The automation of mining equipment promises benefits that include improved safety, increased productivity, and reduced unscheduled maintenance. However, mining equipment is frequently on-the-move and must rely on wireless communication technologies to report status and receive commands. The wireless communications must work reliably in a hostile environment that includes ever-shifting terrain, an expanding underground labyrinth of shafts and levels, and interfering radio signals from other equipment. A loss of communication, even intermittently, might negate the gains in safety and productivity that are the goals of automation.
To address these concerns, a major manufacturer of mining equipment used QualNet to model communications in a mining environment. Onboard sensors on the equipment continually report hydraulic pressure, temperature, RPM, filter status, to monitor machine health, maximize uptime, and reduce cost per ton. The wireless network relays the data among constantly moving equipment to a central monitoring system. QualNet was used to model signal to noise, interference, channel usage, packet loss and packet delivery, and was used to optimize network parameters. This helps the equipment manufacturer to ensure reliable network connectivity, thus improving productivity and minimizing equipment down time and associated costs.
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