Underground Tyre Innovation Takes On Extreme Loads
By: John Martin
Innovation and technology remain the bedrock for success for most industries today, including the tyre market, which advances in line with transport developments.
SA Mining has heard about a development in tyres that are being custom-made for underground machines in the coal mining industry. Can you tell us more about this tyre product?
Underground coal mines have some unique demands of tyres. Low seam heights require dimensionally smaller tyres, capable of hauling extremely heavy loads, in undulating and wet underfoot conditions. Kal Tire’s Mining Tire Group serves many South African coal mines, and three years ago we went in search of a tyre that could perform in these unique, complex conditions.
That search led us to Alpha Mining Systems, an American-based company that specialises in underground mining tyre and wheel systems. Owned by inventor and entrepreneur Jordan Fishman, the company makes tyre and wheel combinations that can be tailored for underground machines, including original equipment manufacturer (OEM) requirements of small tyres with higher load-bearing capabilities. With more than 60 years of experience in off-the-road tyres, the Alpha Mining Systems Company has proven to have a deep understanding in designing and engineering mining tyres, while extracting the desired economics for customers who choose to use these purpose-built products.
Is the Alpha range of products a response to a specific demand or industry trend?
This solution certainly enhances safe work practices by minimising the interface of man and machine, and that is always a demand in our industry. In the underground coal application, the durability and lifespan of these products has reduced the need for wheel changes by up to 75%, in so doing minimising risk and also increasing the lifespan of tyres by up to four times that of other products in the same application. With those results, another trend that Alpha tyres respond to is the need for mines to improve tyre life and therefore generate a better return on their tyre investments.
The market also requires service providers such as Kal Tire to actively participate in ongoing continuous improvement programmes by testing new solutions, products and services. The introduction of the Alpha range is definitely a response to improvements in safety, operational costs, operational productivity and products that are more environmentally friendly.
Can you elaborate on some of the biggest ways mining companies can benefit from using the Alpha range of products?
A significant amount of innovative thought has been put into the physical design of each tyre in the range. The tyres are, by design, far more robust in the physical construction of the product. Each Alpha tyre has been purpose-built for its intended application. The built-in durability and robustness permit the client to at least double the lifetime of most other brands being used in the same applications. That represents significant cost savings over time.
In support of production demands and expectations, machine uptime has also significantly improved purely as a result of fewer tyre changes required. The smallest tyre in the range, designed for use on a utility-type vehicle, or pick-up unit, has to date proven to last twice as long as any other brand currently being used. The overall economics of using Alpha products continues to prove favourable to the mining operator compared to traditional solutions.
As suggested by the name of the brand, Alpha Mining Systems, the tyres are generally sold as a system along with the purpose-built wheel aptly named the Brutex Wheel. The strength and durability of the wheel is aligned first to the load-bearing capability of the tyre. Additionally, the wheel carries a 10-year warranty, allowing it to be used multiple times throughout its designed life without fear of wheel failure, even in the most arduous conditions. Again, the economics to a mining operation of having its mining wheels guaranteed for 10 years is extremely attractive.
Innovation and technology play such an important role as mines look for products that solve their biggest challenges.
What are some of the unique features or characteristics of Alpha Mining Systems tyres that are driven by innovation and technology?
Kal Tire has been supplying OTR mining tyres to the industry for many years. This is the first tyre in recent years that has been purposely designed and built for the aggressive mining conditions we experience in the South African coal mining environments.
Production machines have evolved together with more efficient mine design and productivity schedules to significantly improve output capacity of our mining operations. To date, mining tyres have not evolved to the same extent, and they’ve been unable to safely carry the ever-increasing loads of shuttle cars and other production-related machines. The technology embedded in the design of the Alpha tyre allows for the safe and efficient movement of the high-capacity shuttle cars commonly used today. For example, a standard 12.00-20 mining tyre has a 28-ply rating and a max load capacity of 9 000kg. An Alpha tyre of the same size has a 42-ply rating and a max load capacity of 16 000kg – nearly double the standard tyre. There is no other tyre available of equivalent size and dimensions in the market today that has been certified to safely carry the loads that the Alpha product can.
How does Alpha Mining Systems complement Kal Tire’s value-added product line-up?
Alpha Mining Systems is a perfect example of how we live our company vision: “One team delivering tyre management services and products of measurable value for mining customers globally.” Sourcing this product for our customers shows our true commitment to innovation and the “continuous improvement” responsibility we have towards our customers. The Alpha Mining Systems product puts Kal Tire in a position to offer a sustainable solution to the underground mining industry. We look forward to continuing to work closely with Alpha Mining Systems as we expand our range of products, in our efforts to continuously assist our customers to improve on safety, productivity and cost containment.