Materials handling in mining is very challenging for engineering and equipment alike – wherever bulk materials are transported, stored or processed, damage and wear can cause unplanned downtime and inefficient processing. Plastics processor, Röchling Industrial, and supplier of semi-finished thermoplastic materials, Maizey Plastics, propose that intelligent lining technology can now mitigate these losses with tech involving a plastic sheet equipped with sensors that monitor the condition of the sheet.

Plastic lining material has been used in mining and materials handling for years, where the lining protects underlying components and machines and ensures the smooth flow of bulk materials. Sensors that monitor processes in mines or in plants are also not new. Röchling Industrial has combined these technologies with Smart Matrox® – a new intelligent plastic sheet equipped with sensors. It not only combines the properties of the lining materials previously used, but it also provides information about the wear and temperature of the material.

Prevents fire damage

The use of wear sensors and temperature sensors has proven particularly useful in mining and has already prevented major possible fire damage. “We have successfully tested both sensor types in our Matrox material and are already providing reliable data for customers with applications in mining and coal-fired power plants. Tested areas of application are chutes and debris beds on conveyor lines, where a sliding sheet under the conveyor belt made from Smart Matrox® monitors the temperature of the conveyor system. In use, the material has already prevented major damage from overheating and fire,” explains Michal Sladek, Industry Manager Mining – Röchling Industrial. The solution is also suitable for numerous other areas, and the number and placement of the sensors can also be individually adjusted.

SmartMatrox facilitates monitoring components in remote locations – providing a warning system that draws attention to critical factors, like temperature – before failures occur. Image supplied by Andrey Radchenko | istock.com

SmartMatrox facilitates monitoring components in remote locations – providing a warning system that draws attention to critical factors, like temperature – before failures occur. Image supplied by Andrey Radchenko | istock.com

Important warning functions

Pro-active and predictive maintenance and automated spare parts supply can also be implemented much more easily using intelligent lining technology. “Our experience of the solution, especially in remote locations where material monitoring is complex, has been excellent. The material provides an important warning function and enables easy monitoring,” says Sladek. The sensors in the sheet emit a signal when predetermined limit values are reached. The replacement of components can then be scheduled in time.

The sensors are integrated into the sheet during the manufacturing process. While wear sensors and temperature sensors have already proven themselves in mining, other types of sensors can also be integrated into the sheet on request to measure other parameters such as water flow, loading pressure or noise level. Measured data is collected by a SmartBox and made available to users on a dashboard or mobile devices.

Industrial, Smart Products

At Röchling ‘Industrial, Smart Products’ are components equipped with integrated sensors to permanently monitor the important process data of a component. Smart products such as the Smart Matrox form the basis for an early warning system that draws attention to critical factors – before failures occur. In this way, automatic ordering processes can be initiated and/or components can be replaced before they fail. These smart products are designed as ‘plug and play’ and are delivered ready-to-install.

Smart plastics

The company also supplies identifiable and authenticated plastics. These smart plastics contain tiny marker particles that provide every component with an unmistakable identifier. In this way, it can be unequivocally determined whether a product is an original component or not. Customers gain greater process reliability in the operation of systems and SmartMarker particles provide reliable counterfeit protection. The markers are invisible and do not affect the technical properties of the material. These identifiers can be integrated into various Röchling Industrial products and the Matrox lining material.

“In use, the material has already prevented major damage from overheating and fire.”

“Pro-active and predictive maintenance and automated spare parts supply can also be implemented much more easily based on intelligent lining technology.”

“These Smart Plastics contain tiny marker particles that provide every component with an unmistakable identifier.”