BHP owns and operates iron ore processing and loading facilities in Port Headland, approximately 2.5 hrs flight north of Perth in Western Australia. Iron Ore from the Pilbara region is process at the local processing facility. As part of the sampling iron ore, the Chemistry Lab has installed a fully automated Robot cell to process ship samples, ensuring accurate readings for quality control.
Iron ore samples from the outloading sampling plants are taken and poured into a bucket which is taken by the robot into the processing cell. Here the iron ore rocks are split into required weights, crushed, oven dried, and ground up before being put into small vials ready for processing. The crusher robot then puts the crushed samples into the outloading chute which is linked to a second ABB weighing robot. Here the sample weighed out to 0.005g and mixed with pre-weighed flux before being placed on the outloading tray for the chemists to process. This process determines the content of the iron ore to give chemical composition.
As part of the upgrade, WAGTEC engineers are involved with the programming and commissioning of the Allen-Bradley PLC, Citect SCADA, and ABB Robotic systems.
The old sampling plant could only process 2 separate lines of samples at one time due to limitations on the quantity of processing equipment. The upgrade involved adding 2 new rotary sample dividers, 2 new rotary drying ovens, a new ABB robot and longer track, and modifications to allow sample splitting for numerous ships. The preparation cell was modified to split prepared samples via two distinct paths according to iron ore type.
The old PLC control system was a Allen Bradley PLC5, and due to the lifecycle coming to an end on the product, the system was upgraded to the latest AB ControlLogix platform.
The robot cells were shut down for a week allowing the new equipment to be installed and the robot re-mounted. The robot was then 'taught' the new equipment positions and new code routines were programmed in. Dummy iron ore samples were then loaded into the robot cells and all possible paths verified.