A Bucket Wheel Excavator or BWE is a specialized type of heavy equipment used extensively is surface mining operations. These excavators function in large scale digging operations such as open pit mining as a machine for continuous digging. This type of excavators are different from other excavators for large scale mining like bucket chain excavators because they scoop materials using buckets placed in a continuous pattern within a large wheel. Bucket Wheel Excavators are considered to be one of the largest vehicles ever built by man. Interestingly, Bagger 293, the largest BWE ever constructed, is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records to be the largest land vehicle ever.
The superstructure is the most important component of a bucket wheel excavator and several other components are attached to it. The bucket wheel is a large wheel of large size with different scoop configurations. These configurations can rotate and are attached to a boom. The cutting wheel picks up materials and transfers them back along its boom. In previous designs, materials were transferred through chutes originating from the buckets. Nowadays, the same function is accomplished by one stationary chute that collects the discharge from all of the buckets.
The cutting boom is balanced by a counterweight boom, and the same is cantilevered on the upper or lower end of the superstructure. In case of larger bucket wheel excavators, there are cables that run across the towers, providing support to all three booms.
The movement system of a bucket wheel excavator lies beneath its superstructure. Rails were used for this purpose in the older machines. However, the advanced models use crawlers for a greater flexibility in terms of motion. BWEs also have a vertical axis that allows the superstructure of the machine to rotate and complete its tasks.
Depending on the application intended, bucket wheel excavators are available in different sizes. The compact ones with only 6 meters of length and 50 tons of weight are available for operations that require the movement of 100 fm3/hr of earth. The boom length for the larger models can be as high as 80 meters and their weight can be approximately 13,000 tons. With these machines, you can move up to 12,500 fm3/hr.
Bucket wheel excavators are used in surface mining applications where overburden removal is required on a continuous basis. These jobs were previously accomplished using draglines and rope shovels. However, bucket wheel excavators are now the most reliable alternatives because of their extraordinary efficiency.
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