Coal Age

DEC 2018

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Page 42 of 59

December 2018 41 operating ideas continued Prototype Testing Once the prototype vehicle was developed through several iterations and design re- visions, demonstrations and tests were conducted at several locations, including the Pittsburgh Mining Research Division in Bruceton, Pennsylvania, the National Mine Health and Safety Academy near Beckley, West Virginia, the West Virginia Universi- ty (WVU) Academy for Mine Training and Energy Technologies (Doll's Run) near Mor- gantown, West Virginia, and at an under- ground coal mine in the Illinois basin as part of a mine rescue training exercise. The most extensive exercise took place at the WVU Doll's Run location (Figure 3), where representatives from the mine rescue community operated the machine under apparatus in a simulated mine environment. Theatrical smoke was in- troduced into the mine entries to deter- mine the operator's ability to manage the machine controls in a low-visibility envi- ronment. Two demonstration tests were conducted in the simulated smoke envi- ronment — first with the operator using the radio remote-control transmitter and secondly using the tablet machine con- trol. After the simulated smoke testing, the smoke was evacuated from the mine and the trailer was connected to the rescue ma- chine to test system maneuverability in the mine. The machine and trailer were able to successfully negotiate turns in this 16-ft- wide by 7-ft-high multiple entry configura- tion. Upon completion of the trailer towing demonstration (Figure 4), the machine was operated outside the mine and successful- ly moved and maneuvered through a de- bris pile created by mine rescue personnel. Demonstration and testing sessions were successful, with many mine rescue representatives expressing optimism that the prototype machine could significant- ly improve the mine rescue and recovery process. Mine rescuers offered positive feedback and requested minor changes to the machine to improve design and incor- porate additional features that would en- hance the machine's utility. Prototype Machine and Trailer Design The prototype machine design was based upon the ROHMAC MICROTRAXX product line of compact remote-control track load- ers used in underground mines and con- fined spaces. The machine is track-driven, enabling it to traverse difficult terrain, has a tool carrier that allows for multiple attach- ments, and is sized to fit on a standard mine elevator (sometimes the only way to access the mine) as requested by mine rescuers. The power source (a three-cylinder diesel, naturally aspirated engine) is one of the most compact diesel engines approved by MSHA for use in underground mines. It was modified to meet permissible approval re- quirements, including surface and exhaust gas temperature controls. The machine em- ploys water-jacketed components from the exhaust manifold to the point where the ex- haust gases are cooled. Once cooled, the ex- haust gases are discharged to the rear of the machine and mixed with airflow from the engine cooling fan for dilution. Compressed air was chosen to power the air-driven start- er motor, and to operate the engine safety shutdown circuit. Air is commonly used for these systems on permissible diesel min- ing equipment. However, due to concerns relating to operation in poor atmospheric conditions, an on-board air compressor was not included on this machine. Instead, the Figure 3—Testing of support vehicle at WVU Doll's Run Academy. Figure 4—Prototype machine towing trailer into simulated mine entry.

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