Passive applications are considered the peerless domain of the amazing polymer known as polyurethane. Screens and rollers, hose coatings and couplings, all of these components are absolutely essential, but they’re physically inert, which is exactly how they’re designed to operate. In capturing the active and animated section of a mining operation, we can now look at polyurethane as purposed for tool applications, a far more dynamic utilization prospect for the durable material. As abrasion resistant and resilient to chemical influences as the cutting-edge polymer may be, descending into new tool applications imparts new challenges upon the material, ones we’ve found elegant elastomer-based solutions in today’s engineering plastics realms.
Scraper blades were once solely fabricated from tough metals. Tungsten carbide blades are still a popular fixture in mining and road surfacing applications, with other versions of the tool finding homes in such theatres as food processing environments. The fabrication of cast polyurethane wiper blades in mining processes acts as a mirror of these heavy-duty tools. They even take on dual roles, with a pliable edge levelling screened particulate matter while the opposite and harder edge wipes coarse material along the conveyor belts that transport ore toward the surface of the mine.
Perhaps not as impressive and key to the process as a scraper blade, cross-over pads are nonetheless invaluable when cables and hoses are set on the ground. Vehicles bearing heavy loads would crush these cables and starve the area of electrical power unless a series of cross-over pads were placed on top of each crossing and used to protect the narrow conduits of power. The ability to vary the hardness factor of the polyurethane blend is a major feature here, acting as a pliable ramp for vehicles with poor to non-existent suspension. Additionally, the material won’t give in to the effects of the pools of oil and water that cover the floors of the mine.
Let’s kick off this practice by returning to the dramatic and dynamic realm of a mining operation. For example, mine bolts are essential strain supports for stabilizing the geology around the excavated space of the mine. The inclusion of an inviolable layer of polyurethane around the bolt, the bonding of both hardened plastic and a pliable rubber formulation, reinforces the bolt structure and shields the high-tensile metal from the effects of roof leakage. In other words, the water and mineral-laden fluids being leached from the ceiling won’t be able to attack the metal of the mine bolt.
It’s possible to extend this bonding process to every part of the mine and place polyurethane coatings atop key tools. Bins and bucket linings gain impact-resistant layers of the tough elastomer. Meanwhile, polyurethane sheets are brought into service to protect other surfaces, even going to work as mats in high traffic areas or fire retarding blankets when firefighting products are required.