More than almost any other industry appropriating fluid power, mining is where safety sits front and center from design to execution. For generations, fluid power has been the top choice for underground mining machinery for various reasons. One of the most important has been its strictly hydro-mechanical operation, previous to the more recent electrical or electronic control. When fluid is transmitted under pressure to achieve work, no electrons are required to activate valves or actuators. No electrons mean no spark. No spark means no ignition source.
Accumulators are used in mining hoists to supply emergency hydraulic energy should both of the pumps somehow fail simultaneously or if the power unit electrical supply is lost altogether. A hydrostatically driven mine vehicle using only hand- and foot-operated valves to operate requires absolutely zero electricity. Buckets, conveyors, drills, and other machinery need not require a single electrical component aside from the engine’s electric ignition and lighting. The old school hydraulic machines kept miners safe for many generations before electronic control was developed to resist and avoid any contribution to spark or explosions. These days, electronic control systems are prolific in mines, but the bulk of the work is still hydraulic in nature.
Hydraulics are critical to the safe operation of many machines in a mine. High power density, inherent controllability, and mature technology make hydraulics a safe choice to control machinery. One category of machinery often overlooked for its need for hydraulics’ benefits is mine hoists tasked with hauling persons and machinery the vast depths underground. Mine hoists are advanced machines employing hydraulics on essential functions such as the brake and clutch.
So easily controlled is fluid power that proportional control over the pressure and velocity of braking systems is guaranteed. Multiple, redundantly controlled brakes ensure the hoist stops and starts smoothly, and the parallel nature of the valves provides many backup channels should one valve fail. Accumulators plumbed into the primary supply secure an emergency supply of hydraulic energy should both of the pumps somehow fail simultaneously or if the power unit’s electrical supply is lost altogether.
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