A technician watches as a scanner conducts a cloud-point survey for a chute replacement project.

This year at the annual Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) meeting in Phoenix during February, ASGCO brought augmented reality to the show floor. By donning headgear, users could view a full-sized conveyor transfer point in the aisle between the stands.

A little different than virtual reality, augmented reality is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world. ASGCO is using this technology to design and demonstrate conveyor equipment, such as chutes and guarding systems. It allows their customers to see the equipment or the enhancement prior to fabrication. Also, during the design process, ASGCO and their customers can see what the final installation will look like.

“We can bring a large piece of equipment to a mine site, like a new transfer point, and place it on their existing conveyor systems without it being there,” said Aaron Gibbs, president, ASGCO. “Our team and the miners can be standing next to the existing conveyor and they can see the transfer point overlain on their existing conveyor system. They can see how it would be laid out. They can safely evaluate constraints and make sure it would fit into the designated area properly.”

This system is also incredibly useful for project design, Gibbs explained. “We build a lot of transfer points and conveyor guarding products,” Gibbs said. “Guarding is an important aspect of conveyor design. People want guarding everywhere and often they want to add guarding to existing systems, but they would really like to avoid hot work permits. Our engineering team has the ability to use its point-cloud scanners to reproduce the entire conveyor system. Then, using the augmented reality, we can superimpose the guarding on the entire conveyor and allow the customer to see it before we cut or fabricate a single piece of steel.”

ASGCO recently designed more than 690 ft of conveyor guarding for a coal-fired power plant and they installed it in three days. Using a point-cloud scanner and the augmented reality, they were able to install the system without a hot work permit. “Can you imagine installing nearly 700 ft of guarding with no torches or welders?” Gibbs asked. “That’s a big deal for a coal-fired power plant.” The point-cloud scanning allowed the designers to see all the conduit, ladders, etc., and the installers were able to bolt all the guarding to the existing conveyor system.