By Steve Fiscor, Editor-in-Chief

Striving for the highest levels of productivity, surface mines place high demands on truck tires. Today’s haul trucks are extremely powerful and the tires are expected to reliably support the load for the longest possible periods. Why not? At $60,000 a pop or more, they should perform at the highest levels possible. More importantly, if that truck goes in for repairs, downtime costs eat an operation alive.

The tires need to be efficient enough to run cool, but robust enough to transport increasingly heavy loads. For the longest time, mine operators had no clue what was happening with haul truck tires. Ttire manufacturers gradually introduced monitoring systems that allowed the mines to make decisions that might save a tire and hours of downtime. Naturally, as technology advanced, these systems became capable of giving mine operators probably more data than they need. In a case where more is better, new software is allowing miners to channel the data to better meet their needs.

All of the major tire manufacturers and several distributors exhibited at MINExpo 2012, during September in Las Vegas. What follows is a brief synopsis of some of the technologies and large mining tires debuted at the event.

Tire Monitoring Systems Reduce Costs
At MINExpo 2012, Bridgestone Commercial Solutions launched B-TAG (Bridgestone Intelligent Tag), a system that monitors tire pressure and temperature and reports the data in real time. “Using B-TAG enables productivity gains,” said Kurt Danielson, president, Bridgestone Commercial Solutions. “Manual tire checks on a haul truck can average 6 minutes a tire. With B-TAG installed, checks take only about 1 minute per truck.” It doesn’t take an engineering degree to determine that 1 minute is better than 36 minutes, or that 10 minutes is better than 6 hours for a fleet of 10 tucks.

The B-TAG hardware is installed on the vehicle. Data is sent from sensors in the tire to the onboard system and then transferred to the mine dispatch system, a B-TAG handheld reader or downloaded directly for analysis. Mine operators can not only see data in real time, but data can also be compiled to identify pressure trends or assess and adjust operating conditions for more long-term solutions.

“Tire pressure and temperature are especially important in mine operations, since the haul trucks run for extended periods of time and manual measurement often means increased downtime,” said Danielson. “B-TAG monitors without human involvement and gives mine operators the data they need to make adjustments early, which can extend tire life and make the work environment safer.”

The company now offers a suite of products and services, Bridgestone Mining Solutions (BMS), designed to increase a mine’s productivity, and reduce costs with a constant regard for safety. BMS combines tire sales and repair with tire management and retreading to address every phase of a mine’s tire-related needs.

“The mining companies told us what they need most is support in keeping their people and their work environment safe, help with increasing productivity, and assistance in driving costs out of their operations,” Danielson said. “Although tires are our main product, we realize that service is key to increasing our customers’ uptime. BMS is a response to what our customers wanted and needed: a total solution that speaks to each phase of tire life, helping them save money and increase productivity.”

In addition to mining tires and the B-TAG system, BMS offers a range of services, assisting with everything from strategic planning to technical support. It has seven repair centers located throughout North America.

Mining Tires Have a Lot of Data to Share
The Michelin Earthmover Management System (MEMS) provides mine operators with data about tire usage conditions. Temperature and pressure are constantly monitored to optimize driving and safety conditions, as well as tire performance. At MINExpo 2012, Michelin introduced an upgrade to this technology. Called MEMS Evolution 2, it is a more high-performance, connected, efficient version of the original system, according to Michelin. It uses a latest-generation TPMS sensor as well as new, improved system software. The new system reportedly has a user-friendly interface and uses wireless technology to provide direct access to data regardless of where the vehicle is located in the mine.

If a temperature or pressure problem is detected on a haul truck tire, it sends a signal to the team that manages the haul trucks. The alert signal appears on the monitor in the mine management center and the driver is informed of the problem. Depending on the nature of the problem, a decision is made to stop the truck, change its speed or direct it to take another route to protect its tires.

A new interface enables real-time tire monitoring for an entire vehicle fleet. It also records in real time all data from a haul truck. It provides mine operators with standard or personalized tire fleet analyses. MEMS Evolution 2 is in continuous contact with the mine’s warehouse to manage inventory.

Michelin introduced MEMS in 2007, six years after it developed the XDR 59/80 R, the mining industry’s first 63-inch tire, which allowed today’s ultra-class payloads of more than 360 tons. During MINExpo, Michelin introduced the XDR2, the second-generation of the tire, which integrates the most recent technological advances made by Michelin’s research teams.

The company deploys engineers and analysts to the mines to monitor tires fitted on mining equipment and to take measurements that will drive continuous improvement in its tire offerings. With this combination of expert teams and technical resources, Michelin believes it can more effectively meet the expectations of mining customers around the world.

Clearly, mining operations need to become more productive. Today’s equipment is extremely powerful. Tires need to support this trend, delivering greater reliability and robustness while making it possible to transport increasingly heavy loads. In addition, Michelin is focused on enhancing the environmental performance of its Earthmover tires, in particular by reducing the amount of raw materials integrated into its products. In short, the goal is to carry heavier loads with tires that contain fewer raw materials.

The XDR2 makes haul trucks safer while enabling users to improve their productivity and optimize their environmental performance. The improved safety is due to three factors: 2 million hours of tests to ensure its reliability, MEMS, and the tire’s enhanced resistance to cuts and scrapes, which reduce tire-damage incidents.

Compared with the previous-generation tire, the XDR2 has a tread band that is up to 20% thicker and helps reduce operating costs by improving both longevity and durability. Similarly, the layer that separates the tread from that tire casing is 10% thicker, making it more robust and resistant to cuts and scrapes. The tread pattern has also been thoroughly reworked to improve efficiency. The center block is 13% wider while the tread was designed to be self-cleaning. This also helps the tire to cool faster, as the ventilation effect is 10% greater than its predecessor. In addition, the tread pattern changes with wear. Consequently, the XDR2 has a larger contact patch when the tire is 50% worn.

C2 technology developed by Michelin makes tires stronger thanks to the use of thicker, corrosion-resistant cables. The technology reduces temperature build-up of the tread shoulder, thus maximizing the potential life of the tire without compromising operating speed or load carrying capacity.

Overall, the new XDR2 is considerably more robust than the previous-generation XDR. The steel protective plies located between the casing and the tread are 60% stronger and feature a new corrosion-resistance treatment. Similarly, the sidewall rubber is twice as thick, providing enhanced resistance to cuts and scrapes. Together, these features deliver optimized endurance, which has been improved by 9% to 20% compared with the previous-generation XDR2. And, it’s MEMS ready.

Goodyear Gets Back in the Game
Goodyear unveiled a 63-inch tire, which is part of its RM (Rock Mining) line, at MINExpo 2012. It is offered in two sizes: 53/80R63 and 59/80R63. Each size is available with E3/E4 tread designs. “Global demand for high-performing 63-inch OTR tires remains extremely strong, and we are proud to offer such a robust, highly engineered product for the world’s largest mining and earthmoving equipment,” said David Anckaert, general manager, global OTR tires, Goodyear. The 63-inch tire is a natural extension of Goodyear’s full OTR tire line-up, which has included 57-inch radial OTR tires for more than two decades, according to Anckaert.

“Designed using advanced computer simulation tools—and developed in collaboration with some of the industry’s leading original equipment manufacturers to help ensure size and performance compliance—this tire represents the culmination of all we have learned over the years, which makes it a ‘must have’ for mining operations that want to achieve optimal productivity while minimizing expensive downtime,” Anckaert said.

Features of Goodyear’s 63-inch OTR tire include:

  • Robust steel casing and belt construction to help enhance strength;
  • Interlocking center grooves for extra stability;
  • Goodyear’s CycleMax tread compound that helps promote cool running;
  • High-angle, non-directional grooves to help enhance traction across a wide range of demanding surfaces.

Goodyear began production of 63-inch OTR tires at its plant in Topeka, Kan., in late 2010.