The PMC-R 2.0 roof-support controller, by Caterpillar, on a Cat roof support during a field trial where it beat expectations. The controller was designed to be a future-proof, key-enabling technology for longwall autonomy. (Photo: Caterpillar)

by jesse morton, technical writer

A mine that trialed prototype Caterpillar PMC-R 2.0 roof-support controllers reported a 25% increase in production, Caterpillar said.

Australian coal operator Tahmoor Coking Coal, in New South Wales (member of the GFG Alliance SIMEC Mining Group), installed the solution on their longwall system, comprising of 159 Cat roof supports that were previously operated by Cat PM4 roof-support control units purchased in 2004. The coal panel height is approximately 2.1 meters (m) and the face width is 275 m.

“While the PM4 was cutting edge for its time, the latest PMC-R 2.0 system increases autonomous capability due to increased memory and a faster processor, allowing for more complex application software, improved user interaction within the unit, and advanced visualization and diagnostics with fast process data refresh rates,” said James Yates, sales lead, global automation, Caterpillar.

The intuitive maintenance design cuts operating costs and lowers total cost of ownership. “Serviceable controller parts allow minor repairs to take place at the mine site, reducing the operational risks associated with sending equipment offsite for repair,” Yates said. “Lower latency communications provide virtually real-time updates on equipment performance and health, enhancing remote operation, and improve decision-making for reducing longwall starts and stops.”

Features such as “SIL2 being defined upfront” and “additional connectivity options for streamline integration, help to significantly improve the overall longwall performance and advance productivity, efficiency and safety,” he said.

The PMC-R 2.0 exceeded expectations during three test periods, run consecutively over four months. “The controller’s advanced functionality test conducted in May consisted of 17 different acceptance parameters ranging from surface remote control and automatic target lines to existing systems integration checks and even an automatic tow and set to height functionality,” Yates said. “The PMC-R 2.0 functioned within established parameters and passed all critical operating tests.”

Total availability reached 99.79%. “The high performance and reliability enabled the Tahmoor mine to achieve a number of new records with regards to longwall coal production,” he said. “The longwall system upgrade investments at the Tahmoor mine have resulted in increased productivity and laid a solid foundation for the extended life of mine.”

Calendared for release in Q4, the PMC-R 2.0 answers the high demand for solutions that help automate longwall production in Australia as tougher dust regulations come to bear. Miners there are seeking ways to remove workers from the face during production.

PMC-R 2.0 is the third generation of the successful PM line of controllers. It was designed to be a “future-proof, key-enabling technology for longwall autonomy,” Yates said. “The previous generations of Cat controllers had delivered industry preludes, such as teleremote control on the longwall face using the Cat PM4 and the first true surface remote control of a roof support using Cat PMC-R.”

The new controller is backward compatible with the predecessor controllers. This “provides a very cost-effective upgrade path for existing customers to enhance their longwall automation capability,” Yates said.

The successful field trial results are a “testament to the heritage of the controller, the extensive experience of the development team, and the quality of the components,” he said. The release will be an industry milestone for “the first next-generation roof-support controls system on the market.”