Sunday 26th May, 2019

A step change in hard material mining

Photo: thyssenkrupp

To make the mining of hard materials more efficient thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions has developed the barracuda, a new compact bucket wheel excavator which allows continuous operation both in hard and soft materials.

Within the mining market, the pressure on production costs is extremely high. Mining companies are searching for solutions to optimise operating costs and to streamline productions and procedures.

Since the launch of the barracuda technology in early 2016, the market has reacted positively with an increasing number of projects.

At the end of 2016 thyssenkrupp signed the first contract with the China Huaneng Group. Another order for a continuous mining system including two barracuda bucket wheel excavators was received just recently from Italian-Thai Development PLC (ITD), Thailand’s leading construction firm. It is due to go into operation in Spring 2020.

Excavator enhances mining operations

Compared with conventional designs, the cutting bucket wheel of the barracuda is equipped with an increased number of buckets. In correlation with a larger amount of teeth per bucket the contact pattern from tooth to material is very dense, with a small area being extracted by each single tooth.

By applying this new design, harder materials can be excavated in a cutting operation, for example potash, limestone or frozen materials. The implementation of a cutting operation also enables the complete elimination of drilling and blasting and all associated work. This not only simplifies the mining process extensively but increases mine safety as well.

For the proper selection, each application of a new barracuda from thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions includes field testing of the relevant material layers with in-house developed testing procedures, for example testing with a measuring fork. This measuring fork can be applied to a conventional construction shovel and provides information for cutting forces as well as wear requirements.

The results of such testing are the basis for the selection and tailored design of the tooth shape and bucket configuration. In addition to the machine’s hardware, the barracuda can be equipped with certain automation features. These include assistance systems for anti-collision, volumetric material measurements as well as systems for transfer point controls.

Four versions of the barracuda

The mining market is requesting greater flexibility and an extended operating range for bucket wheel excavator applications. To meet these needs thyssenkrupp provides the barracuda in four different versions depending on the material transportation requirements after the excavation process.

The different setups range from barracuda Compact, a machine mainly consisting of the characteristic end-to-end conveyor for the basic extraction process and replacing mostly drill and blast, to the barracuda C, which is a full-line compact bucket wheel excavator equipped with a discharge boom operating in a complete continuous mining system together with a conveyor system.

In between, two more setups for the end-to-end conveyor type are available – the barracuda Flexo and the barracuda System. Both work with the basic barracuda Compact machine equipped with a short discharge boom that allows direct truck loading (Flexo setup; see Figure 2) or combined with a conveyor system (System setup).

All setups are capable of operating to full capacity in material with up to 50 MPa unconfined compressive strength, which opens up opportunities for the use of bucket wheel excavators far beyond the previously limits of excavator technology.

Possible fields of application include harder coal seams, limestone extraction, potash mining as well as corresponding overburden removal operations.

Especially for the mining of pay materials, the barracuda’s cutting buckets produce product particle sizes of directly conveyable shape that are ready to be fed to the secondary processing stage.

Thus, the barracuda would be capable of replacing the drill and blast stage as well as the primary crushing stage. Along with its application in certain continuous mining setups, this means the new technology can be a great upgrade to mines, reducing the required vehicles and thus improving the mining process as well as safety for workers.

Point of no return

thyssenkrupp’s innovations in the field of bucket wheel cutting technology are a step change in the mining of harder materials. The newly developed solution not only covers the technical features for extraction at the mine face, but also pushes the effects of electrification to reduce CO2 emissions and the effects of increased mine safety due to sophisticated automation solutions. The question for cutting bucket wheel excavation is no longer whether, but to what extent it will change mining operations in the future.

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