The introduction of xBud, a digital automation solution for underground Longwall machinery, has revolutionized the monitoring of Longwall Panline angular measurements. Developed in collaboration with Glencore Coal, xBud is the world’s first plug and play data acquisition device designed specifically for longwall machinery.

Context and Problem

In the challenging and hazardous environment of an underground Longwall mine, where safety is paramount, it is crucial to have reliable equipment that can operate in extreme conditions. The environment can be explosive due to methane gases released from the coal seam during the mining process and as a result, all electronic equipment needs to be Intrinsically Safe (IS rated) for safe use.

The Longwall system consists of hydraulically actuated components, including hydraulic roof supports, pans, and an Armoured Face Conveyor (AFC). These components must work in unison along the coal seam face to ensure safe operation and efficient coal extraction.

Longwall angular measurements monitoring

Current Method

As each Longwall roof support advances forward the progressive cuts made into the coal face, the corresponding pan segments that make up the panline also push forward and as they do so, their pitch, roll or jaw angles change slightly.

If these angles are not in the correct orientation at each push advance, then it will not take long for a large error to accumulate and the whole longwall system will begin mining off course.

The aim is to allow the coal seam as perfectly as possible so that the shearer maximises the coal it cuts from the seam and leaves as little coal as possible behind.

Longwall panline angular measurements

Traditionally, the pan angles were sighted by the Longwall operators. They would walk the face and inspect these ‘off-course’ pans to make adjustments while mining was in progress. Later, the inertial navigation system within the shearer allowed for measurements of panline angles as the shearer traversed the face and passed over each of the pan segments. These measurements allowed for a profile of the panline to be calculated and the shearer’s cut path could be adjusted on the return shear to compensate for these angles to help keep the longwall on course with respect to the coal seam.

However, these measurements were based on outdated data, resulting in a constant need for retrospective adjustments and a less efficient mining process.


With the introduction of xBud, the monitoring of pan angles has become a real-time process. The device is deployed along the panline, wirelessly recording the pan angles before the shearer reaches each pan position. This data is then fed into the longwall control system, allowing for real-time adjustments to the shearer cut path. By maximizing the cut before the pan angles could potentially deviate the shearer off course, the mining process becomes more efficient.

The real-time gathering and utilization of pan angle data with xBud also contribute to longwall automation efforts. It serves as a reference measurement for sophisticated 3D laser scanning equipment, further enhancing the accuracy and efficiency of the mining operation.

Overall, xBud has transformed the way Longwall Panline angular measurements are monitored. Its plug and play nature, combined with real-time data acquisition, enables optimal shearer performance, improved safety, and increased efficiency in the extraction of coal from underground seams.

Angular measurements