MANAGEMENT

LKAB, Predge develop digital twin for belts

Swedish iron ore miner LKAB has teamed up with data analytics company Predge to develop a solution for condition monitoring and health prediction of conveyor belts.

Conveyor belt systems are the arteries of many production lines

Conveyor belt systems are the arteries of many production lines

The companies' prototype digital twin, which is called CoCoP (conveyor belt condition monitoring and health prediction), operates in parallel with the real-life conveyor belt, continuously monitoring and assessing each component based on operational and maintenance data.

The project, which will be provisioned as software as a service (SaaS), takes a system-level approach to understand the wear and tear of critical components and to predict when a system could fail.  

Idlers, rollers, and pulleys are monitored, and their condition is predicted to establish estimates for the remaining useful life of individual components. The degradation of all critical components due to wear and tear, including their interactions, are represented in the digital counterpart.

Degradation towards failure is quantified and the time point of failure in the future is foreseen by the digital twin. Maintenance of the conveyor belt system can then be appropriately planned and optimised by assessing the future condition of the components.

CoCoP also uses visual information from the operation to determine extraordinary hazards to the operation of conveyor belt using artificial intelligence (AI).

The companies noted that conveyor belt systems are the arteries of many production lines and are critical in securing the material flow between processing units. Operational disruption due to unplanned stops when a critical component fails leads to unexpected costs, and in the worst cases a stop in production and delivery to customers. This project aims to develop a market-ready solution that increases conveyor utilisation and reduces unplanned stops.

An external reference group with experts on conveyor belt systems from Boliden and different LKAB mine sites are following the project's progress and provide recommendations and advice to the development team. This will enable efficient replication of the CoCoP solution to other conveyor belt systems within LKAB or Boliden, but also to third parties.

The companies jointly applied for, and received, project funding from EIT RawMaterials, which is initiated and funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), an EU body that is one of the largest consortiums in the global raw materials sector. EIT aims to enable sustainable competitiveness of the European minerals, metals and materials sector along the value chain by driving innovation, education and entrepreneurship.

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