Maestro supports instruments and controls that can be used in either an analog or digital communications environment. There are benefits and drawbacks on each type of system and the ultimate choice is normally related to your current infrastructure and level of comfort.
Analog devices are well understood and easy to wire and this is the greatest reason why a mine may choose to continue with this communication method. Each individual device is wired back to a PLC or DCS input card on each level area.
However there are significant drawbacks that should be considered:
- Additional wires, terminations and junction boxes are required which drives up both total CAPEX cost and increases both the project design and installation time
- Each analog device provides one variable, that is, a CO monitor will only provide a CO signal. Diagnostic functions, current state of health or additional multivariable information is not available through the analog connection.
- Analog devices require a PLC or DCS interface on each level of the mine which again increases CAPEX, software, complexity and integration time
Digital devices are quickly becoming more main stream in both green and brown field mine upgrades. Maestro supports three levels of digital devices, Ethernet, RS485 serial and leaky feeder digital. Digital devices require personnel with experience networking infrastructure. The devices, once complicated, have now evolved into simple web configurable instruments that can normally set up in less than 5 minutes.
The main advantages to digital deployment are as follows:
- Each device is a multi-variable instrument with extensive information and diagnostics that pass through the network infrastructure to the mine operating center.
- Real time diagnostics allows pin pointing of most issues prior to going underground to either inspect or service the equipment. As such, materials can be brought down and time saved.
- A single connection point directly to the network switch allows for the complete data to be transmitted to surface. This eliminates excess wiring, junction boxes and complexity.
- A PLC or DCS is not required on each mine level to obtain this data. This greatly reduces CAPEX and OPEX.
- No software licenses or upgrades are required now or in the future.
- Integration time is greatly improved with many clients claiming data streaming in less than 24 hours. Most systems can be installed completely in less than one shift. If close together, 2-4 systems per day are possible.
The potential drawback that should be considered is the mine will require experience in a networking environment and the support infrastructure.