Coal Preparation » Process Control
The main aim of the project was to develop and test a low-cost system for monitoring of coal preparation plant systems and processes in troubleshooting or investigative applications. The system (or tool) is autonomous, can be interfaced with a wide variety of probes, sensors and cameras, and has an on-board decision making capacity. The system has an on-board data logging capability and can employ several communications mechanisms to interrogate other systems, transfer data, and receive instructions. The main role of the tool is to identify ‘exception-to-rule’ situations while monitoring problem areas in a plant. When a problem has been detected, users of the tool can be notified via their mobile phone with SMS ‘alert’ messages, and at shift changeover an SMS code can be sent by the new operator or maintenance technician to assume control of the system. The potential value to industry could be estimated on the basis of improved operator efficiency and reduced operator workload.
A prototype system or AMTS (Autonomous Monitoring and Test Station) has been produced. A design criteria and data processing methodology were established to produce an economical (< $5000) and reconfigurable system. The main micro-controller was adapted from an advanced autonomous robotics educational system used by Universities. The system has the advantage of having interfaces for multiple analog and digital sensors and actuators plus the capability of performing on-board machine vision via a camera. A pool of public domain software and general sensor applications are available and units are currently manufactured in Australia. The project developed software for a real-time operating system, specialized sensor interfaces, mobile telephony, data logger, event handler, state analyzer and user interface. The project also involved the review of 10 possible tasks of which 6 were to be chosen for case studies and plant trials. The type of low-level tasks which were considered included: equipment condition monitoring, process performance tests, and identifying unusual events. It was not possible to complete all case studies.
A system like the AMTS could provide a standard plant network interface and auxiliary monitor for testing sensors and experimental gauges.
Commercialization of the AMTS is not feasible in the short term due to the small range of applications currently available in the prototype system’s toolkit and due to the expense of developing new ones. It would be easier and cheaper for engineers and technicians employed within plants to develop new applications for the AMTS toolkit. Therefore, it is recommended that initially the design and software of the prototype be made freely available to the coal industry on the basis that groups developing applications will share the new software and technical details in a common pool of applications. Prototype units and support can be provided by Opticoal Pty. Ltd., a subsidiary of Jenkins-Kwan Technology.