Mechanical scaling is one of the most complex operations of all in the mining process. The operators are using both hearing, sight and feel to read the rock and to know where to scale and where to leave. They say they go on gut feeling in great extent, something that comes with experience. The scaling machine is placed into the edge of unsecured and newly blasted rock to hammer off the blocks that has become loose after the blast, but not enough to fall down. It goes without saying that it is a risky job.
Boliden has a desire to remotely control this operation from above ground and thus became this challenge a degree project in industrial design. With a focus on ease of use and the sensory feedback, the project aim was to develop a proposal on the driver situation that allows the operator to do an as equally good job above as below ground.
Inspiration and Method
I began my process by visiting one of the mines to better understand the complexity of this work. The most interesting thing I noticed was that hardly anyone thought it would be possible to remotely control the mechanical scaler, that you wouldn't be able to read the rock well enough to do the job properly. That triggered me to try to find a solution that not only made remote control possible but also the job easier to perform.
After the first phase of research and analysis the creative phase took place, consisting of workshops, sketching and searching for inspiring technologies. The ideas were evaluated and after further refinements a concept of a remote control unit was formed.
The result is a remote control unit you can place anywhere you like, preferably on a height adjustable desk. The concept consists of a bent OLED display which gives a feeling of spatiality and a high contrast image. It shows an image that comes from two cameras placed on the machine roof, resulting in a cleaner view and the possibility to change perspective. Speakers are integrated into the unit and the sound comes from a microphone placed close to the hydraulic hammer, giving a clearer sound than what the operators hear today. Maneuvering is more intuitive through a user friendly control arm with force feedback and pressure sensitivity in order to regulate the pressure of the hammer against the mountain. In addition to that, the concept also consists of a movement indication by laser vibrometry, which helps the operator to read the mountain, and a color-coded working memory to help the planning and execution of the work.