Modified to spec
To meet the special needs of the specialised potline basement cleaning application, Bobcat sent the machines to Engineering Top Tech for a full strip and customisation.
Our remote control bobcat story is in Capital Equipment page 24-27 – This edition is handed out at Electra Mining. You can view the online version here https://user-54716422671.cld.bz/Capital-Equipment-News-September-2018/24/
In a world where a one-size-fits-all approach has lost relevance, Bobcat South Africa has partnered with Engineering Top Tech, a specialist in custom vehicle solutions for mining and industry, to modify two Bobcat S70 RC skid-steer loaders to meet special operational requirements for South 32’s potline basement cleaning application, writes Munesu Shoko.
When mining giant South 32 recently went into the market for two skid-steer loaders to work at its aluminium production facility, Bobact was its ultimate choice, specifically the S70 RC units. Struan Raw, sales representative at Bobcat South Africa, says the S70 was the ideal choice for the particular application as it is designed with easy modification in mind. “Additionally, The Bobcat S70 loader is a lightweight machine with a small wheel base and only 900 mm width, allowing it to gain entry into confined working areas – and this was another key consideration for the client,” explains Raw.
To meet the special needs for the application at hand, Bobcat sent the machines to Engineering Top Tech – which specialises in custom vehicle solutions for mining and industry – for a full strip and customisation to suit the client’s exact requirements. Ruan Pretorius, product designer at Engineering Top Tech, explains that the scope of the modification project entailed three main aspects, namely, the reduction of the overall height of the machine to 850 mm; installing a fully-functional remote control at a maximum range of 100 m; and a systems upgrade to allow the machine to handle 50⁰C ambient in 500 gauss magnetic fields.
Modifications in detail
To meet the height restriction limitations, Pretorius explains that the cab, cooling package, rear door and diesel tank were removed. The load arm pivot was relocated and spacers were put into the load arm cylinders to maintain the correct tipping height requirement of 1 200 mm.
“The application is a function called potline basement cleaning. This is part of the reduction process in aluminium production,” explains Pretorius. “This is where the maximum height restriction and remote control come in. The environment is too hot (with molten aluminium directly above), too dusty (alumina powder) and too dangerous (huge amounts of electric current and magnetic fields of up to 500 gauss).”
The remote control system, with CAN OPEN communication, was supplied by Hetronic. “We used the CAN signal to run a Parker MC42 CAN controller that allows proportional hydraulic control of the boom, bucket, park brake, engine kill and drive functions as well as input monitoring of engine temp, hydraulic temperature and filter clogging, engine oil and alternator charge,” explains Pretorius.
These inputs will trigger warning LEDs on the transmitter as well as text feedback on an LCD screen. Over and above the transmitter feedback, a warning siren will signal on an intermittent basis whenever a fault condition exists.
“The machines needed to be low profile and remote-controlled as they are deployed to work in very tight spaced areas below the aluminium furnaces and pot rooms, collecting ash spillage and dust powder filtered under the furnaces after casting,” explains Raw.
The last major leg of modification saw the cooling system being upgraded to a fully hydraulically-driven cooling fan with a larger vertically orientated radiator, as well as a hydraulic cooler. “The park brake and engine kill solenoids were also replaced with their hydraulic counterparts as we have learned that solenoids and electric fans do not function in these high magnetic fields,” says Pretorius.
To meet the height restriction limitations, the cab, cooling package, rear door and diesel tank were removed.
From left to right: 1. Jürgen Putz: Product Designer 2. Ruan Pretorius: Product Designer 3. Richard Everingham: Managing Director and Owner 4. Brian Rachman, GM KZN
Pretorius says the modification project took about eight weeks to complete. The machines have been operational for four months now, and have surpassed the client’s expectations thus far. “The client is moving about double the material in less than half of the time compared with competition machines on site. The machines can also be used on a continuous cycle time due to the increased cooling capability. This is in contrast with current competition machines on site that are battery-powered and prone to overheating,” explains Pretorius.
Raw says the project is one of the many successful collaborations between Bobcat South Africa and Engineering Top Tech. The two companies have collaborated on many of the modification projects for aluminium companies throughout the country and southern Africa at large. “This project also casts the spotlight on the flexibility and versatility of a Bobcat loader, as well as Bobcat South Africa’s commitment to provide custom built, cost-effective solutions to exact customer needs,” says Raw.
“We have extensive experience in designing and modifying aluminium industrial vehicles, as well as mining support equipment to customer specs. Bobcat South Africa chose us for this project because we are renowned specialists in this field,” concludes Pretorius.
- To meet the height restriction limitations, the overall height of the machine had to be reduced to 850 mm
- The load arm pivot was relocated and spacers were put into the load arm cylinders to maintain the correct tipping height requirement of 1 200 mm
- The customisation project also entailed the installation of a fully-functional remote control at a maximum range of 100 m
- The last major leg of modification saw the cooling system being upgraded to a fully hydraulically-driven cooling fan with a larger vertically orientated radiator, as well as a hydraulic cooler