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Matching the dump body to the payload

January 24, 2023
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Over the past 30 years, SMS Equipment has designed, fabricated, and assembled hundreds of custom dump bodies for off-road mining trucks. Since the dump body defines a truck's payload, its design requires thorough consideration of load characteristics, mining workflows, and truck operation parameters. 

To unpack what's involved here, we spoke with Matthew Angotti-Cargill, design and drafting specialist with SMS Equipment's engineering group. Matthew explains there's much more to dump bodies than meets the eye.
Q: Why is there a need for customized dump bodies?
Matthew: Every mine has different materials that they work with. Some deal with oil sands, some deal with coal, some deal with rock, etc. Even if two mines are in the same line of business, those materials have varying densities – a gold mine in Ontario would be different from a gold mine in British Columbia.

All this determines the shape of the body. You want to move the maximum payload that the truck is designed for, but you have to make sure that your load is properly balanced. Otherwise, you will wear out or damage certain truck components, such as suspension, cylinders or tires. 

We get approval from Komatsu for all our designs before we fabricate them. That way, our customer's investment continues to be protected through warranty coverage, and we get the advantage of their expertise.
Q: What are some of the major design considerations?
Matthew: The height of the sidewalls are major ones. We will design the sidewalls to be higher if you're carrying a light material like coal, but the sidewalls will be lower for material like iron ore. Generally, you want to ensure the body is as solid and durable as it needs to be without adding unnecessary weight because that limits the amount of payload the truck can carry. 

Another example is the design of the eyebrows, which are like an awning on one or both sides of the canopy, which help protect the railings, deck stairs and other components from falling rocks. They need to provide the necessary protection, and we need to ensure they are not any heavier than they need to be.

There are also variations in the material used for the carrying surface. Abrasion protection is a requirement that often comes up when dealing with rock applications. If you're moving a sticky material, you want a surface it won't adhere to, which we can add heat from the engine to keep the body warm.  In all applications, we try to prevent carry-back because it affects the amount of material moved.

Q: Tell us about the design and fabrication cycle.
Matthew: Once the customer has ordered the truck and decided on an SMS Equipment custom body, we review all their specifications for materials, payload goals, and the expected life and duty cycle of the truck. 

We take all that and develop a 3D model of the truck body in conjunction with a 3D clearance file that Komatsu provides. The 3D model helps us arrive at a final plan we send to Komatsu for approval. We also review this with our customers directly.

Once approvals are in, we order the materials from our steel provider and then fabricate the bodies in Elkford, Acheson, Fort McMurray or Wabush. Depending on workload, SMS Equipment may get multiple branches to build bodies for one order. For example, if Fort McMurray 63N has an order for 15 bodies, 5 will be built in Elkford and 10 built in Acheson. . Final assembly and local options occur at the local branch or the customer site.
Q: What challenges do you typically deal with?
Matthew: The main thing is that there are lots of details. Technology is constantly changing, so often, we deal with new models or variations that we haven't worked with before. Even a detail like the location of a sensor could become an issue – you don't want the body interfering with that. 3D modelling has made it much easier to keep track of all these things and avoid modifying them in the field. 

Sometimes customers use our bodies for a period of time and come back to us with opportunities to improve. Collaborating with our customers in the continuous improvement cycle is an excellent way for us and our customers to get better at what we do. 
Q: What trends are you seeing?
Matthew: Everybody is talking about sustainability, and mines are looking for ways to limit their carbon footprint. Some of them are holding back on buying ultra-class trucks and going with smaller, more energy-efficient ones, mainly if the expected life of the mine is relatively short. 

The other area is efficiency. Mines are getting more precise about matching their trucks' payload with their other equipment's work capacity. If a shovel can load a truck in four minutes and the dump area is twenty minutes away, you will need more trucking capacity if you want to keep that shovel operating 100% of the time. 

The bottom line:

The dump body is a critical component in the material flow of a working mine. SMS Equipment collaborates with customers and the manufacturer to design and fabricate custom dump bodies that perform optimally within that workflow. 
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