Simulation for the Future
INTERNATIONAL MINING – JANUARY 2015
With a military history spanning over 20 years, South African company is the de facto supplier of simulator systems to the South African National Defence Force, providing operator training and tactical training systems for vehicles such as tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and trucks. It has also supplied a number of European and Asia Pacific militaries. This military engineering has been used in the development of their CYBERMINE mining equipment simulators, which are now on their fourth generation and used around the world.
“Thanks to our military background we’re able to offer mining companies military-grade quality, reliability and low cost of ownership,” says Richard Bellengere, Vice President of R&D. A significant portion of ThoroughTec’s research and development resources in 2014 were committed to expanding its range of Atlas Copco, CAT, Komatsu and Sandvik simulator cabs. “We’re very proud of the fact that we have the widest range of simulator cabs available,” says Greg Lew, Executive Vice President and Director of Global Business Development.
“Green operators are able to familiarise themselves with the controls and iron out their mistakes on the simulator instead of the real equipment.”
“Our development team has been hard at work developing new simulator cabs for both surface and underground mining,” says Lew. Out of this wave of new cabs there are a number for Atlas Copco, CAT, Joy, Komatsu and Sandvik including two ADTs, three front end loaders, a grader, a bolter, two shovels, a continuous miner, a shuttle car, four drill rigs and six haul trucks. “These are popular OEMs in the mining industry and we have the ability to simulate their models quickly and effectively.”
ThoroughTec is also currently developing simulator cabs for a Liebherr haul truck, Fletcher soft rock bolter, Fermel heavy duty hauler, Hino personnel carrier, P&H shovel, Trident ADT and an MTI scoop. These simulators are for customers in Canada, South Africa and the USA. The company recently opened an office in Salt Lake City in the US, its seventh globally. “Our attentiveness in supporting customers, flexible approach to development schedules, lost cost of ownership and value for money service plans are key differentiators when it comes to competing for tenders,” says Lew.
Over the last few years ThoroughTec has seen growing demand for high-fidelity simulators from mining houses. “They’re becoming increasingly aware that they need to integrate simulators into their training programmes,” says Lew. Because the equipment is being used for fewer training tasks, the associated running costs of training are greatly reduced. Damage and wear-and-tear decreases as green operators are able to familiarise themselves with the controls and iron out their mistakes on the simulator instead of the real equipment. This means less unscheduled maintenance and lower maintenance and training costs.
“Pilots train on simulators all the time and it’s difficult to imagine them not training on a sim before their first actual flight. So why is it not the norm for operators of expensive 360 t haul trucks and complex drill rigs to enhance their competency on a simulator? It should be,” says Lew.
Developed recently to complement their high-fidelity simulators, ThoroughTec has seen increased demand for their Computer Based Trainer (CBT) and Operator Familiarisation Trainer (OFT) systems. A number of South American mines and major South African coal and iron ore mines have ordered these systems to bolster their existing ThoroughTec CYBERMINE simulators. Both the CBT and the OFT along with the high-fidelity simulator form a holistic training system that streamlines every aspect of the mining training process.
The CBT is an introductory level tool developed to walk novice recruits through a particular vehicle’s basic controls and operation, as well as the mine environment, site operating procedures and safety checks. The CBT makes use of 2D and 3D computer animations, video, audio and still photographs displayed on a high performance off-the-shelf PC.
Once the trainee has mastered the theory on the CBT, the OFT is used to increase the depth of their knowledge. The OFT operates as an alternative, limited function base-unit for CYBERMINE’s high-fidelity interchangeable vehicle cab simulators and is designed to familiarise operators with the identification and operation of the instruments and controls of a specific vehicle. Students interface with the OFT system via touch-screen display and through the various instruments and controls of the replicated cab. Three different modes (Exploration, Training and Evaluation Modes) allow for a complete familiarisation, learning and evaluation process, while all users and results can be recorded on a central database.