Work begins in the lab on UX-1: Part 1 – Tampere University of Technology

The UNEXMIN project is now in its second year. After the first year, where work mainly focussed on preparatory tasks such as research and component-design, the project is now entering its most important phase prior to testing. During this phase, the custom-designed casing and instrumentation hardware will be manufactured and assembled to create the first UX-1 robotic prototype, which is due in the beginning of 2018.

General layout of the future UX-1 robot

Like much of the work done in the previous year, the majority of the workload in the coming months will be centred in the labs of some of the project’s partners, including TUT (Tampere University of Technology), UNIM (University of Miskolc), UPM (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid), INESC TEC (Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores, Tecnologia e Ciência), and RCI (Resources Computing International).

Hands-on lab-work is essential in UNEXMIN, where we are creating a new technology that will be capable of autonomously exploring and mapping flooded mines. For the success of the project, our team has to continually conduct research and testing and implement necessary modifications. Everything must be optimised and fine-tuned if all the equipment, such as the on-board computer, batteries, and thrusters, is to fit inside the spherical robotic prototype.

The work of TUT (Tampere University of Technology), one of the project’s leading partners, is mainly centred on the development of the robotics components of UX-1. TUT are responsible for a total of 10 predefined deliverables including ‘Robotic Platform Prototype requirement specifications‘, ‘Robotic Platform Prototype technical and mission specifications‘, and ‘Stakeholder-requirement specifications‘. Among their various other responsibilities, these deliverables are essential for the development of the robotic prototype and the definition of its available services.

The TUT team preparing the UX-1 plastic mock-up for a stability test

UNEXMIN meeting - visit TUT labs

A demonstration of TUT’s implemented UX-1 remote-operation capabilities

 

Since the beginning of the project, Jussi Aaltonen‘s team at TUT have been working on the definition of the robotics specifications that will serve has the base for construction the UX-1 prototypes. To date, TUT have designed and tested key robotics features necessary for implementation in flooded underground mines. TUT’s activities have included pool tests at their testing pool using a plastic mock-up of UX-1, functionality testing of robotics equipment in the laboratory, and also software and hardware testing.

A UX-1 plastic mock-up

The TUT team is currently finalising the technical specifications and mechanical design of the prototype, as well as building the pressure hull that will support the internal components of the robotics system. Fabrication of the pressure hull components will begin shortly, once the final mechanical analyses are complete. The first UX-1 prototype will be ready at the beginning of 2018!

 

UNEXMIN @ EGU 2017

The European Geoscience Union (EGU) General Assembly, will take place this year in Vienna in two weeks from now (23-28 April). EGU2017 is a relevant international event with major focus on the Earth Sciences, and the UNEXMIN project will be presented there to a large and relevant audience.

The main aim of EGU General Assembly 2017 is to get together geoscientists from all around the globe to one place, covering all the disciplines not only in the Earth Sciences, but also in the Planetary and Space sciences. This event will provide a place for scientists and researchers from all levels of education to present their work and to discuss ideas with other fellow scientists and experts.

EGU 2017 programme is divided by programme groups and sessions covering all the disciplines from the science areas above described (e.g. mineralogy, geochemistry, energy and resources). Besides the usual oral presentations (UNEXMIN will be presented this way), there will be poster sessions, PICO sessions (a more interactive kind of presentation) and many other activities during the EGU week, like Short courses, debates and award sessions.

EGU 2016 (blogs.egu.eu)

The UNEXMIN project will be presented at EGU2017 by LPRC members in name of the UNEXMIN consortium on Monday morning, 24th, within the “ERE1.1 – Energy, Resources & the Environment” session and the oral presentation is entitled “UNEXMIN H2020 Project: an underwater explorer for flooded mines”. The presentation will give an overview of the project and its developments since the beginning as well as a brief update on the first results. The abstract for this event is available at: UNEXMIN abstract

All in all, the EGU2017 is the perfect place for people interested in the Earth Sciences to get to know the project. UNEXMIN’s abstract and presentation have also been given the “Highlight” status – defining it as one of the most interesting topics – for Monday. This is the prize for developing such an interesting technology that can help shape the future of the geoscientific world by gathering data that cannot be currently accessed in any other way!

UNEXMIN present in MIN-GUIDE policy laboratory 2

During 21st and 22nd of March, the UNEXMIN project was represented in the MIN-GUIDE Policy Laboratory 2 (Innovations and supporting policies for minerals exploration and extraction), in Leoben, Austria.

This workshop, integrated in the MIN-GUIDE project, focused on new innovative technologies and supporting policies used, or to be used, in the minerals exploration and extraction activities – UNEXMIN technology was one of these new technologies to be discussed. Norbert Zazjon, UNEXMIN project coordinator, delivered two talks about the UNEXMIN project to a technological audience, a group of stakeholders included in UNEXMIN.

Norbert Zajzon at MIN-GUIDE policy laboratory 2

Norbert Zajzon presenting the UNEXMIN project

First, in the Policy Laboratory entitled “Listening, exchanging, and learning”, where inserted in the Policy Lab 3: Deep sea mining, Norbert exposed Underwater exploration and mining, using UNEXMIN and its developing technology as a discussing point. Then, UNEXMIN was presented again, this time on the Policy Laboratory (Exploring transferability) on the same Underwater exploration and mining topic. These policy labs, each divided into three sub laboratories were based on “innovation in exploration and extraction, enabling environments and supporting policies”.

Policy Lab 3: Deep Sea Mining with the presence of Norbert Zajzon and UNEXMIN (Credits: MIN-GUIDE)

The UNEXMIN project is glad to be developing a new technology that will change the minerals exploration paradigm, by developing a multi-robotic solution that can autonomously explore and map flooded mines, being able to use its technology in environments that are difficult to access today. This will allow the UNEXMIN technology to obtain geological (and other) information that cannot be obtained in any other way.

Deep sea mining is right ahead in the mining scheme and UNEXMIN will be part of that future!

The Real-Time Mining Conference

This autumn, UNEXMIN will be presented at the Real-Time Mining Conference, an international conference on innovation in raw materials extraction. Co-organised by the Real-Time Mining project and three other Horizon2020 raw materials projects, namely UNEXMIN, ¡VAMOS!, and SOLSA, the conference will be held in Amsterdam on the 10th and 11th of October this year.

The Real-Time Mining Conference

This event aims to bring together raw materials and robotics experts from various European-sponsored projects to exchange ideas and rise synergies on innovation in resource extraction. Opportunities to create new ideas for current European projects and for future collaborations are envisioned to arise from the meeting.

The Real-Time Mining project is creating an innovative concept for predictions and measurements in mining operations. The key circular factors in this novel mining operational concept are 1) Mine Planning and Prediction, 2) Operation of the Mine Plan, 3) Online Sensor-Based Measurements and 4) Real-Time Resource/Reserve-Model Updating. These factors come together to realise of the vision of near-continuous process control and operational optimisation in mining activities.

The real-time continuous closed-loop process, as proposed by the Real-Time Mining project.

The main topics of the conference are Positioning and Material Tracking, Automated Material Characterisation, Resource Modelling, Process Optimisation, and Data Management. The conference will focus on these points, however there will be the opportunity for concept presentations on closely-related topics.

The UNEXMIN consortium is glad to take part in this event, during which we will present our highly relevant technology concept – building an autonomous robotic explorer for the exploration and mapping of flooded mines.

There is a call for abstracts (see the topics above) that will run until the end of April. For registration, abstract and paper submission (as well as other enquiries), please contact Dr. Mike Buxton – Phone: +31(0)152789674; E-mail: M.W.N.Buxton@tudelft.nl; Civil Engineering and Geosciences, TU Delft, Stevinweg 1 Delft.

For more information, check out the Real-Time Mining website!

Technology Appraisal Workshop

From the 31st of January to the 2nd of February, the UNEXMIN partners got together for an important three-day meeting entitled “Technology Appraisal Workshop”. The main objectives of this meeting were to review the work done in all areas of the project including technology developments, instrumentation, dissemination, and more, to appraise the numerous technological developments, and to conduct discussions in technical workshops and two internal meetings (Steering Committee and Advisory Board) with the goal of deciding the way forward for the coming year during which we will shortly begin the construction of the first ‘UX-1’ robotic prototype. The Advisory Board, which includes professionals from robotics and raw materials, was present and gave their valuable input and expertise to the workshop. This convention also marked an important occasion for the project for two reasons: it took place as UNEXMIN completed one full year since its formal beginning in February 2016, and also Milestone 2, ‘UX-1 technical specifications delivered’, was successfully achieved.

General discussion about the project’s three future collaborative robots

Technical discussion about the general layout and mechanical design

The first day was committed to a general revision of all the currently on-going work packages and involved all work that has been done until now. During this day, suggestions to improve the workflow arose. The consortium members could see blueprints of the mechanical-prototype (see below), the instrumentation that is going to be used, and even statistics about project material from the website and social media. The second day consisted of a major technology appraisal discussion which lead to a debate on topics relevant to the functionality of the multi-robotic system – collaboration between robots and support services -, as well as workshops on technological developments on control systems and data conversion, and communication and dissemination strategy, together with the kick-off of Work Packages 3 ‘Autonomy for mine exploration and mapping’ and Work Package 4 ‘Multi-robot platform development’ – both of which are starting very soon: these work packages will produce relevant work for the functionality of the entire robotic system. The third day was devoted to further technical discussions and decision-making on the mechanical design, sensory array and systems testing.

General design of the future UX-1 robot

UNEXMIN will now continue with the development and testing of further technical instruments – specially with scientific equipment and sensors. In the following months we expect to complete the laboratory and real environmental tests on the instrumentation units and define the robot’s software architecture and mechanics, among others. In twelve-month’s time we hope to deliver a major milestone when the first UX-1 robot prototype will be ready. The much anticipated construction phase will soon begin!

UNEXMIN comsortium members during the Technology Appraisal Workshop