MIRS/Asarco Robotic Cathode Processing

July 18, 2015

A group of robots has joined the workforce at copper mining company Asarco LLC.

Six robots standing over 7 feet tall are used to remove copper sheets off cathodes — a job with potential hazards due to the weight of the copper sheets, the fact that they have sharp edges and the risk of operator injury due to repetitive motion. “Safety is number one at Asarco,” said Manuel Ramos, president and chief operating officer. “The safety and health of our workers was the main driving factor to invest in a robotic system.”

Asarco worked closely with Tucson-based CAID Industries and its Chilean subsidiary, Mining Industry Robotics Solutions (MIRS), to develop the what it says is the first Robotic Starter Sheet Cathode Stripping Machine in North America.

The copper firm was attracted to CAID because of its expertise in the manufacturing and servicing of cathodes, Ramos said.

Officials with the Tucson-based mining company saw a video of robotic strippers used in Chile and became interested in implementing the technology.

MIRS had developed the robotic technology in Chile, and Asarco wanted the equipment manufactured in the US. Because MIRS and CAID Industries are partners, “The final solution was for MIRS to design the system in Chile and for CAID Automation, a division of CAID Industries, to build the system in Tucson,” said Rob Assenmacher, CAID president.

The project took about 13 months to design and build, and the robots started their new job earlier this month.

Ramos said one challenge was that MIRS had already developed a system where the cathode was located in a fixed position to strip the copper. In the case of Asarco, the cathodes were coming on a continuously-moving conveyor and Asarco wanted the machine to strip the cathodes “on the fly.” As a result, MIRS had to use a series of six-axis robots working in unison with a seventh axis, or angle. At its Tucson plant, CAID engineers created a conveyor that simulated the existing conveyor at Asarco’s Amarillo, Texas, facility in order to perform a realistic test of the complete system before shipping it to Amarillo, Assenmacher said. The double-sided cathodes are stripped of their two sheets of copper every 12 seconds. Two packing robots stack 10 sheets per minutes, or 1,200 copper sheets per hour.

While other mining companies use automated equipment to strip copper, it is believed Asarco is the first in the U.S. to use robots for that function.

Source: Arizona Daily Star – LINK

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