4 Things to Understand About How Bucket Wheels Operate

In the heavy construction world, there are many pieces of heavy equipment that can be helpful on the job site and stunning to the eye. One of these is the bucket wheel excavator. This massive machine is typically seen in large-scaling mining operations. To help you get a better understanding of how these bucket wheel excavators work, we’re first going to take a look at what they are comprised of. 

What Is It?

A bucket wheel excavator, also known as BWE for short, is a heavy piece of mining equipment. Its primary function is to dig continuously in open, large-scale mining operations. These machines can remove thousands of tons each day from a mine. Bucket wheel excavators are considered one of the largest man-made vehicles to ever set foot on the planet earth. In fact, the Bagger 293 bucket wheel excavator is the world’s largest heaviest land-based vehicle, weighing in at 14,200 tons.

What Does A Bucket Wheel Look Like?

The wheel of a bucket wheel excavator is found at the very end of the boom. The wheel has a pattern of buckets attached to it. These buckets look similar to those you would see on a front end loader. Each bucket scoops up the material as the wheel turns. It’s constructed to be in a continuous motion at all times to keep the scooping effective. The buckets scoop up the excess dirt, also known as overburden, to help reveal the mine seams.

Each Excavator Has A Conveyor Belt To Remove Overburden

Once the buckets scoop up the excess dirt covering the mine seam, it will need to put that dirt somewhere. As the wheel rotates during its continuous journey, the bucket is naturally dumping the overburden on its downward rotation. The overburden gets dumped through a chute onto a conveyor belt. The conveyor belt runs along the length of the boom of the bucket wheel excavator.

Depending on the specific mining operation that is set up, there are a few places the overburden goes once loaded on the conveyor belt. The mine may have the bucket wheel conveyor feeding other conveyor streams throughout the mine. They may have the overburden from the bucket wheel truck loading the dirt into the bed of a dump truck for transfer out of the mine. Where the overburden goes when it exits the conveyor of the bucket wheel excavator will vary greatly depending on the constructs of the mining operation.

Bucket Wheels Can Maneuver On Multiple Axes

These behemoths need to be versatile enough to move back and forth throughout the open-pit mine to remove overburden. Each bucket wheel excavator is constructed on tracks. This way, it can be driven throughout the mine or from one mine location to the next. The actual boom on the bucket wheel can be maneuvered from side to side and up and down. This way the boom can move the wheel attached to the end of it to dig into the overburden at any desired angle.

They’re Meant To Be In Consistent Motion

While there is a definitely a controller behind the wheel, these machines are meant to be in operation around the clock. The wheel of this excavator will continuously scoop load after load of overburden to unveil mine seams. Bucket wheel excavators can come in a variety of different sizes depending on the size of the mining operation.

The more compact models have short lengths of about 20 feet, weigh about 50 tons, and move around 3,500 cubic feet of overburden per hour. The larger models have booms that are up to 260 feet long, weigh 13,000 tons, and move about 440,000 cubic feet of overburden per hour. The Bagger 293, which you learned above is the biggest bucket wheel excavator on the planet, moves about 8,500,000 cubic feet of overburden per day. 

These machines are truly miraculous to learn about. They show you just what human beings are possible of constructing given the right necessities to do so. Hopefully, after this short article, you have a better idea of what bucket wheel excavators are and how they operate on a daily basis at mining operations.

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About the author: Wifred Murray

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