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Australian scientists develop world's largest robot



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οJulian CribbMobileFaxCSIRO Media Releases are also available from Newsline at: http://www.csiro.auMedia R elease02 6 2 7 6 6 2 4 4 0 4 1 8 6 3 9 2 4 5 02 6 2 7 6 68 21 C S I R OMay 5, 1 9 9 8 R e f 9 8 / 1 0 7 NATI ONAL SCIENCE WEEK - MAY 3 - 10 AUSTRALIAN SCIENTISTS DEVELOP WORLD’ S LARGEST A t e a m o f A u s t r a l i a n s c i e n t i s t s is d e v e l o p i n g t h e w o r l d ’ s l a r g e s t i n d u s t r i a l r o b o t - a ma ssi ve b e a s t 7 5 m e t r e s t al l, w e i g h i n g 3 5 0 0 t o n n e s and abl e t o d e v o u r 1 5 0 t o n n e s o f r o c k in a s i n g le b i t e . T h e g i a n t r o b o t is e m e r g i n g f r o m r e s e a r c h d e s i g n e d t o i nstal a c o m p u t e r “ b r a i n ” in a d r a g l i n e , t h e h u g e w a l k i n g c r a n e w i t h a 1 0 0 - m e t r e - l o n g b o o m , u s e d t o s c o o p up b l a s t e d r o c k in o p e n - c u t coal mi nes. A t e a m f r o m t h e C o - o p e r a t i v e Research C e n t r e f o r Mi ni ng T e c h n o l o g y and E q u i p m e n t (CMTE) and CSIRO M a n u f a c t u r i n g S c i e nc e and T e c h n o l o g y , is d e v i s i n g a c o m p u t e r i s e d s y s t e m t h a t will a u t o m a t e p a r t o f t h e o p e r a t i o n s o f t h e d r ag l i ne , i m p r o v i n g p r o d u c t i v i t y a nd s p a r i n g b o t h o p e r a t o r and e q u i p m e n t s t r a i n . T h e i r w o r l d - f i r s t a c h i e v e m e n t h a s a t t r a c t e d i n t e r n a t i o n a l s c i e n t i f i c a t t e n t i o n , and was r e c e n t l y f e a t u r e d b y US s p a c e a g e n c y N ASA in i t s “ Cool R o b o t o f t h e W e e k ” w e b si te. “ A d r a g l i n e pi cks up f r o m 1 0 0 t o 3 0 0 t o n n e s o f f r a g m e n t e d r o c k w i t h e v e r y s c o o p , t h e n s w i n g s i t r o u n d an d d e l i v e r s i t t o t h e spoi l pile, t h e n s w i n g s b a c k a g a i n , ” expl ai ns CSIRO r e s e a r c h e r Dr J o n a t h a n R o b e r t s . “ It al so s w i ng s b a c k a nd f o r t h o n c e a m i n u t e , so t h e s m o o t h e r a nd m o r e e f f i c i e n t y o u can m a ke t h e o p e r a t i o n , t h e less w e a r and t e a r on t h e m a c h i n e , t h e m o r e r o c k is m o v e d and t h e less s t r a i n on t h e d r a g l i n e ’ s h u m an o p e r a t o r . ” T h e aim o f t h e p r o j e c t is t o a u t o m a t e t h e p a r t s o f t h e o p e r a t i o n w h e r e t h e d r a g l i n e c a r r i e s i t s ful l l oa d f r o m t h e p i c k - u p p o i n t t o t h e d u m p p o i n t , a nd t h e n r e t u r n s t o c o l l e c t a n e w b u c k e t f u l . “ We l i ken i t t o c r u i s e - c o n t r o l in a m o t o r v e h i c l e . It will o f f e r t h e o p e r a t o r t h e o p t i o n o f a u t o m a t i n g t h e r e p e t i t i v e p a r t s o f t h e p r o c e s s , w hi c h a c c o u n t f o r up t o 8 0 per c e n t o f o p e r a t i n g t i m e , a l l o w i n g him t o f o c u s on t h e m o r e ROBOT

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c h a lle n g in g and skilled t a s k s . ”

It also has som e r e s e m b la n c e t o t h e a u t o p i l o t in a pa sseng er j e t a i r c r a f t -

especially as a dragline, a t $ 6 0 - 1 0 0 million, c o s t s a b o u t t h e same as a

c o m m e r c i a l j e t .

“ Th e dragline is e s s e n tia lly 1 9 5 0 s t e c h n o lo g y . I t ’s fa ir ly l o w - t e c h . W h a t

w e ’re d o in g is r e t r o f i t t i n g it w i t h a b r a i n , ” Dr R o b e r t s explains.

It has been e s t i m a t e d t h a t in cre asing t h e p r o d u c t i v i t y o f a dragline by

aro un d 4 per cent, which m a y n o t sound all t h a t much - would save th e

t y p i c a l A u s tr a lia n coal mine $ 3 million a yea r, or $ 2 8 0 million f o r A u s tr a lia

as a whole. A n y p r o d u c t i v i t y im p r o v e m e n t s gained using th e a u t o m a t e d swing c o n tr o l syste m have y e t t o be quantifie d, b u t it is hoped t h a t 4 per

c e n t is possible.

Th e s y s te m is being tria lle d on a dragline l o c a te d at T a ro n g Coal’s Meandu Mine, near Kingaroy, in Queensland.

L a t e s t t e s t s have d e m o n s t r a t e d c o - o r d in a t e d c o m p u t e r c o n tro l o f t h e ho ist, drag and swing f u n c tio n s and pla ce m e n t o f th e 4 0 to n n e b u c k e t g e n t l y on t h e

ground, re a d y fo r loading, w ith t h e c o m p u t e r m o v in g t h e d r a g lin e ’s pedals and levers.

“ We were able t o m o v e t h is p a rtic u la r machine, which weighs 3 5 0 0 to n n e s ,

j u s t using a c o m p u t e r m o u s e ! ” Dr R o b e rts says.

Th e d r a g lin e ’s human o p e r a t o r “ t e a c h e s ” his r o b o t p a r tn e r t h e ex a c t places w here t h e c o a lfa c e and spoil pile are using a j o y s t i c k . T h e c o m p u t e r

m e m o rise s th e m and t h e n p e r fo r m s t h e o p e ra tio n m ore s m o o t h l y th a n its human m e n to r . In tim e, says Dr Roberts, t h e y m a y be able t o add a radar

sensor t o t h e boom t o help t h e c o m p u t e r lo ca te its ta r g e t s .

CMTE’s w o r k in a u t o m a t i n g t h e dragline swing cycle is fu n d e d b y a

c o n s o r t i u m c o n s is tin g of: A u s tra lia n Coal A s s o c ia t io n Research Program (ACARP), Rio T in to , BHP A u stra lia Coal Pty Ltd, CSIRO and CMTE. Valuable s u p p o r t has been pro vid e d by Bucyru s (A u s tr a lia ), T r it r o n ic s Pty L t d and t h e s t a f f o f Meandu mine.

M o r e i n f o r m a t i o n :

D r J o n a t h a n R o b e r t s, CSIRO

D r G r a e m e W i n s t a n l e y , CSIRO

L e n a M e t e , CMTE

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