Ruggedized computer controls mining equipment

Equipment used in open pit mining travels over some of the worst terrain in the world—in hostile environments that include temperature extremes and lots of dust and dirt. Aquila Mining Systems (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) provides computer-based monitoring, control and guidance systems for large blasthole drills.


Equipment used in open pit mining travels over some of the worst terrain in the world—in hostile environments that include temperature extremes and lots of dust and dirt. Aquila Mining Systems (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) provides computer-based monitoring, control and guidance systems for large blasthole drills. PCS Computer (Cincinnati, O.), a subsidiary of Advantech Automation (Cincinnati, O.), recently developed a customized computer for Aquila that enables its equipment to function in these demanding environments. Aquila's system includes production monitoring, material recognition, and operations modules.

Aquila's Production Monitoring System gives operators immediate feedback on drilling productivity and performance. It is designed to minimize operator effort, which means faster work with fewer errors. For example, the start of drilling can be automatically detected, so the operator doesn't have to zero the bit depth.

The company's Material Recognition System uses vibration sensor and pattern recognition software to automatically process and analyze drill variables, as well as determine hole geology while drilling. This pinpoints the location of ore and waste interfaces, then delivers real-time information via a color liquid crystal display (LCD) screen. The result is immediate, accurate-to-the-centimeter information for the operator and for planning engineers in the mine office.

PCS' Module DM-3 delivers consistent drill operation and performance, in a variety of conditions, for operators of all skill levels. It regulates pulldown pressure and rotary speed within the most productive limits for torque and vibration. This means more consistent performance, with optimized penetration rates for changing downhole conditions, which increases drill bit life and productivity.

PCS' DM-5 system combines high-resolution, Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) GPS receivers and an AMP platform. This allows the operator to place a blasthole within centimeters of the target, without traditional surveying or staking. Once the drill is leveled and hole started, DM-5 automatically determines collar elevation, calculates required drilling depth, and displays the information on an LCD screen. Information on blasthole positions is stored by DM-5 and transmitted to the mine office for use in blast design and to update the geological model.

Mounted on the drill machinery, the computer collects information from a variety of input devices, such as depth sensors on the drill bit and differential GPS, to determine drill position. The computer then presents graphical images, providing operator feedback on drilling performance and productivity. These data may be used to control drill operation to provide consistent and accurate performance.

Acquila required that its custom computer:

  • Withstand particulate elements, rain, and temperature extremes;

  • Be visible in day and night;

  • Allow gloved operators to use it;

  • Withstand vibration and shock;

  • Be protected from dirty power and power abuses;

  • Connect up to eight serial devices and two J1939 CAN networks; and

  • Be able to re-image its computer flash drive without opening the unit.

The product is enclosed in cast and machined aluminum housings and is sealed to withstand

The 10.4-in. thin-film transistor (TFT) display incorporates high-brightness backlighting, enabling daytime viewing, while its software also allows dimming to achieve optimum night-time viewing. The external port boots first when power is applied enabling re-imaging of the internal drive.

This custom product is now available as a standard product, HPC-7100T Outdoor Rugged PC.

For more information, Circle 499 for Advantech Automation or visit; Circle 500 for Aquila Mining Systems or visit or

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