PLANT

Bridging Alberta’s technology needs


December 1, 2008
by Ron Richardson

When a big-basket loader used in open-pit oil sands mining loses a tooth (similar to those above), it can cause serious damage to crushers or other equipment. ARC helped develop an early warning sensor to prevent trouble resulting from tooth decay.

Photo: Stock

A broken tooth on an excavator can be a nasty thing, and cause painfully expensive collateral damage. That was the root motivation for the Alberta Research Council (ARC) Inc. to develop a “dental-like” detection system for the mining industry called Shovel Entry. This advanced technology spots missing teeth on “big ticket” loaders used in open pit mining and quarry operations. Should a stray tooth lodge in a crusher or other equipment, it can cause serious damage, resulting in lost production downtime and a steep repair bill, not to mention a safety hazard for work crews.

Shovel Entry’s form of preventive maintenance is the result of research and development carried out by the ARC’s Sensors Engineering Business Unit. It’s an early warning concept that spots potential problems and is based on a live video feed from a camera mounted on a shovel’s digging arm. The camera provides continuous views of the bucket teeth, which are captured and analyzed through specialized image processing algorithms.

The system records the tooth line on each upswing of the boom arm and compares it against a base case for an intact tooth line. When the system sees that a tooth has broken off, it automatically alerts the shovel operator with a flashing visual alarm shown on a touch screen LCD.

This is an archetypal example of how ARC delivers innovative science and technology solutions to meet the priorities of industry and government in Alberta. Integrated multidisciplinary teams help customers and partners accelerate the development and commercialization of products, processes and services in the manufacturing, energy, forestry, life sciences, agriculture and environment sectors, and take them into the field.

Beginning as the energy field-directed Alberta Council of Scientific and Industry Research in 1921, ARC has since collaborated with business, industry and academia to foster economic development, connecting with more than 900 companies each year in a variety of projects and contracts. Here are some of them: