Underground connectivity arrives at MacLean Engineering’s R&D facility


MacLean Engineering, in collaboration with Maestro Digital Mine, has integrated the Plexus PowerNet network into its Research and Demonstration Facility in Sudbury, Ontario.

Plexus PowerNet is a gigabit network providing both data and power using coaxial cable throughout the mine to enable connectivity underground. 

MacLean Engineering’s mobile equipment R&D lab was created to develop and test new mining technologies completely in-house. 

The underground test facility consists of a 300 metre decline at an average grade of 15 per cent that branches into multiple headings and testing areas. 

The facility is equipped with additional shop and office space providing MacLean engineers and operator trainers the ideal setting for putting mining innovation theory into practice. 

Maestro Digital Mine works with mining companies around the world to address the challenges associated with traditional communication backbone solutions, like  broadband and fibre. MacLean identified the value and benefits of Maestro’s backbone network solution and worked with the team at Maestro to install the system. The Plexus PowerNet quickly and simply extends the mines existing communications network to the face. 

“Collaboration up and down the supply chain is critical to making innovation happen in the underground mining sector at home and around the globe,” said Stuart Lister, MacLean’s vice president of marketing and communications. 

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“We’re delighted to work with another company in greater Sudbury’s mining ecosystem, Maestro Digital Mine” 

Plexus PowerNet delivers a high speed, low latency digital communication network that provides PoE+ power to Access Points (APs), cameras and other IP based devices. 

The Plexus PowerNet can be used in mines with or without a fibre optic network. The system eliminates the need for costly outside fibre optic contractors and can be installed and maintained by any internal tradesperson or development miner. It supports existing underground mine infrastructure and provide network connectivity to new IoT devices and automation technologies for digital mines, such as the MacLean R&D facility. 

Plexus makes installation simple, using a single coaxial cable that carries both power and network connectivity. This eliminates the need to run both fibre and power to new network devices. 

The EZ Advance Nodes provide an easy way to terminate, troubleshoot and deploy industry standard IP devices from the Plexus PowerNet embedded network switch. The Plexus has been designed for the quickest “last mile” of communication. 

“Our vision for the Plexus is to change the way that underground mines communicate and to strip out complexity in automation jobs and make configuration flexible and easy,” said Michael Gribbons, co-founder and CEO of Maestro Digital Mine. 

“We strive to make the complex, simple. Working with MacLean Engineering, the Plexus accelerates their time to connectivity and enables MacLean to bring in other new and innovative digital technologies and automation equipment for testing and demonstration at their centre. We are honoured to be part of the MacLean R&D facility.”