A blend of versatile instrumentation, user-friendly software and communication technology is rapidly increasing the scope of weighing equipment at quarries and mineral processing plants. Weighbridges provide a vital service in these industries and new innovations are further expanding their operational and data-collection capabilities. Nick Catt, sales director for Weightron Bilanciai, reviews some of the latest innovations his company are pioneering
Service and support is a critical issue for weighbridge operators, especially for equipment working in harsh environments. New technologies are bringing important changes to the way in which servicing can be optimized and this is particularly useful at remote unmanned sites. Any weighbridge breakdowns have a rapid and major impact on daily operations and therefore effective servicing and troubleshooting are very important. Traditional methods of servicing, however, do not necessarily cater for the changes in the working pattern of a particular weighbridge. Typically, estimates are made to establish the frequency of servicing, often with the emphasis on minimizing costs. Unfortunately, all too often an attitude of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ prevails.
Most readers will be familiar with the built-in service monitors on modern cars, which assess servicing requirements based on a combination of factors including time, mileage and how the car is driven. This technology is now available for weighbridges, advising, for instance, when the next service is due based on time, number of weighings or a combination of both. The Dialogic system, which features powerful UserLog and EventLog files, can be set up to advise both operator and weighbridge supplier of critical events relating to a particular weighbridge. Each file can store up to 100 sequentially numbered ‘events’ collated by date, time, and operation type. The UserLog keeps track of occurrences including keyboard operation, messages displayed during weighing operations, and error messages. The EventLog can record information relating to scale errors and calibration requirements. The system can also record a history of peak loads, which may be above normal operating capacity and detrimental to the working of the bridge. This information can be useful in determining why, for instance, a particular weighbridge is going out of calibration or suffering from excessive component failure.
All data from the Log files can be printed or accessed remotely. The system can be configured to send out SMS messages to designated?mobile phone numbers or an email containing?system information to designated recipients at a service centre or the system administrator. The system also uses SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) technology to provide the operator with important information (SNMP is the technology that allows a simple device, such a printer, to flag up error messages on a PC, for instance, indicating that it has run out of ink).
Extending weighbridge versatility
Weightron Bilanciai have recently developed a software system that converts a standard pit-mounted weighbridge into a dynamic in-motion axle weigher at the push of a button and without the need for any mechanical modifications.
Overloaded axles cause major damage to roads and fines are very onerous for operators. In many applications, the high-accuracy weighing of all vehicles going over a particular weighbridge is not necessary; the operator may simply want to check if the vehicle is overloaded. Carrying out static weighing on every vehicle in this situation can lead to unwanted delays and bottlenecks. In addition, measuring the total weight of a vehicle does not provide information on individually overloaded axles. Fitting supplementary dedicated axle weighers to check vehicles is a relatively expensive exercise.
Weightron’s new ThruWeigh system can weigh vehicles at speeds up to 5km/h and has a number of built-in features to optimize the weighing procedure. Depending on the approach surface, individual axle weights can be measured to within 1% accuracy. The system is suitable for any pit weighbridge fitted with the company’s D800 Dialogic indicator and digital load-cells, provided it has suitable approach access. For weighbridges fitted with standard analogue load-cells, Weightron claim that upgrading the load-cells and indicator is still a much lower-cost option than installing an axle weigher.
Depending on how the operator wants to weigh the vehicle, the system is set to either standard or dynamic weighing. In dynamic mode, as the vehicle drives on to the weighbridge, the system measures and records the first axle weight. When the second axle comes on to the deck, the system automatically subtracts the first axle weight from the new weight reading to give the second axle weight. This procedure continues until all the axles have been individually weighed and recorded.
As soon an overloaded axle is detected, a signal is generated which can be used to trigger an audio or visual alarm. If drivers try to cheat by driving a wheel over the edge of the weighbridge, the system automatically detects the corresponding weight change and initiates an alarm.
For companies operating large or small numbers of weighbridges, having the capability to communicate with these remotely brings significant advantages. Weightron’s WinWeigh Connect is a dedicated, user-friendly, Windows-based weighing package, which opens up new dimensions in the management of weighing data. The system, which is already operational at over 250 sites across Europe, automates weighbridge operations, allowing applications at single and multiple sites to be linked to a centralized location, which may even be in another country.
Unlike most competitive packages, which are dedicated to a single manufacturer’s equipment, WinWeigh can be used with any make of weighing equipment and ancillary operational devices. This makes it suitable for national weighbridge operators who operate different manufacturers’ weighbridges but want to bring them together under one operating system.
Being easy to use, powerful and understandable, this software tool turns a standard application into a custom-made weighbridge program extremely quickly, and a typical system can be built up in logical steps from a straightforward flow chart.
It can be easily integrated with existing business systems, offering weighing data capture and administration, together with system-orientated statistics and reports. At the heart of the application is a powerful database module. Users can create their own tables, modify existing ones, set field validations and set index and sorting codes. There is a flexible import-export function for standard file formats and WinWeigh can connect to external databases including Dbase, Paradox, Excel and Sybase.
The built-in driver library offers over 50 device drivers for controlling peripheral equipment including alphanumeric displays, keyboards and displays, card and key readers, scanners, vehicle-recognition systems, speech synthesis (TTS), barriers and traffic lights. These drivers are comparable with windows printers and are therefore independent of the design and protocol of the peripherals.
WinWeigh provides fully configurable weighing screens, databases and processes, and no programming is needed for most bespoke modifications. If software upgrades or changes are needed, these can be carried out remotely via a standard web browser. The function keys and quick-search displays help the operator to fill in the weighing screen very rapidly, thereby minimizing waiting times for vehicles on the weighbridge and increasing throughput. As new national and European legislation is introduced, the requirement to maintain comprehensive company records increases significantly and trying to do this using a paper-based work system becomes more onerous. WinWeigh allows the storage and distribution of critical information in a secure yet easy-to-access electronic format.
Vehicle management system
Traffic management at quarries and processing plants can be a nightmare, especially when different contractors are ‘vying for attention’, each with their own timetable, priorities and frustrations. Now a comprehensive weight/vehicle management system, using weight data at critical control points throughout the operation, is bringing important benefits and helping to streamline vehicle flow — from incoming goods through to despatch of finished products. These control points can include weighbridges, bulk in and out loaders, hopper scales, pallet loading bays and crane weighers. The system is designed to integrate with existing plant-management software and can be used in conjunction with ancillary equipment including vehicle-recognition systems, overhead displays and card-reader terminals. It offers important data continuum throughout an operation and already has a proven track record in major cement-processing plants. Complete material and vehicle movement is recorded and it has been shown to be highly effective in reducing on-site fraud.
‘We have recognized that there are limited improvements we can make to our conventional weighbridge design,’ commented Nick Catt. ‘However, the growth of interface, data-collection and communication technology in weighing applications is rapidly taking off. There is no doubt that Wireless (WiFi) interface technology is becoming more prevalent in industrial environments. We already use the technology in smaller-scale applications and are now starting to explore its use in our weighbridge installations. WiFi offers secure data transmission and equipment layout flexibility, while removing the problems caused by damage to cables. We are confident that we are taking a leading role in the implementation of these developments in weighing systems and our customers are already seeing the significant benefits they bring.’
Weightron Bilanciai Ltd, Titan Works, Bridge Way, off Broombank Road, Chesterfield Trading Estate, Chesterfield, Derbys S41 9QJ; tel: (01246) 260062; fax: (01246) 260844; email: [email protected]