 2015 and the Hunter Manufacturing Awards Excellence in Product Design Award in 2017.

Find out more

Take a look at the AUK1000 at IME

Allenwest Ampcontrol India will be launching the AUK1000 a scalable, reliable and quality British manufactured multi-drive control box at IME in Kolkata this week.  Stop by and see us on stand A15 to discuss how the AUK1000 could be right for your next project.

The AUK1000 is the advanced multi-function technology base for Ampcontrol’s internationally certified power distribution solutions, such as motor starters and circuit breakers. The AUK1000’s primary role is the reliable control, monitoring and protection of electrically driven plant and machinery in hazardous underground mining environments. It offers advanced safety, productivity and maintenance features as well as a durable flameproof enclosure.

AUK1000 features:

  • Multi-function applications with capacity up to 400A and 1100V
  • Customised isolator and drive options
  • Independent or sequenced drive control
  • Programmable settings on HMI via IS touch pad
  • Up to four outlets per unit, free standing or assembled into multiple configurations

Find out more about the AUK1000

VoiceCom Phone Awarded For Excellence in Product Design

Ampcontrol’s VoiceCom Phone has been awarded for Excellence in Product Design at the 2017 Hunter Manufacturing Awards.

Designed and manufactured in the Hunter, the VoiceCom Phone is a great example of Ampcontrol’s leadership in engineering, product design and manufacturing in the Hunter.

Designed for use in harsh underground coal mines, the VoiceCom Phone provides robust, reliable communication which is vital for day to day and emergency communications between the surface and underground operators.

Through strong consultation with customers, the Ampcontrol team designed a phone which was user friendly, lightweight and easy to install. Since release the phone has received overwhelmingly positive customer feedback.

Global Products Manager, Scott Dallen said “it’s a true privilege to be to be recognised along with other local manufacturers and engineers for the quality of our product design. It’s a credit to the project team across design and manufacturing, who have truly set a new standard of quality and performance with this product.”

This award follows a ‘Selection Win’ for the VoiceCom Phone at the NSW Good Design Awards in 2015.

H3RO simplifies communications in tunnelling applications

Reliable communications infrastructure and networks are vital to ensure the safe and on time completion of underground tunnel construction.

Ampcontrol was engaged to support the Thomson East Coast Line project in Singapore, which consisted of two tunnels with one launch shaft and one arrival shaft created by a tunnel boring machine.

Ampcontrol provided communication infrastructure for everyday and emergency voice communication requirements and for real-time monitoring and reporting to the surface.

Achievements

  • Cost savings
  • System standardisation and simplification
  • Ability for expansion and dynamic network layout
  • Reduced downtime due to more suitable harsh environment connectors
  • Self-sufficient fibre optic maintenance without specialised technicians
  • Lower loss between fibre optic connectors
  • Fast and easy deployment and re-deployment of fibre optic cable for re-use in other projects

Problem

Tunnelling applications require repeatable patterns of emergency call points every 100m, these call points need to be installed as the tunnel borer progresses while maintaining reliable communications. The traditional approach to networking these emergency call points presents a number of limitations.

The fibre optic communications infrastructure relied on military spec (MilSpec) connectors. These connectors are expensive, bulky and prone to breaking where the heavy attachment joins the
cabling. Failed or broken MilSpec cable require expensive repairs and fibre experts to cut, splice and terminate long cable runs and add additional fibre optic network cabinets. This made extensions to the network difficult requiring specialist tools and labour.

Emergency call points are required to be quickly deployed in a standard fashion with quick setup, removal and re-deployment. The standard set up is for each emergency call point to be linked to other call points in a daisy chain, meaning there are two bulkheads required within each call point. Not only does this make it a costly installation, but the arrangement takes up significant space within the limited room in the fibre system enclosures.

Solution

Ampcontrol deployed H3RO, our harsh environment reticulated optic solution which reduces network complexity and offers plug and play functionality with off the shelf components which do not require fibre specialists to install. Offering superior versatility with its ‘ plug and play’ modular components, H3RO removes the requirement for patch panel cabinets and allows for system standardisation which simplifies the network and reduces complexity. When compared to traditional MilSpec connectors, H3RO connectors have loss levels up to 20 times lower, providing overall system efficiency . By using this single mode modular network solution, Ampcontrol was able to reduce the capex cost of the optical network, simplify the topology and replace error prone and expensive network cabinets with H3RO Break-Out Terminals (BOTs).

On the ground maintenance is made easy with the H3RO system, with the connectors designed to accommodate cost effective standard fibre cleaning tools. This means day to day maintenance, such as removing any dust or dirt contaminants, can be carried out onsite without requiring a fibre specialist. Not only does this enable site works to continue efficiently, it reduces unforeseen costs which can be associated with projects in these environments.

The system is designed to be future proof, with the modular components enabling quick and easy duplication or extension as required, based on any configuration. With this in mind, the system
package was designed in a way that simplified the overall communications network and consolidated spares requirements. One of the major benefits offered by the H3RO system is the versatile design. When the project scope changed and additional fibre optic networking was required, H3RO allowed for easy extension. Additional surface infrastructure was required to be connected to the network including a workshop, medical lock and office area.

Drawing on the H3RO fibre backbone of the existing network, the design was easily expanded with a single H3RO BOT (Break-Out Terminal) which allowed for three lots of 4 core fibre cables to be diverted from a 12 core trunk to the these separate areas. This network extension was completed by site labor in a quick and timely manner keeping the overall project on schedule.