Sandvik’s autonomous Leopard drill rig

By Mike Hayes22 June 2021

Swedish drilling specialist has ‘evolved’ its DI650i rig to offer fully autonomous blasthole drilling

Sandvik has evolved its Leopard DI650i drilling rig

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions says fully autonomous operation is now possible with the latest version of its Leopard DI650i down-the-hole (DTH) drill rig.

The Swedish drilling specialist says the new iDrill automation platform integrated into the latest machine expands the existing on-board drilling cycle. Additionally, it combines with the rig’s AutoMine Surface Drilling system, enabling full autonomous operation of the Leopard DI650i from a control room.

Sandvik says the iDrill platform introduces new features to the Leopard rig, including drilling stabilisation, automated collaring, automated cleaning and detaching from the hole.

As well as promising consistently high-quality holes and minimising positioning errors, Sandvik says the optimised cycle and intelligent sequences of the rig will produce the best possible service life for components.

At the beginning of the iDrill drilling cycle, the Leopard’s navigation system guides it to the correct position, in accordance with the drilling plan.

At this point, the feed beam and boom are automatically positioned to the correct drilling angle, while the rig is automatically stabilised.

Sandvik’s ‘automation journey’

The iDrill drilling cycle starts with automatic positioning of the rig, according to a pre-set drill plan

Jari Läntinen, Sandvik’s product manager for surface drilling, said, “The latest development is a major step on Sandvik’s DTH drill rig automation journey. This means shifting from individual automated tasks and sequences towards a genuine ecosystem of automation platforms and operating with a connected fleet of automated mining equipment.”

He added, “This will also change the role of one operator handling a single machine into a specialist controlling multiple drill rigs remotely and utilizing their expertise to optimize drilling process productivity.”

On the latest rig, the pipe handling system can add and remove pipes automatically, while a hole finishing sequence eliminates tensile stresses and prevents material entering the DTH hammer.

The ‘detaching from hole’ sequence readies the rig to move on to the next hole, and Sandvik says soon-to-be-released platform updates will allow for the simultaneous remote operation of mutiple rigs as well as automatic machine relocation, using GPS navigation and based on the drill plan.

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