August 18, 2017

Operational Considerations for Proximity Detection

Proximity detection systems

Proximity detection systems have been a topic of discussion for everyone from mine operators to regulators in recent months. Federal and state rules regarding the use of proximity systems on continuous miners and haulage are due to be released this year. For some, proximity detection is still a foreign concept. For others, operating proximity-equipped sections has become routine.

It is well understood there are a few basic criteria a proximity system must have in order to function effectively; multiple zones, the ability to function on all mobile equipment, audible and visual alerting, and durable components are all necessary features. It is less understood that additional features are necessary for efficient production and safety in an underground coal mining environment.

To understand the necessity of these additional features, a basic understanding of the technology behind proximity detection is helpful. Most first-generation proximity systems use the detection of low-frequency transmissions to create simple warning and shutdown zones. The compatible Matrix IntelliZone and Joy Global SMARTZONE Gen2, second-generation systems, use more detailed information and sophisticated algorithms to generate precise positions for Locators (aka Personal Wearable Device , PWD) or other proximity systems around a piece of machinery. These are precise locations, not just a first-generation system’s general idea of the distance from the machine. This precise location distinction allows for a wide variety of enhancements and necessary performance additions to the basic criteria.

Once precise locations are established, a number of advancements become available. Zones, which in first generation systems are a simple circles or ovals, or overlapping circles or ovals, can now be constructed to precisely match machine contours and adjusted to enable safe and efficient Continuous Miner (CM) operation. ‘Operator’ zones, enabled when haulage transfers coal from a CM, can be added and adjusted without additional components or component relocation. Zones on haulage equipment can be extended dynamically based on speed, without projecting into passing crosscuts. All of these additional features can be enabled through software, instead of manual first-generation component adjustments, to give both operators and safety officers a visual representation of zones around machines; allowing operators to learn and adopt new safety zones quickly, reducing training time and improving productivity.

Along with the capability of creating unique shaped and dynamic zones on specific pieces of machinery, these second-generation systems also create mutual zones between two pieces of machinery when they are near one another; for example, a CM loading a shuttle car. The IntelliZone and SMARTZONE systems incorporate this interaction automatically, creating warning, shutdown and operator zones between the two machines, in order for the CM operator to safely and efficiently load transports.

These second-generation advancements have been refined by Matrix’s extensive underground testing and actual production use. Matrix Design Group has been designing, developing, installing and servicing proximity detections systems in production US underground coal mines for 7+ years, with over 200 systems installed and operating to-date. During this time, engineers at Matrix, with input from mine personnel, have been able to advance proximity systems from the basic form to systems that incorporate the advanced features necessary for efficient production and safety in an underground coal mining environment.

For more information about IntelliZone, or other Matrix safety systems,

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