Productivity and avoidance of downtime drives miners’ focus on efficient production

Feb 15, 2014 in February 2014, News 2014

Higher productivity and the avoidance of downtime are two of the main drivers of demand from the mining industry as it moves from construction to production-focused activities, says a company that has served the sector for more than 30 years, Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd.

The company – which is national distributor of Firestone industrial actuation, isolation and suspension technologies – says there is going to be strong ongoing demand for such productivity focused technologies for years to come.

“It is very easy to forget that, while overall mining spending may have dropped back a bit over the last two or three years, it is still miles above where it was a decade ago,’ says the company’s National Sales and Marketing Manager, Mr James Maslin.

“Prices for commodities such as iron ore, for example, are still many multiples of the $20 a ton it was in 2000 – and production since then has trebled in volume to more than 500 million tons and increased tenfold in value to more than $50 billion. Coal prices and exports have also increased exponentially, so we don’t see mining production disappearing anytime soon.”

But what companies are looking for now are processing and transportation technologies that help enhance safety, productivity and uptime through reliability, low installed cost, and minimised maintenance.

Example one

An Australian vibrating screen application of Marsh Mellow ® springs

Example one: An Australian vibrating screen application of Marsh Mellow ® springs (right)


An example is provided by Marsh Mellow ® vibration isolation technology from Firestone which provides simple, robust and effective alternatives to metal springs, offering major advantages when solving industrial vibration, isolation and spring breakage problems.

Marsh Mellow® springs are fabric-reinforced solid rubber isolators for quiet, maintenance-free isolation of machinery vibration and for general shock absorption throughout the resources industry, reducing springs failure, curtailing downtime and eliminating OH&S issues emanating from noise generated by metal springs used in applications such as vibrating screens and mineral processing equipment.

The cylindrical springs engineered by Firestone – the world’s number one producer of air springs (or airbags) for isolation and actuation – are particularly suitable for vibration isolation of machinery such as: Conveyors; Generators; Stamping equipment; Vibrating screens; Automation technology (either isolating such technology, or isolating surrounding machinery); Bin hoppers; Blowers and motors; Compressors

Marsh Mellows give consistent performance regardless of changing loads, while offering high lateral stability and compact size, facilitating installation, saving costs and enhancing serviceability and safety, says Mr Maslin.

Example two

Belt scraper design using a double-convoluted air spring

Belt scraper design using a double-convoluted air spring, right. Air springs are also employed as conveyor actuators


Another example of simple, effective and reliable productivity-oriented technologies is provided by Firestone’s Airstroke® actuators and Airmount® isolators for equipment such as belt scrapers and other vital conveyor ancillaries. They can also be used for heavy lifting.

These tough rubber-and-fabric bellows (identical in construction to the airbags used in the latest truck and train suspensions) are in essence highly engineered balloons. Because the amount of force they exert against a surface varies in continuous proportion to the amount of air pressure contained within them, they can adjust to different load requirements simply by varying this pressure.

In addition, air springs (whether egg-sized mini actuators or triple convoluted models half a metre in diameter) provide force evenly over the surface upon which they are acting, rather than imposing sharp point loads, Further, they will undulate over irregular loads passing beneath them, flexing with the load profile if necessary, rather than fighting irregularities in the load and causing jerking, jamming and strain on the production line.

Example three

Single, double and triple convoluted Airstrokes with rolling sleeve types

Single, double and triple convoluted Airstrokes with (centre) rolling sleeve types. Convoluted Airstrokes are also suitable for heavy lifts, such as the mining dragline, right.

One of the frequent problems of heavy lifts in the construction, mining and energy sectors is the confined spaces in which crews must work and apply force. Where lifting cylinders are used beneath loads to overcome a lack of overhead access for cranes, work crews sometimes also have to contend with off-centre loads that can damage or destroy plungers in compact rigid cylinders.

One solution to the problems is offered by Air some of the most powerful and versatile Firestone Airstroke® actuators ever available in Australia for heavyweight materials handling, maintenance and machinery tasks.

Top of the range are the triple-convoluted model 348-3s, which can lift more than 40,000 kg each using normal industrial compressed air at 7 bar (100 psi) to provide strokes of up to 350mm from a compact starting height of just 140mm.

“One of the beauties of this type of actuator is that they don’t have any internal moving parts – such as a plunger or seals – to break or wear. This means they offer high reliability in industrial environments,” says Mr Maslin.

Inflated at between 3-7 bar (within the range of pressures produced by standard industrial plant compressors), the extended stroke Airstrokes are part of a family of actuators offering from 40 to 40,000kg capacity.