Above, Weir ESCO delivers the largest dragline bucket in the world. (Photo: Weir ESCO)

Suppliers offer innovative dragline solutions that are built to perform better and last longer

By Jesse Morton, Technical Writer

Delivering the largest dragline bucket in the world was not an isolated event for Weir ESCO. The unit is a momentary climax in a continuing run of delivering superior products and solutions designed to improve dragline performance. The case is similar with WireCo and L&H, both of which are introducing new offerings that are the result of decades of experience and years of research and development. Recent headlines from all three suppliers show that innovation is driven by one force, the needs of the customers.

The World’s Largest Dragline Bucket

The ESCO ProFill dragline bucket is the largest in the world today and offers significantly higher productivity than do competitor solutions, Weir said. “We take pride that this is the largest operating dragline bucket in the world,” said Shawn McCullum, technical product manager, Weir ESCO.

Historically, the supplier has produced giant buckets, but “none with the benefits the ProFill bucket delivers,” he said. “The defining features and capabilities of the ProFill bucket come down to three main areas: productivity, maintenance and safety.”

The bucket was basically invented to give major productivity gains. “ProFill buckets have consistently out-produced other bucket options, with some mines achieving as much as 20% increases in hourly production,” McCullum said. “Our buckets achieve this through innovative design, which improves payload flow for a faster filling bucket.”

The design includes “proprietary geometry” enabling “faster fill rate per pass that lowers overall cycle time,” he said. “With superior material flow characteristics, ProFill buckets achieve higher, more consistent payloads than alternatives in the market.”

With longer-lasting wear parts that can be replaced faster than those of the competition, the bucket also reduces downtime. “Furthermore, ProFill buckets can require up to 50% less rebuild time than alternative products, dramatically improving bucket availability,” McCullum said. Rebuilds can cost up to 50% less than do competitor solution rebuilds.

For engineers, the bucket delivers predictable productivity. “Consistently higher payloads make production planning more predictable, and minimize swings in output,” he said.

“In addition to reducing production variability, payload consistency reduces potential damage to the machine due to overload,” McCullum said. “The steady production levels of the ProFill bucket make it easier to balance, maximizing the payload while adhering to load limits, and avoiding structural problems on the machine.”

Beyond productivity gains, the bucket delivers cost savings by reducing and simplifying maintenance. “The cast structure of the ProFill bucket reduces the chance of cracks developing that are common in fabricated plate bucket structures,” he said. “The use of high-strength castings throughout the bucket provides a strong, durable structure that withstands the toughest applications, while minimizing bucket weight.”

With a faster fill time, the bucket travels a shorter distance, “reducing wear and tear on both the bucket and the machine,” he said.

The Nemisys lip and GET system and upper wing shrouds are mechanically attached, which means no cracking from repeated welding. The simplicity with which they are attached and removed reduces the labor requirements for the task, which can help a miner facing staffing shortages. “ESCO GET is also designed for safe handling, installation and removal by a diverse, changing workforce,” McCullum said.

That combined with the longer wear life and extended maintenance intervals means “less hands-on interaction with the product,” he said. “In a tight labor market, when staffing shortages become an issue, this can be a differentiator in operational efficiency.”

The reduced frequency and increased predictability of maintenance tasks can help lower inventory and lengthen planning cycles. “ESCO’s global supply chain teams work tirelessly to ensure that our customers have the parts they need, when they need them,” he said.

Reduced maintenance can translate to improved safety. “Simply put, longer-lasting products and fewer maintenance interactions translate to less risk exposure for mine personnel,” McCullum said.

“Making the replacement of points, adapters and shrouds not only safer, but faster, reduces the window for injury to occur,” he said. “ESCO’s award-winning Nemisys lip system features the same hammerless safety lock in all points and adapters, using standard hand tools for installation and removal.” The supplier also offers SecureLift to help with the heavy lifting in GET handling and replacement tasks.

The ProFill bucket also offers intangible benefits, such as helping a mine attain some sustainability goals. “The use of a faster filling, more efficient bucket reduces the energy required to capture payload, which in turn reduces energy usage per unit of material moved,” McCullum said. “This also reduces wear and tear on the machine and prolongs the health of these important assets.”

The bucket is the fruit of almost a century of research, development and business discipline that has put more than 8,700 dragline buckets in the field. “The deep-rooted product knowledge our history provides is the foundation upon which our current ProFill buckets are built,” he said.

The ProFill dragline bucket launched in 2008 and has been followed by the ProFill Delta bucket, with a rear-taper profile, and the ProFill Dredge bucket for underwater applications.

Each unit is custom-made to achieve the goals of the miner. “We work hand-in-hand with our customers to ensure that each bucket ESCO delivers will address areas in which the mine would like to see improvements,” he said.

Customer success is a primary business objective for the supplier. “We are successful when our customers are successful,” McCullum said. “We stand behind our product and work closely with customers, post-delivery, to ensure that our buckets exceed expectations.”

Ropes, Pendants Offer Durability, Productivity

WireCo reported its Gladiator Series products offer superior longevity for increased uptime and productivity. The latest updates to the series will add to its record of success at helping miners produce more coal, the company reported.

Recently, WireCo released Union Gladiator Steel Hoist Ropes (GHR) in 2 3/4-, 2 3/8-, and 2 7/8-in. dia. The development “is very exciting as this was the first project to go through WireCo’s newly implemented new product development process,” said Will Hemeyer, product manager, surface mining.

“This process helps WireCo deliver new products that customers want in a much quicker time frame,” he said. “Over the next 12 months we anticipate adding even more mines that see the value in our premium options.”

The new bend restrictor for Gladiator ARA-BOOM Synthetic Mid-Boom Pendants will be attached to the socket and will allow the rope to move independently during installation to prevent damage to the pendant. (Photo: WireCo)

For electric shovels, the large-dia. rope “is the most advanced shovel hoist rope that we have ever manufactured,” Hemeyer said. It “has industry-leading minimum break force, which when coupled with our unique rope design allows surface mines to move more material over the life of the rope.”

WireCo uses an extrusion process that “ensures the most thorough penetration throughout the rope to help minimize internal stresses and fatigue,” he said. “For this design we also took learnings from rope designs from other industries and applied those learnings to this application to maximize rope efficiency, abrasion resistance, and fatigue resistance to increase rope life.”

Increased rope life “leaves the shovel in the dirt longer adding to the mine’s bottom line,” Hemeyer said. “This is the true value that the GHR adds to any mine site.”

GHR originally arose from the Tuf-Max Plus lineup and product line, and the initial designs were driven by customer input. “It really was a team effort to get this rope to market,” Hemeyer said.

Currently, the GHR is on machines at 12 sites throughout North and South America and are generating the desired results.

“This rope is quickly being adopted and gaining a reputation as the rope all others will be judged against,” Hemeyer said. “We have seen some exceptional success in the oil sands over the past few months,” he said. “We have been floored by how well these ropes are doing.”

L&H engineers oversee and work directly with production during onsite installs of rebuilt major components and its Honestly Better Components. (Photo: L&H)

Results include a minimum 12% lifespan increase over the competition, “an average increase of 21%, and one set that delivered a 40% increase!” Hemeyer said. “We had similar feedback from coal mines in Colombia and hard rock copper mines in the southern U.S. where we saw an average 25.6% increase in service life over other premium ropes.”

WireCo also reported the Gladiator Synthetic Main Boom pendants reduce vibratory fatigue and the related maintenance on shovels and draglines. WireCo said the pendants feature “an industry-first observation portal” for monitoring their health. “Our patented Uni-Hatch panel located on each bend restrictor requires no tools to open and offers our customers the ability to perform visual inspections at the base of each socket,” said Greg Savage, market manager.

Accessible in the Uni-Hatch are “measurement devices at the base in each pendant for dia. readings,” he said. “The ability for our customers to expedite the inspection process allows them to return to their mining operations faster.”

Gladiator Main Boom Pendants, based on the design of the successful Gladiator ARA-BOOM Mid-Boom Pendants, are constructed with high-performance synthetic fiber with a proprietary end termination designed for use on shovels and draglines. “What differentiates our pendants from our synthetic competitors is the high-performance fiber we use along with our termination method,” Savage said. “Our Gladiator pendants use a combination of proven and proprietary socket technology and methods that have a 30-year proven track record.”

One of the main benefits offered is superior longevity for increased uptime and production. “Due to the pendants rope construction and industry-proven termination method, our pendants will outlast the competition and extend life in multiple areas on the shovel and dragline,” he said.

The pendants were introduced in 2021. “They are the first for WireCo’s Union brand,” Savage said.

The first set was installed on a dragline. “Prior to installing our pendants on the dragline, we completed a direct wire rope versus synthetic rope load measurement comparison,” Savage said. “Our study consisted of a 3-week analysis on the existing wire pendants followed by a 3-week analysis on ours.”

The results showed a “significant reduction in strain magnitude cyclic behavior,” he said. “This reduction in the dynamic load will not only extend fatigue life of our pendants but also the life of the pins, lugs, welded steel structures at the vicinity of the pendant attachment points, and potentially to other areas of the boom, mast and A-frame.”

WireCo also released the next-generation bend restrictor for the Gladiator ARA-BOOM Synthetic Mid-Boom Pendants. The new bend restrictor will be attached primarily to the socket and will allow the rope to move independently during installation to help prevent damage to the pendant.

Gladiator ARA-BOOM Synthetic Mid-Boom Pendants are made of high-performance synthetic fiber with an end termination designed for upper- and lower-intermediate support applications on draglines.

The pendants offer greater longevity than do competing solutions. “Our pendants provide superior shock absorbing properties, which eliminate galloping and reduce overall vibrations,” Savage said.

“Customers can also expect to experience less downtime for repairs and damage to the boom with our pendants,” he said. “This is due to the overall weight reduction along with the performance in tension-tension fatigue.” The pendants require no maintenance and “provide uninterrupted service between the mine’s scheduled maintenance cycles.”

The pendants were released in 1991. “Since the installation of the initial set we have worked on over 150 projects, spanning multiple different countries including the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia and China,” Savage said.

Over the decades, in the field, they have “continuously demonstrated five to 10 times the life expectancy of competitor solutions over the last 30 years,” he said. WireCo’s premium upper and lower intermediate rope solutions “continue to provide our customers with the performance they expect and deserve.”

Walking Arm Update Lengthens Lifespan

L&H Industrial reported the Walking Arm Modifications, including a stronger-than-cast L&H Forged Crank, increase the walking arm lifespan by up to 50%. The solution is one of many that deliver improved performance and longevity, the company said. “L&H has a deep understanding of mechanical systems and has redesigned many components that consistently outlast OEM designs by 30% or longer,” said Brittney Thomas, marketing manager, L&H.

Advanced component and system designs, repairs, rebuilds, and services make the supplier the premier one-stop shop for dragline support. “We provide cradle-to-grave support,” she said.

“From engineering the component and assembly as a completely new innovation, to even upgrading an existing design that may have inherent pitfalls in the OEM design,” Thomas said, “we can provide complete in-house manufacturing and repair of these components with massive structural fabrication, up to 6-m gear manufacturing and large shafting.”

The supplier offers Honestly Better Components and assemblies “that support the lifetime performance of a machine and reduce operational costs,” company literature said. The solutions reduce “the total cost of ownership for draglines via smart engineering,” it said. “100% of L&H premium components meet, or more often exceed, OEM performance, quality, and safety standards.”

L&H also offers complete turnkey solutions in the field. Those include major machine overhauls, teardown and commissioning, machine relocations, onsite machining, welding and repairs, machine audits, and component installs in the field. “We don’t have to hire subs which eliminates margin stacking,” said Marley Ziegler, field service manager.

One critical turnkey field service offering that showcases the company’s capabilities is integrated outage support. “That is conducted with the support of a 24/7 machine shop, fabrication shop and engineering on standby to expedite downtime during outages,” Ziegler said.

By not farming out tasks to third parties, the supplier maintains optimal quality control. “Because we do everything in-house, L&H has complete quality control and insight throughout the project, which also means so do our customers,” he said. “Our engineers oversee and work directly with production during the manufacturing process as well as onsite installs of the components at the customer sites.”

That engineering and oversight draws on more than “60 years of working on massive industrial equipment, including draglines, and helping mining operations optimize equipment performance and the life of their components,” Thomas said. “We have seen why machines fail from operating conditions, maintenance practices, and OEM design flaws,” she said. 

“We continually innovate machinery, whether it’s a new design innovation, upgraded repair, or turnkey service in the field,” Thomas said. “It is a part of the organization’s DNA.”

The electric drive on the Cat 8750 can offer availabilities of greater than 95%. (Photo: Caterpillar)

Forged, Upgraded Components Improve Uptime, Availability, Longevity

Cat Draglines are built to deliver the lowest material removal cost per ton versus other methods of overburden removal, Caterpillar reported. “Their insulated-gate bipolar transistor electric-drive system routinely offers availabilities of greater than 95%,” the company told Coal Age. “Compared to similar DC dragline models, AC drives deliver up to 10% energy savings over the life of the dragline, plus offer an overall efficiency of 92%.”

Recent design advancements include forged parts for several components, including the eccentrics, drum ends and swing rack. Forging improves “strength, toughness, ductility and fatigue resistance,” and “can improve the component’s longevity in the field,” Caterpillar said.

Cat Aftermarket Solutions now offers single-piece forged eccentrics. “Offered in both hubbed and hubless designs, the forged eccentric drops in as a like-for-like replacement and eliminates the defects inherent with cast eccentrics,” the supplier said. “The forged eccentric features optimized spline geometry to lower operating stresses.”

New forged stabilizer links eliminate welding. “Forged boom feet eliminate both gussets and welding in the front clusters to improve service life,” Cat said. The new aftermarket drum end is fully forged.

For Cat and Bucyrus draglines, Cat offers forged swing racks. “A solid forged design eliminates all weld joints, and they feature increased hardness for improved contact and bending fatigue,” the supplier said. “Their zero-gap design improves the support for end teeth, and they offer improved structural support behind the tooth root.”

Also available is a new universal walking arm that is left- and right-hand compatible and features full web support plates instead of small gussets that can crack.