Austin Engineering innovates large mining trucks with Hardox 500 Tuf

Austin/ Westech’s T282C Control Flow Body at Peabody’s North Antelope Rochelle coal mine. Located in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, US, it is the world’s biggest coal mine by reserves

Does increasing the wear life of an already light-weight mega mining truck body without increasing the overall weight sound like an impossibility? It’s not when built with Hardox 500 Tuf. Mining operations can choose to haul more material in fewer trips using less fuel and at a higher capacity or choose to haul the same amount of material over a longer truck body life with custom-designed truck bodies like Austin Engineering’s brands of Westech and JEC bodies, using Hardox 500 Tuf. It delivers high strength, extreme hardness and guaranteed toughness in a single wear plate – a perfect fit for the rigorous mining industry.

Austin Engineering breaks the mold on every project, bringing one-of-a-kind mining truck equipment and solutions to forward-thinking operations. So, it’s no surprise they develop tough, long-lasting mining haul truck bodies using Hardox® wear plate.

Nearly half a century ago, some of the largest mining trucks rumbled along as mega heavyweights in their class, hauling a mere 91 tonnes (100 tons) and often fashioned from 690 MPa (100ksi) yield strength steel. Any kind of redesign project to lighten up these inefficient haulers got sidelined by conventional thinking, and not many attempts could be made to challenge payload capacities without drastically tipping the scales.

The sheer weight from bulky steels required to handle loads safely contributed to the girth of these dump trucks for mining. Then, to extend service life, engineers had to add a hefty helping of abrasion resistant (AR) steel liners fitted to cradle gritty mining media like slurries of granite, quartz and sand or just boulders, rocks and stone. Plus, using conventional AR steel plate meant long days in the workshop dealing with brittleness, cracking and inconsistencies along with poor forming and welding properties.

These factors restricted meaningful truck configuration innovations until the 1980’s. That’s when WESTECH, now known as Austin Engineering, designed and built their first Hardox 400 steel plates into a liner application.

Two pink mining haul trucks, built in Hardox wear plate

First to market, first to lead in mining truck and equipment advances

Initially, Austin noticed the ease of working with Hardox wear plate in the workshop when compared to what they had specified over the years. This inspired the company’s Global Engineering Manager, Rick Reynolds, to take a bold step and design the body’s main plates with Hardox 400, thereby eliminating the original 690 MPa (100 ksi) material. This allowed Austin to dramatically reduce truck body weight and immediately increase payload.

“That move was a huge success and really accelerated the migration from very heavy, inefficient equipment to lighter weight, more efficient equipment,” Reynolds explains. “Austin was the first in the industry to make that move. And as pioneers in designing mining trucks and equipment, we chose to partner with SSAB to drive innovation together.”

25% lower weight. 25% improved service life

Extreme hardness and guaranteed toughness for large mining trucks

Hardox 500 Tuf features excellent weldability, formability and impact toughness, delivering high strength, extreme hardness and guaranteed toughness in a single wear plate – a perfect fit for the rigorous mining industry.

Today, Austin uses Hardox 500 Tuf in a variety of large mining trucks and applications and is able to reduce the weight of components by as much as 25% without sacrificing the wear life of the components. In other cases, Austin can offer extended life as much as 25% without increasing the weight.

“We currently have bodies made with Hardox 500 Tuf in three strategic areas of North America in applications ranging from the coldest environments to those withstanding relentless and severe impacts. We are also introducing designs utilizing Hardox 500 Tuf into Australia and South America,” Reynolds says. “To date, we have seen nothing but success in these applications. With SSAB’s help, we will continue to drive the industry forward and work together to develop tomorrow’s innovative solutions.”

hardox 500 tuf inscription on steel plate

Hardox® WearCalc mobile app defines upgrade benefits

To assist companies in calculating overall potential savings, service life improvements and weight reductions, SSAB’s proprietary wear calculation mobile app, Hardox®WearCalc, reports specific comparisons.

For example, at the same thickness, comparing Hardox 450 with Hardox 500 Tuf using gold ore (quartz rich) as the rock type and abrasives, the service life improves up to 33%. If the decision is to keep the same current wear life, the thickness can be reduced and the weight goes down 25%, increasing the payload.

For more details, refer to the graphic showing the calculation results. These can also be generated from within the WearCalc software tools:

A screenshot of the Hardox WearCalc app, which helps companies calculate potential savings, service life improvements and weight reductions when using Hardox wear steel

Custom projects equal custom processes

While mine operators enjoy the benefits of custom equipment manufacturing, ensuring the material flow can be tricky at times with the challenge to keep production moving at break-neck speeds. Testing new steels may seem like a daunting task when the outcome could mean stalled material transports and costly downtime, especially when it involves a newly designed mining truck or other piece of equipment.

“Each mine site has unique materials and conditions requiring equally unique equipment designs. It’s truly a pleasure to deliver a one-of-a-kind vehicle to a customer that meets their exact needs,” explains Austin’s Johnny Greer, Supply Chain Manager, Americas. “At Austin, we don’t wait to see what the steel industry may come up with. So, our design concepts became reality when SSAB responded to our request to develop a tougher grade of AR500 material. Working with SSAB affords us the opportunity to continuously provide innovative designs that deliver improved performance and consistent quality and that were previously thought to be impossible.”

Austin/ Westech’s T282C Control Flow Body at Peabody’s North Antelope Rochelle coal mine. Located in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, US, it is the world’s biggest coal mine by reserves

Austin entered Guinness World Records in 2012 with its Westech T282C Flow Control Body as the largest mining truck body by volume of 470.4 cubic meters at a coal density of .86 tons/m3. It was presented and measured at the North Antelope Rochelle Mine, Wyoming on June 14, 2011.

Mining truck steel properties drive dump truck innovation

When it comes to comparing weldability and formability of Hardox 500 Tuf with Hardox 450, the properties are similar. However, using thinner Hardox 500 Tuf can actually reduce bending forces and keep preheating prior to welding at a minimum. It can also lead to significant improvements in terms of service life and payload capacities.

For example, Austin used a 25.4 mm (1 in.) thick Hardox 450 to create a custom solution, but when they transitioned it to 19 mm (¾ in.) Hardox 500 Tuf, they were able to reduce component weight by 25%.

“With these type of projects, it’s a matter of going through every little detail to make sure that the result is as expected. We offer many tools and expertise to assist our customers. We don’t just look at increased service life or reduced weight, but we examine all steps when it comes to welding, supply of test material or stress calculations that need to be carefully investigated before starting serial production,” says Jonas Allebert, Wear Specialist SSAB.

Welding Hardox® wear plate

Mining truck equipment constantly evolving

Austin Engineering globally manufactures customized dump truck bodies, buckets, water tanks, tire handlers and other ancillary products used in the worldwide mining industry. The company also provides on- and off-site repair and maintenance to its customers. According to Austin, the evolution will continue. Mines all over the world can rely on more efficient production thanks in part to project customization and avant-garde engineers like Reynolds.

“As long as there are new materials featuring benefits that improve performance, efficiency and even safety, we’ll continue to test them in new projects,” Reynolds says. “We’re focused on solving the challenges that our mine operators bring to the table using every aspect of the project to deliver success. For example, our Flow Control Body with its unique, patented floor design and material usage demonstrates how we’ve repeatedly delivered customized equipment that continue to be the industry standard. We expect that Hardox 500 Tuf will help keep us out front, which is where we always want to be.”

A mining excavator and haul truck made in Hardox® wear plate

Setting standards for mining industry innovation

From that point on over the next few decades, Austin continued to push truck design boundaries with trucks that now have the capabilities to carry over 363 tonnes (400 tons). They have introduced even more ways to achieve lighter vehicles with Hardox 450 and 500 as main plates, continuing to set the standard for tough applications in the mining industry. To further advance Austin’s custom-design offerings, Reynolds and Johnny Greer, Supply Chain Manager-Americas, continued to seek specific improvements in some of the characteristics of a 500 Brinell (HBW) grade, which the steel industry did not offer at the time.

“We discussed our needs with SSAB and knew it would be a difficult product to develop,” Reynolds says. “If it could be achieved, it would allow us to provide miners the solutions they really wanted, which were to either extend the life of the product or further reduce the weight in order to carry more payload. Having that material would allow us to continue moving the mining equipment industry forward.”

To remain at the forefront of the steel industry, SSAB continuously invests in research and development, technical support and joint initiatives for customers to get the most out of its advanced high-strength steels. Close collaboration leads to a deeper understanding of market needs and drives new product initiatives. With Hardox 500 Tuf, SSAB is the steel industry’s first to introduce a 500 Brinell range steel plate with properties on par with structural steel.

“Understanding our customer’s needs across many applications and segments gives us input to develop entirely new products,” explains Tobias Appelkvist, Mining Segment Manager, SSAB Special Steels North America. “Introducing a unique grade like Hardox 500 Tuf is the result of working closely with our customers and demonstrates our commitment to helping them to innovate and advance their industries.”

Representatives from steel producer SSAB and Austin Engineering, which rolled out custom mining equipment worldwide made from Hardox 500 Tuf wear plate

Pictured together with SSAB’s Hardox® product manager, Jenny Brandberg-Hurtig (center), Austin’s Rick Reynolds, Global Engineering Manager and Johnny Greer, Supply Chain Manager, Americas roll out next-generation Hardox® 500 Tuf in custom mining equipment worldwide.

Get an upgrading consultation

Find out what upgrading to Hardox 500 Tuf can do for your mining equipment and your mine operations. We’ll be happy to meet you and find out about your specific wear environment and needs to find the best and most cost-effective solution for your business.

customer photo

End-users around the world use Hardox 500 Tuf in mining equipment

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