When the distinct and specialized fields of electronics and mechanical engineering merge the result is the exciting 21st Century career path for engineers known as “mechatronics”.
Mechatronics in 2023 and Beyond
Examples of mechatronic engineering in action abound, since electronics drive the mechanical functions within most modern haulage vehicles, conveyors, concrete mixers, and a growing majority of assorted “smart” industrial equipment.
In mining and manufacturing, working robots are clearly mechatronic systems with microcontrollers and PCBs controlling their production functionality. The latest advancements in 5G and IoT technology have enabled practical, nearly lag-free, real-time, remote machine control.
As a result of increased systems reliability, the rapidly accelerating field of mechatronic engineering is transforming the 21st-century industrial workforce on and off the plant floor, not to mention at the most remote and isolated mining operations.
Can Mining Mechatronics Make the Trains Run on Time?
Locomotive transportation is an essential element in the logistical systems of underground mines. Underground trains are deployed to handle the intense flow of heavy earth masses and are used for horizontal or moderately inclined transportation of various mining materials, movements of the human workforce, and point-to-point distribution of heavy mine equipment.
For the mechatronic engineer, mine locomotive systems require a complex organization of the movement and operations, often in harsh and severe environments. The example of the mining locomotive as a mechatronic system makes it possible to use a comprehensive approach to the integration of the various elements.
Given that a mine’s “ underground railroad” is typically operated in comparatively harsh
conditions and in order to overcome those hazards, its basic functional units must have a high degree of interconnectivity. The fundamental interacting locomotive components to be coordinated by the mechatronic engineers are:
- Mechanical/electrical drive systems
- Measurement and control transmission
- Logging of information about the current locomotive state.
- Location information about each locomotive is crucially important for mining operations
to prevent accidents and production disruptions.
- Continuous, updated information regarding the status of the locomotive and condition of the rail track.
- Information system for storing precise statistics for detailed analysis of all pre-emergency and emergency situations.
- The ultimate goal for the mining mechatronics team is to extend the service life of the locomotive, to reduce emergency repairs and to prevent accidents.
Why Your Industrial Operation Needs Qualified Mechatronic Engineers
Here at Resource Erectors, we talk quite a bit about meeting production goals, continuous improvement engineering, and OPEX vs CAPEX. For the CFO who is still on the fence about expanding the company’s mechatronics talent pool, here are the facts on the Return on Investment in that particular essential human resource asset.
- The application of microelectronics and microprocessor technology increases productivity significantly.
- State-of-the-art mechatronic systems improve workplace safety.
- Automated systems reduce unanticipated emergency, corrective maintenance, and operating costs.
- Enables the implementation of complex control algorithms and continuous monitoring of the state of production assets.
The mine locomotive is just one example of modern mechatronics in action. For the mechatronic engineer, the industrial world of the 21st Century is wide open, such as in the essential sector of bulk material handling.
Integrated Mechatronic Systems For Bulk Material Handling
“Bulk material handling in any plant requires a complex network of people and equipment. A simple misplacement of a machine or an error in calibration creates inefficiency, or worse, stops the line. The more suppliers added to the mix, the more complicated your systems become.”- Magnum Systems – Bulk Material Automation
Case Study: Fully Automated Mineral Processing Right Here in North Carolina
Maximizing production and profitability in bulk material handling is a chore best handled by mechatronics, with handling and processing systems custom-designed from the ground up. That said, we didn’t have far to look for an applicable case study. We were intrigued by a home state North Carolina case study of the Quartz Corp.
The Quartz Corp is a premier supplier of high-purity quartz, feldspar, and mica. The corporation’s stated mission is “to provide the industries of tomorrow an ultra-pure raw material, directly supporting the creation of renewable energy and innovative technologies.”
The Quartz Corp “bulk material” is among the purest grades on the planet due to the unique geology of the town of Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Spruce Pine pegmatites formed through natural mountain-building geological processes over 350 million years ago. Thanks to the pure mineral properties of this unique mountain range, The Quartz Corp begins its process with highly prized minerals.
With those highest-grade raw mineral materials, coupled with state-of-the-art purification techniques, the company provides an ultra-pure product that supports a diverse range of industries including energy, solar, semiconductor, lighting, and the fiber optic sectors.
The high-purity feldspar products are widely used in paints, coatings, adhesives, caulks, sealants, plastics, elastomers, engineered stone, ceramics, glass, abrasives, and polishes. With very few natural grain-bound impurities, the raw material from the Spruce Pine Appalachians can be refined to purity levels of an incredible 99.999% SiO2. (silicon dioxide).
With such high purity levels to maintain, every step of the mineral handling process afterward is under scrutiny at Quartz Corp. Recovery of valuable “waste” material is also a high priority, so Magnum Systems mechatronic engineers had their work cut out for them.
The solution was a fully automated bulk material “PD (pressure discharge) truck to pallet” handling system that includes:
- Advanced pneumatic conveyors
- Bulk bag filling
- 50 lb. valve bag packaging systems.
- Equipment capable of standing up to abrasive materials.
- Ability to pneumatically transfer 10 different materials for loading into bulk bags of 2000 lbs. and 50 lbs.
- Handle 10 different bulk densities and particle sizes using only two dense phase systems; one for each of two silos.
- Capability to switch seamlessly to either the bulk bag station or the 50 lb. bag station without allowing either station to ever be short of product.
The conveying system alone includes an Empty Pallet Dispenser, Slip Sheet Dispenser, Full Pallet Chain Conveyors, Check-weigh Conveyor, Metal Detection Conveyor, and a Robotic Palletizer.
That’s enough to keep a talented mechatronic engineer busy for a long and rewarding career.
About Resource Erectors
Mechatronic engineering career opportunities abound on the 2023 Resource Erectors job board, Professional-level positions available cover a broad range from mechanical designers, to structural steel detailing, to design engineers for product design and development of essential equipment used in the processing and handling of bulk material and construction aggregates.
When your company is ready to advance in the competitive industrial environment of the 21st Century, Resource Erectors has the specialized heavy industry recruiting experience you need to thrive in 2023 and beyond, so don’t hesitate to contact Dan so we can all get to work.