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Innovation prize of the international BAUMA Trade Fair goes to Bochum Eickhoff machine can see, hear and feel. Underground technology revolutionises work.

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

With sense and understanding: Even machines in the underground hardcoal mining industry can nowadays have ‘human’ traits. After years of development it has been possible to equip a modern mining machine, a shearer loader, with intelligence. This mining machine was developed by Eickhoff, the Bochum-located supplier to the mining industry, with the support of experts from the Herne-located mining company RAG and the RWTH Aachen with a great deal of experience in the German hardcoal mining industry. The mining machine was awarded the BAUMA innovation price in Munich.
The project bears the title: ‘Sensor-aided remote control for the automation of mining machinery’. What sounds so dry is in truth a real revolution underground. Until just recently only men were capable of coordinating the complex tasks of a mining machine using their senses of ‘seeing, hearing and feeling’. This is nowadays performed by video cameras in combination with high-intensity headlights and light-independent radar sensors which make the machine automatically detect, for example, obstacles and the boundaries between coal and rock. All components are integrated in the machine in such a way that they withstand even the toughest everyday operations. They now provide reliable measuring results and pictures which, linked with the control technique, allow operating the machine also in the automation mode. Manual intervention by the operator will only be necessary in exceptional cases. Says Eickhoff Sales Director, Dr. Eckhard Conrad: ‘This enables efficient and material-saving hardcoal mining underground. The innovation content of this project is considerable and the result is also of great significance to the international market.’ This shearer loader represents an essential core component in the automation of the entire underground mining process – which is the special field of competence of RAG Mining Solutions who are providing these systems worldwide.
Willi Stuckmann, Eickhoff Head of Sales, sees the awarded project as a successful example of good cooperation between the customer and the manufacturer. ‘The development work was performed in close cooperation with the RAG and the RWTH Aachen.’ This cooperation helped create the SL 750 shearer loader that has already proved its efficiency in underground trial operations at Prosper Haniel Colliery in Bottrop and, more recently, at Auguste Victoria Colliery in Marl.
The head associations of the German construction industry annually award the innovation prize to future-oriented developments in the construction, building material and mining industries and to construction processes. The prize is awarded for the ninth time in 2010. What’s new is the internationalisation of this competition. In 2010, also companies and research institutes with places of business outside Germany could take part therein for the very first time. The fact that the Bochum-located Eickhoff company has been awarded the this year’s BAUMA innovation prize is thus perceived as an accolade of special significance to this company.
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