ComBricks Is Monitoring PROFIBUS in a Coal Mine

Implementing continuous diagnostics of your industrial network does not necessarily mean that you have to rebuild it. Deployment can be easy – even when it comes to huge machines. See for yourself in this case study about mining machines in northern Bohemia.

Vršanská uhelná a.s. (Vršany Mining Company)logo7vM

Having originated from the coal-mining company Mostecká uhelná in 2008, the company Vršanská uhelná extracts brown coal in the area between the cities Most and Chomutov and supplies it to Czech power plants. One of the prominent landmarks of the Vršany surface mine is the 5 gigantic bucket-wheel excavators.

The Challenge

A bucket-wheel excavator is an enormous machine designed for the surface mining of overburden and coal. It can be found a long distance from the control centre (even several kilometres) and is at the mercy of the weather.

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Industrial communications in the bucket-wheel excavator must be very robust. That is why it is PROFIBUS that is the deployed communications. Before this project, the excavator was already fitted with ProfiHubs and repeaters, which divided the industrial network into galvanically isolated segments and thus increased its robustness.

This project was conceived of as the next logical step – we were asked to implement continuous monitoring of the PROFIBUS network. With the excavator being a huge and complex machine, continuous PROFIBUS monitoring would help streamline the machine's maintenance.

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The Solution and Its Benefits

To avoid modifications to the topology and cabling of the network, we suggested replacing the existing ProfiHubs with the ComBricks system from the company Procentec.

ComBricks has the same capabilities as the original ProfiHubs – it increases the robustness of the PROFIBUS network. When installing the system, you only replace the original solution without having to rebuild the network. Apart from the identical capabilities mentioned above, ComBricks continuously monitors the network and makes the information available to operators and maintenance personnel via the system's integrated web server.obrazek 4

On top of that, ComBricks features an alarm system that sends those in charge a notification if there is a network failure, thus allowing them to take immediate action.

The Implementation

Any wiring work in Vršanská uhelná is taken very seriously and performed with utmost caution. During the actual installation of the solution, our FOXON technician was assisted by a Vršanská uhelná technician who knows the bucket-wheel excavator inside out.

Apart from the ComBricks system (the Head Station and 4 oscilloscopic repeaters), we supplied the customer with the ComBricks OPC Server for transferring data to and visualising it in higher systems. We also trained the customer's employees in PROFIBUS and its diagnostics – not only via the ComBricks system but also via the ProfiTrace 2 diagnostic tool.

The Results

The project had a clear goal – to enable Vršanská uhelná to take care of its PROFIBUS network in a way that would minimise unplanned downtime and allow for fast localisation, troubleshooting and even prediction of problems.

What Are the Plans for the Future?

As the ComBricks system for continuous PROFIBUS diagnostics has proved successful, Vršanská uhelná is planning on implementing it into other bucket-wheel excavators, with the aim of obtaining comprehensive monitoring of the PROFIBUS networks. Collected data will be analysed in one place and the customer will be able to keep track of trends, which can result in even more efficient PROFIBUS network management.

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