A major talking point, explains Rodney Keogh, product manager – Surface Division at Epiroc South Africa, is the rig’s automation-ready platform, which includes the new Auto Feed Fold feature.
Commenting on some of the key feature upgrades, Keogh makes special mention of the Auto Feed Fold. With the press of a button, Auto Feed Fold enables the operator to fold the feed for tramming or position it for drilling. This, he says, also comes in handy when operating one or more drill rigs remotely using Epiroc’s BenchREMOTE system.
“The system performs a single action to place the feed into a tramming position or raise it into a position ready for drilling. This saves time and prevents damage to the drill rig cabin during operations and transport. This function is a great help to an operator when running one or more drill rigs remotely,” he says.
Another key feature upgrade is the Extra Long Feed (XLF), an 8m drill rod variant. While the predecessor was available in two feed sizes to carry 5m and 6m pipes and the capacity to drill up to a depth of 55.5m, the SmartROC MK II series is available in three different feed sizes to carry 5m, 6m and 8m pipes respectively and has the capacity to drill down to a depth of 56m. “When using 8-m pipes, it is possible to drill 16-m production holes with just one rod change,” explains Keogh.
The added power of the hammer enables the SmartROC MK II to drill holes from 110 to 229mm in diameter, compared with the predecessor’s capacity to drill holes from 110 to 203mm. Thanks to the intelligent control of compressor load and engine rpm, the SmartROC MK II series not only helps to optimise the blasting process with improved fragmentation but also cuts already low fuel consumption by a further 20% compared to the same size FlexiROC rig model.
In addition, the updated SmartROC series is equipped with an efficient hydraulic system that reduces fuel burn and works with fewer pumps and hoses than the previous versions. There is a 55% reduction in hydraulic oil volume. “On the predecessor, we used to run a 600-litre hydraulic oil system, which has been reduced to 270 litres on the new SmartROC MK II. This translates into reduced running costs for the machine owner,” adds Keogh.
The foundation of the SmartROC MK II, as the name suggests, is based on an array of smart features to deliver high-quality blast holes with accuracy and precision. Autonomous drilling capabilities of the rig employ already existing technologies developed by Epiroc, such as Rod Handling System (RHS), Hole Navigation System (HNS) and Auto Positioning (AutoPOS), among others. Another crucial factor is the scalability of the Rig Control System (RCS).
With HNS, the rig automatically locates the position of each hole with pinpoint accuracy and drills it to the correct inclination and depth by automatically adding rods and removing the rods when programmed depth has been drilled. As a result, the pattern needs no adjusting and gets drilled as planned.
Process automation deals with the automation of workflows and covers a range of essential tools for planning drilling operations and collecting performance data. These include Measure While Drilling (MWD), a monitoring tool that enables drillers to collect relative rock hardness data.
Meanwhile, Auto Positioning, which works as semi-automatic aligning of a rig feed, reduces time and improves the accuracy of rig positioning. “This smart feature significantly contributes to the quality of drill plan execution and further blasting, resulting in better quality rock fragmentation, which affects all other downstream operations such as load and haul and crushing and screening,” explains Kevin Govender, area sales manager – Surface Division at Epiroc South Africa.
Rig Remote Access (RRA) enables two-way communication between the drill rig and the RRA server using the site wireless network. The RRA server detects when a drill rig is connected to an access point and then sends and/or retrieves data.
Remotely operating drills is the fastest growing trend to optimise drilling operations. With that in mind, the Epiroc BenchREMOTE remote operator station enables operators to control multiple SmartROC surface drill rigs from a distance. “The system allows for a single operator to operate up to three drill rigs at once while allowing them to store information of up to 10 drill rigs,” concludes Keogh.