Profitable super tooth for giant buckets

Paul Boughton
A new method extends the life of teeth on large excavators used in open-pit mining worldwide.

The solution uses high strength abrasion-resistant steel and cuts life cycle costs by at least 30 percent, while reducing service times. Australian customers are using the technology with great success and Blupoint PTY Ltd. has been nominated for the 2010 Swedish Steel Prize for its method.

Excavators used in open-pit mines lift up to 100 tons of rock in a single scoop. They are subjected to tremendous wear, especially the bucket teeth, which last about three days in normal operations before needing to be replaced.

The new method that Blupoint PTY Ltd. developed saves the worn teeth and uses them as a frame for replacement teeth of high strength abrasion-resistant steel.

“When Graham J Gibbon, who founded Blupoint, hatched the idea he tested different types of steel, but found that the only thing that worked was a high strength abrasion-resistant steel that was extremely tough and strong,” says Sean Wanless, Blupoint’s CEO.

Using replacement teeth offers clear advantages. Life cycle costs drop by at least 30 per cent and change is quicker. The replacement tooth sits on top of the worn original tooth, which forms a stable attachment to the bucket. After fixation at exactly the right angle, steel supports are placed on both sides and everything is welded into place. This method triples the life of the original teeth; after three renovations they could break down and must be replaced.

“We guarantee at least 30 per cent lower costs compared with a complete replacement,” says Sean. “But most customers save even more. A set of original teeth costs over SEK 100,000, so large amounts of money are at stake.”

Safety is a crucial requirement for the replacement method. Customers won’t accept unplanned downtime due to breakdowns.

“A bucket tooth quite simply may not break and it hasn’t happened either,” says Sean. “We thoroughly tested the method and know that the replacement teeth are at least as strong as the originals. But we also use a high strength steel with extremely high wear resistance.”

The company currently supplies bucket teeth to two mines in Western Australia, but the market potential in Blupoint’s niche is tremendous. The nomination for the 2010 Swedish Steel Prize draws extra attention to the small Australian company that was founded in 2007.

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