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2017

Fermel
South Africa

Revolutionizing underground mining with high-strength steel

Light Duty Vehicles (LDV) are used throughout the mining industry for transporting a variety of different applications within underground mining environments. South African company Fermel (Pty) Ltd identified this specific market sector as an ideal opportunity to develop a dedicated Mining LDV – the Maverick product range. They utilized high-strength steel to develop a sustainable solution that has been nominated for the 2017 Swedish Steel Prize.

Entirely new design

In most conventional mining operations, LDVs are found in the form of pick-ups or normal light utility vehicles that have been upgraded or retrofitted to try and comply with the basic mining safety regulations.

Fermel (Pty) Ltd is a 50-year-old veteran of the mining industry and a manufacturer of mechanized mining machinery for underground trackless operations.

They developed the Maverick range to offer an unrivalled alternative to light utility vehicles.

“Around mid-2014, we identified this opportunity on the basis that new mining legislation and tighter safety requirements were due in the not-too-distant future,” explains Corné Wehr, Product Design Manager at Fermel (Pty) Ltd.

The goal was to create an uninhibited mining vehicle that would outperform current offerings being used in conditions and duty cycles that they are not designed for.

One vehicle, multiple applications

The first step was to develop a drive train that would work under heavy loads and that would form the basis for a range of vehicles with different purposes.

“There were some challenges along the way,” explains Wehr. “With great effort we identified the correct axles and transmission for this application. We then needed to find a way to design a vehicle that both looked appealing and was practical for the application. We also wanted to be able to manufacture the vehicle without spending money on special tooling, but apply conventional fabrication methods.”

Role of high-strength steel

Fermel’s conventional design methodology is based on the use of 355JR “mild steel”, however, it did not take long to see that a new alternative was needed in order to create a robust solution that would give a return on the customer’s investment.

Hardox 450 was chosen for the cab and Strenx 700 for the chassis. These two materials would provide maximum payload at minimum weight, as well as allow for the optimal welding applications needed for manufacturing.

Hardox 450 was also used to achieve a cab and fender assembly that would be able to provide the perfect compromise between a light and robust structure, and is an essential requisite in creating a unique competitive advantage.

Successful initiative

“As a dedicated mining vehicle, the Maverick range of vehicles provides improved payload, fatigue life and anticipated load cycles, largely owing to the utilization of advanced high-strength materials. Furthermore, the total cost of ownership is reduced,” says Maxine Penn, Director: Sales & Marketing at Fermel (Pty) Ltd.

Swedish Steel Prize Jury motivation:

Fermel has developed a unique range of multi-purpose vehicles for safe transportation in mines. They meet the new more stringent safety legislation and are aimed to replace re-built standard vehicles currently used. Design optimization of the complete vehicle, including the body, has given superior performance as to personal safety, higher payload, agility, damage resistance, reliability and lifetime. All benefits are achieved by extensive use of advanced high-strength structural and wear-resistant steels.