Application of opto-tactile sensor in shearer machine design to recognise rock surfaces in underground coal mining
The success of automation applications in the mining industry traditionally has not been well. In many of these cases the benefits of automation have been advertised as the definitive solution to a wide variety of problems faced by the mining industry, such as increased safety and improved productivity. These applications have in many cases been introduced prematurely without adequate consideration of the rigors of the mining environment. As a result, effective technology has often been labeled as a failure before it has had a chance to demonstrate its true capability. Therefore, we believe that a major requirement is essential to develop automation technologies for mining systems or sub-systems, which needs minimal operator input requirement. This can be achieved in several ways. First, by narrowing the domain in which the automated mining system must operate such that less complex automation technology can be applied robustly. Alternately, more sophisticated control technologies are required that can react to the wider range of operating mining scenarios resulting from an uncertain, dynamic and very unstructured geological highly variable and unpredictable environment. Automation of shearer machines, with the help of an opto-tactile sensor, should make the machine capable to detect the coal-rock interface in the roof and the floor. In this article an attempt has been made to apply, in association with an existing shearer machine, a newly developed opt-tactile sensor to detect different types of material layers where a shearer machine can operate at the longwall face of underground coal mines. The proposed tactile sensor should be capable to detect different types of materials (coal, limestone, sandstone, and shell) recognizing their surface textures.