Fermel is a 54-year original equipment manufacturer, specialising in the development of intellectual property which is converted into mechanised solutions for underground mining operations.

Although the company’s roots are proudly South African, Fermel benchmarks itself against a global context where its core business is entrenched in the development of sustainable and relevant technology.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 1, 2021
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The journey of NEWGEN technology started more than a decade ago through the development of programme architecture to create intelligent machines via CANBUS communication.

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Based on its engineering and mining industry experience, Fermel believes that the migration from mechanical machines to onboard controllers is an integral part of the future of trackless mining equipment, hence all its software is developed in-house and includes specific machine functionalities in the initial design mandate.

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Developed to provide a singular and seamless backbone, Machine Intelligence (MI) offers reliable and tested technology to assist users in improving safety and productivity, integrating asset management capability as well as adherence to promulgations by the mining regulatory.

The inclusion of sophisticated protocols, supplied directly from Fermel, the OEM, eliminates inflationary costs associated with third party interventions and ensures compliance and accountability from a single engineering source.

Automation and BEVs

Currently, Fermel has begun with preliminary machine automation and is adopting this technology on equipment at user operations: Semi-autonomous steering for example to avoid collision with side walls and keep a vehicle on a predetermined route without driver intervention, or autonomous driving of trackless equipment in given areas where accuracy of movement is important.

Machine intelligence incorporates the equipment’s capability to allow equipment to perform tasks with accuracy and repetitively without direct human operation, to optimise productivity and quality of execution without error or variation.

Typical examples include autonomous docking of cassettes in the instance of our cassette handler, or autonomous spraying of shotcrete to ensure optimal and continuous application with the least amount of rebound in the most effective time.

When it comes to fleet electrification Fermel’s approach is purpose-driven with a progressive roll-out of its product offering to electric vehicle (EV) drive. The company has begun the commercialisation of several of its product platforms and are continuing to extend this technology to encompass it entire portfolio.

Fermel’s E-Drive system was created in 2010 with further development in the IP for a unique battery management system which is typically required for mining vehicles as well as the capability to package and industrialise solutions with single and multiple motor drives to match the vehicle control to its onboard energy source.

From the inception of a single electric motor drive system (for smaller applications), the conversion of existing ICE vehicles to electric drive as well as a multi-wheel motor-electric drive system for larger end applications, the supply of Fermel’s EV range is not limited to South Africa’s boundaries but is extended to clients in Latin America and India.