Robotic Cathode Stripping Machine Systems Integration
GPA was engaged by BHP to provide support in integrating a Refinery Crane Delivery System for BHP’s Robot Cathode Stripping Machine at their Olympic Dam facility.
BHP Olympic Dam grows high purity Copper plate in its Electro-Refinery using copper rich anodes cast from the smelter and stainless steel cathodes in a bath of electrolyte. The Robotic Cathode Stripping Machine (RCSM) is a vendor plant supplied to BHP to supplement their existing Cathode Stripping Machine initially and eventually replace it. By making use of 7 industrial robots, the RCSM is able to process 400 cathodes per hour as compared to 200 cathodes per hour processed by its existing CSM counterpart.
A large MRC 24t Refinery Crane moves across a matrix of cells in the adjacent Refinery. Each cell contains 54 mother-plates suspended in a continuous flow of electrolyte fostering copper growth which eventually becomes copper plates.
2 Stripping Stations move swift and powerful hydraulic arms into position and tear the copper plates from the mother-plate stacking them in 2800kg bundles for collection on the outfeed by forklift.
GPA’s role initially was to integrate the Refinery Crane delivery system with the new RCSM plant, to complete the Functional Safety design verification and validation and to capture the whole process in graphics on Citect SCADA. However, as the commissioning of the RCSM plant continued, the need for GPA control systems and functional safety expertise became apparent, GPA teams moved in to assist with development of the RCSM system as well as providing several advancements, including:
- An automatic plate analysis and rejection system by use of laser profile monitoring
- An automatic load diversion system for their existing Refinery Crane’s motion pathways
As the project moved further ahead, the need for mechanical modifications to several sections of the plant saw BHP engaging GPA again, this time to assist in an advisory and design role for the mechanical changes and upgrades. For the clinching press, a critical piece of the plant designed to mechanically join the two halves of the copper plate by stamping, this meant stress analysis of parts using strain gauge testing and finite element analysis (FEA). The FEA was completed in conjunction with fatigue life predictive analysis – ultimately creating an upgraded design intended to improve the function and lifespan of the press.
In the end more than 15 GPA engineers from multiple states became involved in the project, leaving behind a greatly improved cathode processing system, and a successful plant handover to BHP production.