Tag Archives: Booyco Electronics

HOW BOOYCO USE OF VLF TECHNOLOGY MAKES MINES SAFER

The application of very low frequency (VLF) technology in the development of underground safety equipment has been an important step towards achieving the mining sector’s objective of zero harm, according to Booyco Electronics engineer and developer Frank Schommer.

Booyco Electronics began developing collision warning systems over a dozen years ago, using VLF technology to build a proximity detection system (PDS) for underground mines and becoming a pioneer in this complex field. VLF, says Schommer, is used to generate a magnetic field – based on low frequency technology – around a vehicle, essentially an electric ‘fence’ which is independent of the material present in the immediate environment.

“In other words, VLF technology allows this magnetic field to travel through obstacles like rock and water, maintaining the ‘fence’ at a constant distance from the vehicle,” he says. “This means that the shape of the fence around the vehicle remains exactly the same, whether the vehicle is underground or on surface.”

He notes that the physics of VLF is a well-established area of science and industry and was an important aspect of submarine evolution as it allowed these craft to communicate while submerged as VLF waves can penetrate though water.

“Due to their frequency, the waves are not reflected by walls or other elements of the environment, rather they penetrate these objects,” he says. “This allows our PDS to create this invisible fence around mining vehicles at a certain pre-set distance, depending on the specific application and the customers’ requirements.”

What is vital is that the corners and crossings in an underground haulage will not affect the shape and size of the magnetic field around the vehicle as the waves will penetrate the rock walls and other obstructions that limit what operators and pedestrians can see.

“If the pedestrian is behind another vehicle, for example, or behind a corner in the tunnel, the proximity detection system must be able to pick up and pinpoint their position – and this is what VLF allows us to accomplish so effectively with our PDS solution,” he says.

He describes how the principle of VLF is easily recognisable in daily life, in the case of sound waves from a radio or music playing device. When listening at a distance, it is usually the bass sounds that reach the ear more readily, while the treble sounds – those carried by higher frequency waves – are not; this is because the high frequency waves will be reflected by walls and other objects, so will not travel far.

Surround-sound systems also demonstrate the principle: while there are a number of smaller, higher frequency speakers situated around a room to give the listener the sensation of sound coming from different sources, the system provides only one bass speaker.
This is because the behaviour of the lower frequency waves makes it more difficult to sense the direction of their source.

He notes that, despite the advantageous characteristics of VLF waves, it is still a challenging process to actually create a magnetic field to the exacting specifications demanded by safety applications.
It requires high levels of power in the transmission antenna to generate the field, for instance, and even in the receiver as well.

He emphasises that PDS, when applied in the sphere of worker safety underground, must ensure absolute stability of conditions so that the performance of the technology can always be relied upon to operate optimally and be fit-for-purpose.

“That is the reason why we have used VLF technology as a basis for our solutions,” he says, “as these waves are best able to deal with the reflective environment in underground workings and maintain fields of a constant size or distance from the source.”

Booyco Electronics’ market-leading innovations have leveraged VLF technology to provide valuable functionality for mine safety initiatives; among the most important of these is the creation of detection ‘zones’ within the magnetic field which trigger specific greater operator warnings and subsequent actions.

“Our technology allows us to define the accuracy of these zones to within very low deviation tolerances,” says Schommer. “For instance, our first zone of safety may be 20 metres from the moving vehicle – and this is accurate to within 10 centimetres.”

When a miner – equipped with a VLF receiver and buzzer unit – enters this zone, the system sends a warning through a flashing light and buzzing sound, to alert them to the fact that they are entering a dangerous area.
Importantly, the behaviour of the VLF waves will allow the miner to be alerted even if they are behind a corner or otherwise out of sight of the vehicle operator, when within the detection range.

A second zone, closer to the vehicle, is also set up in the PDS to warn the vehicle operator that there is a pedestrian in the proximity.
If the pedestrian does not respond to the warnings and gets even closer, they will enter a third zone which could now trigger the mechanical intervention: switching the vehicle automatically to ‘creep’ mode.

Should the pedestrian enter the last zone defined by the PDS – even closer to the vehicle – then a second intervention comes into play, stopping the machine in its tracks to avoid any possible collision or injury.

BOOYCO ELECTRONIC CHECKLIST CHECKS ALL THE BOXES

While design developments in vehicle ergonomics continue to mitigate human error, there remains the need to ensure the safe operation of all construction, earthmoving and mining machinery.

Leading electronic safety equipment supplier, Booyco Electronics has again leveraged technology to provide an effective option that eliminates the need for the physical clipboard prestart checklist that is still used by so many operators. And more significant than taking away the paper and pen procedure, the software system allows for the inclusion of no-go and go parameters that will determine whether the driver may operate the vehicle.

This specially developed software system is easily integrated into vehicles to facilitate confirmation that all the requisite prestart checks have been done by the operator. This is essential not only from a safety perspective, but also to ensure that the vehicle is in sound running order.

An important first step is that the system is able to identify whether the operator attempting to access the vehicle has the authority and capability to do so. Once the vehicle ignition is switched on, initial checks will validate the operator according to vehicle type and the operator’s current licence. This ensures that only licenced persons can operate a specific vehicle or range of vehicles.

Once the operator has been verified, the Booyco Electronic Checklist will start running through a wide range of preset parameters that can be configured according to individual operation requirements. The easy to read display shows both text and images, making it operator friendly, and each item being checked requires a simple “yes” or “no”. The checklist itself is randomised to ensure that the operator completes it in its entirety.

The Booyco Electronic Checklist is divided into critical and non-critical items, further facilitating that preventative maintenance is carried out on equipment. As an example, should a low oil level be detected, the vehicle will be inhibited from moving until this is rectified. However, should a low fuel level be detected, the vehicle will be allowed to start and drive to the nearest fuel bowser.

Should some TMM component be operating outside of preset functionality or be completely out of order, the Booyco Electronic Checklist can be configured to inhibit the vehicle. An example where this would be particularly relevant would be if the vehicle brakes are faulty.

The information recorded on individual units is easily downloadable using WiFi allowing easy accessibility to the data. This provides accurate reporting on vehicle condition and usage.

Operators using a specific vehicle need to access the checklist only once per shift, thereby avoiding production losses. Should the vehicle be switched off during that particular the shift the operator need only provide biometric identification to continue using the vehicle.

The Booyco Electronic Checklist is available as a standalone system or can be incorporated in the full Booyco PDS solution.

BOOYCO BRINGS NEW TECHNOLOGY TO FIRE SUPPRESSION MARKET

Building on its established reputation in proximity detection systems (PDS), Booyco Electronics is now also offering the latest fire suppression technologies to help customers manage their health and safety risk.

“It was a natural extension of our business to move into fire suppression,” says Anton Lourens, managing director of Booyco Electronics. “As experts in PDS detection, our equipment is vital in detecting potential dangers around TMM’s. Now we can also offer the latest suppression systems as part of the total solution from a single service provider thereby creating a better value proposition.”

Lourens emphasises that the effectiveness of fire detection and suppression systems is becoming a more urgent issue for mines as there are new SANS standards being formulated for fire detection and suppression systems on heavy duty mining machines.

He says the company will be the preferred distributor for Advanced Automation Systems (AAS), the company which exclusively markets the DAFO brand of vehicle fire protection and FirePro aerosol-based extinguishing systems in South Africa.

“We believe that AAS is a market leader in multiple offerings that hold great value for our existing customer base in the mining and related industrial sectors,” says Lourens. “Our long established geographical footprint, sound reputation and strong relationships in the market will, in turn, offer great opportunities for AAS to grow its impact.”

He highlights the technological advances built into these products, emphasising that mines are more than ever needing to embrace new technologies for more effective technical and bottom line performance. The DAFO products – a world-renowned brand based in Sweden – include a wet chemical-based system that is engineered to inhibit the chemical reaction of the fire while extensively cooling the hot surface and finally creating a film forming to prevent further re-ignition.

“This is an important step forward from existing dry chemical powder-based fire suppression systems, which either extinguish the fire by suffocation or by chemical inhibition but do not address the issue of cooling,” he says. “Cooling is vital if the fire is to be completely extinguished and for no possibility of re-ignition to exist.”

He says the use of wet chemical rather than dry chemical powder also reduces the maintenance requirements, as it is not affected by the vibration of the machine and is non-corrosive, non-toxic, environmentally friendly and water soluble. The system can be used on load-haul dumpers, utility vehicles and other underground machinery, as well as surface shovels and haulers. It is also suitable for conveyors and other materials handling equipment.

FirePro Systems is also a global brand, with installations in over 110 countries, and is a leader in condensed aerosol fire extinguishing technology. In contrast to traditional methods, FirePro aerosol extinguishes fire by inhibiting the chemical chain reactions present in combustion on a molecular level – removing the flame free radicals and extinguishing fire without depleting oxygen. The aerosol is stored as a solid and under no pressure which gives the product an extended life span with virtually no maintenance requirements. The FirePro products are non-corrosive, non-conductive, non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

These systems can therefore protect enclosures of any volumetric size, from less than a cubic metre to thousands of cubic metres. This makes them suitable for equipment such as motor control centres, electrical panels, substations, mini-substations, e-houses and electrical mining skids.

A typical system layout for a DAFO fire protection system.

“Both the DAFO and FirePro offerings come with environmental advantages, which will be required by the new standards on fire suppression,” says Lourens. “The standards will also include a performance test, to ensure that technology being offered is fit-for-purpose and reliable before it can be approved.”

He concludes that Booyco Electronics will be putting its weight behind these systems because they are proven and will ensure optimal reliability; the company also ensures that its strong support network of skilled personnel is in place to implement and maintain these solutions.

FirePro products extinguish fire by inhibiting the chemical chain reactions.