If you haven’t been in a coal mine lately, you might be surprised at how sophisticated, innovative, and highly automated the process has become. About 60% of the world’s coal is extracted using a method called “longwall mining.”
At the heart of longwall mining are three basic components:
- A tight row of hydraulic roof supports, each weighing 30-40 tons, hold up the earth above the mine.
- A shearer cuts away at the wall of coal.
- An armored-face conveyor carries the broken up mineral to the mouth of the mine.
As the coal is eaten away, the hydraulic roof supports automatically edge forward into the empty space to brace open the cavity.
While longwall mining is used worldwide, it’s especially popular in China. In 2009, about 3,210 million short tons of coal were extracted in that country, with 2,757 million (85%) coming from longwall methods.
Zhengzhou Coal Mining Machinery Group Company, Ltd. (ZML), based in China’s Henan province, is one of the leading manufacturers of longwall mining equipment in China. It provides everything but the shearer to customers—roof supports, conveyors, etc.
It’s a sensible business for this 45-year-old company because Henan province is surrounded by large coal reserves. In fact, coal mining and electricity are one of the most important contributors to the region’s economy.
At the same time, coal mining is a huge undertaking, and the equipment is massive and expensive to develop. So, recently, engineers at ZML went looking for more help with large assembly management, responding to late design changes, and, of course, cutting down design time.
With PTC Creo, the company can support top-down design processes; quickly load and work with large assemblies; and use powerful assembly management tools for variant design and generation processes—essential for leveraging a model for international markets.
- Reduced time to market
- Reduced product development costs
- Improved product quality
- Improved business support
ZML is now well-prepared for the next 45 years. It reports that it is already selling in Russia, Turkey, and India, and it’s getting ready to send a longwall equipment package to Colombia. But that’s just the start. ZML has plans to move into more global markets. It’s also setting up research facilities in Germany and the US.
And it has plans for one more new product, too. ZML is also developing its first shearer.