In addition to improving the safety of personnel working in underground tunneling projects, new machinery and digitalisation often focus on an increasingly important aspect: optimisation.

Optimising operations is good news for everyone, it keeps shareholders happy, ensures that workers time and skills are used efficiently, and focuses on getting the best outcome possible. For sprayed concrete in the tunneling industry, this means speed, quality and economical use of materials.

Mining-technology spoke with Ross Dimmock, vice president of tunneling projects for Normet Group, about speed and quality with sprayed concrete in the tunneling industry.

“Smart Scan is really the tool that we’re developing further to give a scanning tool focused on the nozzle man so he can make the right decision in the tunnel at the time of spraying and know that he’s doing the right thing,” Dimmock explains. “In the past, we’ve focussed on getting the thickness of the shotcrete right, and in the future we want to help the operators to get the right shape and finish, which is more critical in tunneling than it is in mining. The profile and shape of the tunnel is crucial.”

Normet’s concrete spraying equipment and SmartSpray technology is the first step towards automating the spraying process, ensuring that the job is done efficiently and with minimal waste. Additionally, SmartScan ensures that concrete application and repairs are done effectively and evenly by calculating and monitoring the thickness of sprayed concrete.

Looking forward, Normet is developing ways for the smart scanners to record geology and interact with engineering software so engineers can make informed decisions about concrete usage and maintain accurate records.

“We want to augment the nozzle controller,” Dimmock explains. “The human brain is the best super computer there is, they just need the right information, and that’s what augmented reality (AR) provides.

“AR isn’t a technology beyond our comprehension, we’re using similar technology with our simulation training. The industry has teamed up with EFNARC to provide training and certification using simulations, which is very important for skilling up those entering the industry. The equipment being used is big and expensive, so providing training this way mitigates risk, and this technology is improving greatly, the movements are very accurate and the feedback for improvement is accurate, critical and constructive.”

The tunnelling industry has been slow to adopt more sustainable practices such as sprayed concrete, but Normet is working to change this.For more information about sprayed concrete and the services Normet provides, download the whitepaper below.