New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Mines are one of the most labor-intensive industries, and automation in this industry has been significantly considered to create mining sustainability and enhance the utilization of heavy and expensive equipment. Due to the more complex nature and larger scale of underground mines in recent years, companies are actively looking for new automation methods, particularly in haul trucks to effectively improve productivity, and health and safety in the mining environment.
In this research, a lab-scale autonomous underground haul truck is designed and developed for underground mines. This autonomous haul truck is capable of finding its path along an underground tunnel in the presence of obstacles. The impact of the developed autonomous truck in the haulage operation of a virtual underground mine is assessed, and its cycle time improvement is analyzed, using the discrete-event system simulation and animation technique. The simulation includes the animation of the haulage operation, which is helpful to enhance the benefit of a simulation model. GPSS/H® and PROOF Animation Professional® software packages are used for this investigation.
The autonomous haul truck is designed and developed to represent a hypothetical haulage operation in this project. It is capable of finding its path along the tunnel without colliding with the walls or any obstacles on the way. The haul truck is equipped with several sensors of various types, which provide different characteristics and capabilities for navigation and collision avoidance. Three modes of operation are considered for the haul truck: manual, test, and autonomous modes. In the manual mode, the haul truck is driven manually using a remote control device provided by the manufacturer. In the test mode, a data acquisition (DAQ) board sends the sensor signals to the computer, in which a LabVIEW® program processes sensor signals and sends control commands to the haul truck. In this mode, the computer is used to implement, fine tune, and optimize the signal processing and control algorithms. In the autonomous mode, the microcontroller installed on the haul truck is used to implement the optimized (signal processing and control) algorithms, which makes the haul truck autonomous and independent from the computer.
In this paper, the technical aspects of the design and development of the autonomous haul truck will be presented. Moreover, the benefits of the autonomous mode of operation as compared to the manual mode will be quantified by using the discrete-event system simulation and animation technique. This research and development project is conducted collaboratively by the School of Technology and the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences at Michigan Technological University. It provides several graduate and undergraduate students from both departments with the opportunity to learn and practice team work and collaborative research in a multidisciplinary environment.
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