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Connectors for digital mining operating in arduous environmental conditions and for extreme applications

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The mine of the future is being built on connectivity of data and automation. The benefits of Industry 4.0 through digitalization of data from connected assets in the mining industry is profound. To enable near-real time decision, a digital mine needs to bring together data from across its assets distributed within its value chain. If done correctly, it rewards the industry with increasing uptime of critical assets, reducing costs and operational risks.

The application

Drill and blast operations are the first steps which are complex and safety-critical part of mining operations. In addition, mining operators are challenged with compressed cycle times, increased price pressure and knowledge attrition. All this is happening while at the backdrop with rising commodity demand from advancing energy transition drilling activity is continuing its upward trend.

Operators are working closely with mining equipment manufacturers to install instruments to collect raw data to carry out diagnostics of any failures and then build on that dataset to predict what will happen to optimize its operations. For example, mining equipment manufacturers are gathering data of the rock mass surrounding the tunnel to get actionable insight that affects probe drilling, grouting rock reinforcement and most importantly safety. Among various parameters being recorded by instruments installed close to the drill cutter, are feed pressure, rotation pressure, rotation speed to name a few.

Connectors are critical components in ensuring reliable transmission of data from the instruments. However, given instruments need to operate in arduous environmental conditions along with extreme operating conditions like high vibration where connectors are often the most delicate link, as they frequently fail thus introducing inefficiency in the system. Connectors equipped with hyperboloid contacts provide a high number of linear contact paths as they are formed by hyperbolically arranged contact wires, which align themselves elastically as contact lines around the pin. Under high vibration this feature helps avoiding large deformation or stress on contact material leading to fatigue, wear leading to removal of plating material. Consequently, it leads to decrease in contact resistance. The surrounding environment of connector contains pollutants including sulphides, chlorides, nitrates, hydroxides or ammonium salt. Most atmospheric corrosions follow electrochemical mechanisms in nature and involve the interaction of absorbed moisture with various atmospheric gases at the metal surface will lead to fretting corrosion on the contact surface.

The Challenge

Mining equipment manufacturers struggle to demonstrate a reliable system to their customers when they attempt to install instruments. When operating in in arduous environmental conditions along with extreme operating conditions like high vibration standard products are not enough to provide a reliable system that doesn’t fail every few hours.

The Solution

Smiths Interconnect pioneers design of connectors with the groundbreaking hyperboloid contact technology. This contact technology unlike all others available in the market was designed to operate in high mechanical shock and vibration prone applications.

The position & angle of the wires in a hyperboloid geometry surrounds the mating pin. Each wire wraps itself around the pin, providing lines of contact along the pin (as opposed to a few discrete points of contact). Hyperboloid contact’s wires are designed to stretch elastically when the male pin is inserted (without plastic irreversible deformation), so they return to the original state after the pin is removed – leading to long contact life in high shock and vibration applications.

Hyperboloid Contact Technology

Hyperboloid Contact Technology

The Hyperboloid contact technology has large surface area which provides low contact resistance and higher current ratings. The mating pin also acts as a heat sink to keep wires cool, it extends the whole length to prevent wires from overheating in higher power contacts.

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M12 Connectors

M12 Connectors

Smiths Interconnect offers robust M12 connectors with cable harnessed. They are suited for the digital mining industry, for instance to be mounted on rock drill sledges. Even after 100s of hours the connector is able to function as expected. Smiths Interconnect’s M12 connector is designed to IP67 with 360° EMI shielding and compliant to fire and smoke standards.

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