Komatsu Machines Keeping Irish Cement’s Hungry Crusher Well Satisfied

Irish Cement, part of the CRH Group, a global leader in building materials, has been the leading supplier of cement in Ireland for almost 85 years, with two production facilities, one at Castlemungret in County Limerick, and the other at Platin in County Meath. 

Being Ireland’s longest established cement plant, the Limerick production facility originally extracted its raw materials from what is today Bunlicky Lake.  Extraction of the primary material from cement manufacture, limestone switched in the 1980’s to the company’s Mungret Quarry following a major investment and upgrade of the cement manufacturing technology. Bunlicky Lake gradually filled with water and is today a haven for biodiversity.

The Mungret Quarry, located to the west of the cement factory, contains high quality limestone deposits and has been operated by Irish Cement for over 40 years. Among plant and machinery integral to the entire operation are a powerful Komatsu WA800 heavy duty loading shovel, the biggest such machine currently working in the country, and a giant Komatsu HD605 dump truck, both supplied by dealers McHale Plant Sales.

When we visited the quarry recently these impressive looking machines were working in tandem to constantly feed a hungry primary crusher operating at Irish Cement’s modern state-of-the-art production facility about one and a half kilometres away from the rock face.

The Komatsu WA800 shovel is fitted with a whopping 20 tonne capacity bucket, while the Komatsu HD605 dumper can carry 60 tonnes of rock, which means it can be easily loaded up in just three passes before it heads off to the crusher where the limestone is reduced to tennis ball size chunks.

With the addition of smaller quantities of shale, bauxite and iron ore as part of the carefully controlled, production process, this mix is then crushed, ground and homogenised to produce a blend called ‘raw meal’. In turn the raw meal is then ‘melted’ inside a cement kiln where the mixture reaches a temperature of 1450°C – hotter than lava from a volcano – forming clinker that is cooled down to 120°C. Cement is produced by milling the clinker to a fine powder with the addition of small quantities of gypsum to control the setting time.

But none of that would happen without limestone, the primary material, which is why it is essential to have machinery that is robust and reliable at the quarry face where the Komatsu shovel and Komatsu dumper certainly earn their keep.

Komatsu machines contribute to a more productive and efficient process

at one of Ireland’s busiest limestone quarries

“The Komatsu machines, which replace two different branded machines, have certainly proved to be a good investment,” says Quarry Manager Emmet Clarke. “Their performance is dependable which is essential as our crusher last year alone processed 1.1 million tonnes of limestone. With the bigger bucket on the shovel, the whole operation is much more productive.”

Extracting that from the quarry is done with the help of Irish Industrial Explosives whose specialist team each week dislodge up to 40,000 tonnes of rock by carefully controlled blasts. 

“You can appreciate that we need to keep downtime to an absolute minimum, which we have achieved using the Komatsu machines working arduous and long hours, five days a week. We have a second, older Komatsu dumper  on standby if it is ever required,” says Emmet.

The front tyres on the Komatsu WA800 have been fitted with heavy duty steel chains, and for a good reason. “Constant tough digging and pushing at the rock face can take their toll on the tyres; they begin to slide and skid over time. The protective chains help to reduce the potential for damage, as well as wear and tear, and, of course, prevent any chance of punctures, and while they cost nearly as much as the tyre, they can be repaired more easily than the tyre, so in the end it does make sound economic sense.”

Irish Cement has rigorous health and safety procedures and systems in place throughout its operations. For example, fire suppression systems feature on the quarry machines. These systems would kick in automatically in the event of an emergency to prevent injury to the operator in the event of an outbreak.

As operator of the WA800 James Normyle has discovered, the machine’s cab is quiet and comfortable, an ideal environment to concentrate on a task that is tough and demanding. At his disposal is a high capacity climate control system that pressurises the cab to keep dust out, while a high quality sound-absorbent lining covers the interior to minimise noise levels.

His working day is made that much more comfortable thanks to a heavy-duty and fully adjustable heated and ventilated air-suspended seat and integrated Electronic Pilot Control and Advanced Joystick Steering System lever consoles that can be independently adjusted forwards, backwards and in height to fit his preference; an electronic height adjuster for the steering console is standard.

The machine’s automatic digging system actuates the bucket tilt and lifting operations by detecting the sensing pressure applied to the work equipment, while Komatsu’s CLSS hydraulics enables extremely precise control and ensures that the bucket, boom and hydraulically driven attachments can all move smoothly at the same time. The WA800 also features variable displacement pumps on both the hydraulic and steering systems. These pumps deliver the exact amount of oil required, dramatically improving fuel efficiency.

A large user-friendly colour monitor features simple and easy-to-operate switches and multifunction keys that provide fingertip access to a wide range of functions and operating information. With six high definition networked cameras fitted on the machine, the operator enjoys a crystal clear,

real-time bird’s eye view of the immediate surroundings on the monitor, so he can quickly and easily check the machine’s vicinity prior to making any movement, and focus on the work at hand even in low light conditions – and, of course, keep a watchful eye on fellow workmates who might be in the vicinity.

HD605 rigid dump truck features user friendly controls

and comfortable spacious cab

The quarry’s very latest addition from McHale Plant Sales is the HD605-8 rigid dump which features a wide and comfortable Komatsu SpaceCab with user-friendly controls and a fully adjustable air suspended seat that dampens vibrations and reduces the fatigue of long shifts; the seat comes with lumbar support and multiple adjustments and it can be heated and ventilated, for an easy start on cold winter days and a comfortable ride on hot summer days.

A large user-friendly colour monitor enables safe, accurate and smooth work, with all essential information available at a glance, while simple and easy-to-operate switches and keys provide fingertip access to a wide range of functions and operating information. The various meters, gauges and warning functions are centrally arranged on the LCD unit, which also facilitates the start-up inspection and promptly warns the operator with a lamp and buzzer if any abnormal conditions occur.

A Payload Meter manages the payload of each hauling cycle and analyses the truck’s production volume and working conditions for a specific period. Loaded weight is displayed in real time, both on the cab’s monitor and by external display lamps. 

To reduce unnecessary fuel consumption and exhaust emissions, the Komatsu auto idle shutdown automatically turns off the engine after it idles for a set period of time, which can be easily programmed from 5 to 60 minutes.

The dumper also has a ‘skip shift’ function that automatically selects a gear position depending on the slope grade when driving uphill, without shifting down through each gear. This reduces the number of downshifts, makes driving smoother, improving the operator’s comfort and reducing material spillage.

There’s excellent visibility from the HD605 dump truck’s cab, courtesy of a laminated-glass windshield, wide side windows, a standard rearview camera and monitor, three additional under-view mirrors and four rear-view mirrors, all of which combine to minimise any potential blind spots, and access to the cab is made easy thanks to the low angle of the front stairways with handrails and steps that are slip resistant.

Both the loading shovel and dump trunk have been designed for easy and safe daily checks and service work; on the HD605, for example, the battery box and battery disconnect switch are both accessible from ground level, with intervals for engine oil change at 500 hours, transmission oil at 1000 hours and hydraulic oil at 4000 hours, contributing to reduced operating costs. On the WA800, the engine compartment has also been designed for easy serviceability, with large doors that give convenient access to all daily service points.