For the summer semester 2016, Freiberg University of Mining and Technology will be endowed with a professorship in “Smart Mining Machinery”. The new Chair will be in the Faculty of Mechanical, Process and Energy Engineering and will be co-financed by the Associations of Construction Equipment and Building Material Machines and Mining of the VDMA (German Engineering Federation) as well as the Research Association for Building and Building Materials Machines for a period of five years. Representatives of Freiberg University and the VDMA have now concluded a cooperation agreement (Fig.).
The objective of the professorship is to work together with industry to develop intelligent machines for extraction of raw materials. Prof. Holger Lieberwirth, Director from the Institute of Mineral Processing Machines at Freiberg University describes the importance of the endowed professorship: “Especially when tackling extreme challenges, e.g. mining at depths of more than 5000 m, ideas can be inspired that also lead to new technologies in other areas and closely related fields, such as building and building material machines.” That is the case, for instance, with unmanned operation, which makes the presence of humans in complex work environments superfluous. For this purpose, machines require a different functionality and intelligence than that they have today. Machines have to communicate with each other, but also with higher-level control systems, and be able to make decisions quickly and on site whenever necessary. While people at least enter a destination when travelling in autonomous vehicles in road traffic and the road network is stored in the on-board computer, the intelligent machine in the raw materials sector will look for its own destination and the way to this destination by identifying ore lodes and working these independently.
For Prof. Lieberwirth, the endowed professorship is a boon, not only for mechanical engineering at Freiberg University of Mining and Technology: “Along with the recently assigned Chair for Mineral Processing Machines, it will perfectly complement and widen field- and raw materials-oriented mechanical engineering with the addition of numerous interfaces, e.g. to automation, mineral economics and automotive engineering. For companies, but also for other colleague professors, associations and policymakers, another contact person with experience in industry is on hand, through whom a wide range of questions from the raw materials sector for machine and plant engineering can be channelled and addressed.”
Prof. Sebastian Bauer, Chairman of the Research Association for Building and Building Material Machines, sees the endowed professorship in “Smart Mining Machinery” as trail blazing, not only for mining: “This professorship points the way forward when it comes to developing new technologies that will influence not only mining. Other branches in construction will profit from the development – and accordingly SMEs too.”
For the Rector of Freiberg University of Mining and Technology, Prof. Klaus-Dieter Barbknecht, the new endowed professorship is further testimony to the university as a key research partner for industry: “Across Germany, we are one of the leading universities in resources management. I am convinced that both Freiberg University and the companies organized in the German Engineering Federation will profit from this professorship. This endowed professorship will sharpen the profile of Freiberg University of Mining and Technology as a resources university.”