In a partnership with ANYbotics, Vale highlights its commitment to becoming one of the safest and most reliable mining companies in the world. The results showed that ANYmal helps reduce exposure to hazardous conditions and integrates seamlessly into Vale’s team to autonomously perform routine inspections and deliver improved reporting during operations and periods of downtime.
Life Matters Most: Integrating People, Processes, and Technology
Keeping people safe in the mining industry is challenging. Workers are often required to inspect narrow, dark, and dangerous spaces, not to mention duties involving hazardous materials and heavy machinery. Vale, a Brazilian-based global mining company that transforms natural resources into products used in our everyday lives, understands the challenges associated with mining and processing natural resources. Present in about 30 countries, Vale employs approximately 125,000 people and their safety is of the highest priority. As such, the company continues to invest in innovative solutions that integrate people, processes, and technology in order to mitigate risks, improve efficiency, and prioritize their highly skilled workforce.
The partnership between ANYbotics and Vale displays the collaboration possible between workers and autonomous inspection robots. Onboarding ANYmal at Vale’s Cauê Mine and processing facility helps reduce human exposure to hazardous conditions while simultaneously providing more reliable asset inspection data and increasing the availability of key team members to prioritize higher-level tasks.
Environmental Analysis Allows ANYmal to Begin Navigating Cauê’s Mine
Setting up ANYmal begins with a walk-through of the Cauê Mine’s environment and the identification of a range of inspection points across multiple levels. During the Show & Go process, the team guides the robot through the plant to determine ANYmal’s navigation path and locations of interest, teaching the robot where to go and what to inspect. Meanwhile, ANYmal creates a 3D environment map and builds a database of its inspection tasks—a crucial step in enabling robotic autonomy. Once commissioned, the Vale team sends ANYmal out into the facility to perform its inspection rounds autonomously and collect data.
Inspecting Critical Processing Machinery is now Simpler, Safer, and More Accurate
ANYmal’s first mission takes place on Cauê’s ground floor and contains inspection points such as belts, levers, electrical panels, and water drainage areas. ANYmal collects thermal images and audio samples analyzing the temperature and proper functionality of multiple machine belts and high resolution photos of LED panels to read critical asset data. During its second mission on the ground floor, ANYmal inspects numerous gauges, dials and levers within one of the facility’s machine rooms in order to measure and ensure proper oil levels. In the facility’s upper level, ANYmal’s tasks include photographic analysis of the operational state of liquid suction and drainage, electronic panels attached to mill equipment, lubrication gauges, pipe conditions, and thermal temperature analysis of Cauê’s large milling machinery.
At the close of its inspection rounds, ANYmal aggregates data from each mission into a comprehensive report for Vale’s team. ANYmal’s unrestricted ability to access all designated areas as preferred inspection points showcases ANYmal’s application to mining and processing facilities. Rayner Teixeira, Digital Maintenance Coordinator at Vale, emphasizes, “our ANYmal can verify several asset conditions in addition to a circuit of critical spaces, stairs, and complex equipment—all autonomously, and always with the aim of integrating people, technologies and processes that prioritize safety.”
ANYmal Stands Up to Mining Industry Challenges
Mining and processing iron deposits is an inherently wet, demanding, and harsh business—challenges ANYmal is designed to embrace. With customizable components like microphones and thermal cameras, ANYmal is able to provide Vale with reliable readings throughout their facility, regardless of environmental conditions. For inspection of small objects at high ranges, its high-definition zoom camera and its LED spotlight mounted on the inspection unit guarantee high-quality data collection in reduced lighting conditions. Compared to wheel-based robotic platforms, ANYmal’s legged mobility allows the robot to negotiate all types of terrain it encounters at Vale’s facility: steps, slopes, irregular terrain with mud and water, and stairs. The robot’s water and dust-proof ingress protection rating (IP67) allows it to operate effectively through water leaks, inclement weather, and areas with a high concentration of conductive particles in the air and on surfaces—further highlighting ANYmal’s promise of reducing human exposure to these potentially hazardous scenarios.
Higher Quality Data Promises Condition-Based Maintenance
With ANYmal successfully navigating and capturing visual, thermal and acoustic data at multiple inspection points, Vale looks forward to implementing ANYmal throughout multiple facilities to support condition-based and data-driven maintenance. Through repetitive consistent accumulation of highly accurate data, Vale can realize higher levels of asset utilization and availability leading to greater efficiency and sustainability.
The Robot in the Iron Ore Mine
As ANYbotics and Vale unleash ANYmal’s autonomous inspection capabilities throughout their on-site processing facilities, the team is already preparing to integrate robotics below the surface, where conditions are darker, damper, and potentially more hazardous to the human workforce. Underground mines will be the next frontier explored by this powerful partnership between humans and robots. With ANYbotics, Vale is able to show an increased investment in prioritising people and implementing innovative solutions to serious challenges, while creating efficiencies that prove economic viability.