After seven years of joint development, a unique piece of Western Australian technology, initially designed for the mining industry, is ready for the international market.The computer-based Ore-3D system, originally conceived in WA by the CSIRO and refined by Osborne Park company Australia On Line Systems Pty Ltd (AOLS), measures the size of ore on a conveyor belt. This precise measurement of ore size, from large chunks of rock to minute fines material, is crucial to the mining industry, where the maintenance of correct feed and production particulate size is worth millions of dollars a year. The Ore-3D system allows the shape of rock and ore fragments on a conveyor to be measured continuously in real time, enabling mine operators to monitor and control their processes with unprecedented accuracy. But how does a group of engineers – in AOLS’ case six – get this product to a national and international market? Let’s first look at the technology, for which AOLS will pay the CSIRO an ongoing royalty. The Ore-3D system has three main components – a low power laser light source, video camera and computer. The laser line is directed at an angle across a moving conveyor belt. A camera directly above the laser line repetitively captures and processes images of the line distorted by ore on the belt 50 times per second, so that every part of the belt is sampled. A surface map of the conveyor material is built up, with specially developed algorithms identifying individual fragments, processed by sophisticated software to produce accurate cumulative passing size distribution curves. This data is used by metallurgists and plant operators to improve the control of processes and equipment, to change the crushing and feed parameters. The benefits include: feed size control; crusher, oversize and fines monitoring; sorting and recovery; volume flow rate and belt load profiles; plant audits; product and blending quality monitoring at loading; screen wear and damage; and set off alarms.This means Ore-3D will show that a certain percentage of the material on the belt is of a certain size, which is crucial to conveyor belt ore reception and delivery. As such it has wide applications in the mining, quarry and mineral processing industries, but also for anyone that needs to measure particulate size and volume. For the last four years, AOLS’ R&D has been directed towards successfully resolving a major resolution issue – the identification of very small or fines particles, which previously registered as solid clumps or rocks. Further refinements now allow the system to run live, on-line, 24 hours a day, providing constant measurements. AOLS has already sold four of the new systems into the iron ore, gold and diamond mining sectors. Ore-3D’s successful development was partly funded via a $500,000 federal R&D Start Grant, to which the company added another $500,000, mainly to resolve the fines resolution issue. AOLS managing director Marc Fimeri told WA Business News the “to market” question was confronted by applying for and receiving, an $80,000 federal Comet grant to assist the commercialisation of emerging technologies. The grant is to allow companies to bring in external consultants to assist with business planning, marketing, intellectual property aspects and management skills. Big four accounting firm and consultant Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu has supplied strategic business and management plans, while GRD Minproc has provided an intellectual property and marketing plan. Deloitte is also assisting in finding a partner to assist the break into international markets. “We looked at doing this ourselves, but decided, with advice from our consultants, that the time-to-market benefits a larger company with international market penetration could offer was important for the successful take-up of the technology,” Mr Fimeri said. Deloitte growth solutions director John O’Gorman said Comet grants could also be applied for as a precursor to the Start Grant. AOLS was set up a year ago to develop and market the Ore-3D technology. It is a subsidiary of 18-year-old machine vision and image analysis hardware and software distributor, Adept Electronic Solutions Pty Ltd.
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