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2020 / 2021 Edition

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A Digitalized Route to Crushing Optimization

First published in the September 2021 issue of Quarry Management 

Drilling and blasting specialists EPC-UK utilize their digital expertise to improve their customers’ crushing capabilities

As demand to optimize overall site performance in quarrying operations gathers pace on a global level, implementation of the most effective crushing market technologies continues to grow, driving demand for the research and delivery of safe, proven solutions.

Helping to lead the way through the application of digitalized expertise, skilled product and system understanding, and a collaborative customer approach, are drilling and blasting specialists EPC-UK. Explaining the technologies, principles and benefits of their digitalized route to crushing optimization, the company’s commercial manager, Ryan Ward, and explosives engineer, Dr Liam Bermingham, detail the team’s advanced approach to improving crushing technologies using methods that are becoming increasingly pertinent to the industry’s wider, ‘future-ready’ development.

Taking a progressive route

‘A truly effective quarrying operation is reliant upon advanced crushing technology to enhance its overall site performance,’ explained Mr Ward. ‘However, to optimize ‘crushing’, progressive ‘blasting’ techniques have become essential.

‘At EPC-UK, our Metrics team has positioned itself at the sector’s forefront in terms of developing and delivering targeted blast fragmentation using ‘dynamic’ fragmentation analysis – enabled by utilizing drone survey modelling of post-blast results.

‘We are fragmentation and blast performance specialists,’ he continued, ‘and prioritize the need to look at projects in their site-wide capacity. We also introduce systems that become increasingly important further downstream, such as ‘static’ fragmentation tools for use at the crusher house as dumpers load in, or along the conveyer system at the pre-primary crusher stage.

‘To achieve improved ‘crushing’ operations, we apply technologies – including those from WipFrag and Motion Metrics – that are capable of providing the static systems required.’

An automated image-based granulometry system that uses digital analysis of rock photographs and video images, WipFrag is a quick and accurate software solution designed to provide the size distribution measurements essential to managing fragmented rock.

The EPC Metrics team can use the software solution to provide particle size analysis for shovels, conveyor belts and haul trucks in a portable format that neither interrupts production, nor requires reference scaling objects.

‘By utilizing both static and dynamic crushing and fragmentation measurement tools, we can realize totally accurate data on the performance of blasting and crushing, and subsequently deliver customers ‘valuable and desired end products’, in terms of sizing, in the most cost-effective way,’ added Mr Ward.

EPC Metrics’ research and testing of commercial and technological systems is said to have been truly enabling and has realized significant and positive differences in terms of performance and results. The team believes in the transparent benefits of working in partnership with customers, providing a ‘knowledge lead’ service that is made exemplary through the competence of the company’s highly experienced engineers.

‘By collaborating with quarry operators, we extract the information from both static and dynamic tools to produce and help users understand real trend performance and data,’ Mr Ward explained. ‘Analysed collectively, the data improve blasting fragmentation the ‘Digital Quarrying Way’, supporting downstream performance, whilst saving money and improving productivity.’

With digital quarrying techniques now leading the way in advanced operational practice, the EPC Metrics team has realized its goal of developing a safer, more effective quarry through advanced digital means. From autonomous surveying to pre-planning of drill and blast activities and developments in operational software, the digital way is already succeeding in driving increased efficiencies across the entire industry and is providing significant benefit to crushing operations worldwide.

‘Our cutting edge and safety-focused digital quarrying evolution combines the use of drone-sourced information with critical software application analysis,’ explained Dr Bermingham. ‘Combined, the technologies allow total measurement accuracy and provide both performance data analysis and recordings to benefit all elements of the quarrying operation.

‘From drilling and blasting to loading and hauling, followed by the crushing and screening process, our digitalized technologies are safely equipping quarrying teams with recordable KPIs that can be monitored and reviewed – noticeably improving blast performance and delivering quantifiable results.’

Recording KPIs

By analysing data in conjunction with KPIs recorded throughout various stages of the quarrying process, operators can make the correct decisions for future blast designs. All key information is inputted into EPC-UK’s online cloud-based database, ‘Explore’, from where engineers and quarry operatives can look at and analyse all data elements together. The consolidated information helps improve fragmentation and betters loading times at the face. 

Decreases in fuel usage of face excavators or front-end loaders indicate an improvement in fragmentation. Likewise, increases in crusher throughput and the percentage of split materials scalped off at the primary crusher or oversize in the muck pile also indicate improvement.

‘Expertly applying technical knowledge where it can benefit most, our EPC Metrics engineers use drone surveys and fragmentation analysis as part of their wider dynamic tool capabilities,’ noted Mr Ward. ‘This is further supported using systems such as the WipFrag and Motion Metrics tools, to create an overall ‘Mine to Mill’ crushing/fragmentation picture. By realizing a total solution that can be linked back to the EPC-UK ‘Explore’ software system for analysis, we’re providing customers’ with both real-time and trend data, and the capacity to realize future positive changes.

‘Combined, the technologies we’re successfully progressing are delivering improved crushing results, cost benefits, effective collaborations and heightened safety as they affirm our company’s operational SPIRIT core values of Safety, Passion, Integrity, Respect, Innovation and Teamwork. By ensuring that technological advancements support our existing expertise, we can continue to develop productive, safe quarrying environments as we strengthen relationships and confirm our market leading position as an industry innovator, transparent partner and proven safety ambassador,’ said Mr Ward.

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