Let it flow

Let it Flow

Author: Renata Barradas Gutiérrez

Hydropower is a clear source of energy fuelled by water.

The Santo Antonio Hydroelectric Plant is a domestic source of energy able to provide electricity to about 45 million Brazilians. Located in the heart of the Amazon, this hydroelectric complex is the fourth largest plant in Brazil and No. 1 in sustainability as per the International Hydropower Association (IHA) evaluation.

To build a project of this endeavour, water needs to be enclosed with cofferdams to create a dry environment for the major construction work to proceed. Upon competition of the hydroelectric plant, Grupo Toniolo Company had the critical task to remove the downstream cofferdam so the Madeira River could flow freely through the turbines to generate electricity.

To reach the full potential of the hydroelectric plant, Grupo Tonilo Company had 90 days to remove the 33,000 square metres of solid rock, compact soil and clay composing the cofferdam.

With the commissioning of Consórcio Construtor Santo Antônio (CSAC), Grupo Toniolo geared up for this challenging project and set up the excavators with the Leica Geosystems 3D excavator machine control solution. The challenge of this project, however, didn’t only reside on the magnitude of the cofferdam’s volume – excavators had to be mounted on two barges to extract the material from the opaque waters of the Madeira River.


No more guesswork

Excavating with zero visibility through water with maximum performance and efficiency was possible for this project thanks to the Leica iXE3 3D System. Instead of relying on the operators’ guess to remove the cofferdam material, the information on the iXE3 panel allowed the operator to know with total accuracy where to dig and how deep.

“With Leica’s 3D excavator machine control solution, we knew exactly where the cofferdam was and where to start removing the material. The operators got it right on the first time and easily achieved very good results,” said Johnis Toníolo, owner of Grupo Toniolo. “We cannot run this kind of project without Leica’s iCON iEX3 anymore. It is like a blind man seeing again.”

Based on the bathymetric survey of the riverbed channel provided by CSAC, Grupo Toniolo designed a CAD 3D model to guide the excavation as per the referenced design. With the iEX3 3D/2D panel view, operators had full information to operate the excavator and were also able to:

  • Visualise the precise positioning of the cofferdam without external survey support. The iEX3 screen shows the operator the cut and fills areas in the colour map.
  • Avoid overloading. The system tells the correct position of the bucket allowing blind and submerged cuts.
  • Eliminate over excavation. If the desired depth is reached, the colour map in the control panel screen changes to green

No more rework

Allowing a rapid and accurate excavation in the Madeira River based on a 3D CAD model resulted in saving time and costs. Eliminating grade checking and rework permitted the company to finish this complex job on time. Additionally, the skilled team of operators just needed few hours of training to start operating the excavator without any outside cabin indication, mark on a stick, or water level

“With Leica’s iCON iEX3 solution the excavator downtime was reduced by 50 per cent and we got the job done the first time so no rework was needed. Using this system increased our production by 40 per cent,” said Frederico Martins, production engineer at Grupo Toníolo.


Behind the scenes

Success on-site depends also on the preparation, transfer and processing of data.

The Leica ConX and iCON office solutions supported by the 3D excavator system enabled the import and export of data from the office to the field and empowered remote access from the field operation

Thanks to these software technology solutions Grupo Toniolo was able to:

  • Control the progress on-site, check the operation hours, and update the digital models from their base in Curitiba with iCON Telematics.
  • Verify and record excavation progress directly on the machine screen and on the office with iCON Telematics.
  • Share with their customer all on-site data, calculate volume analysis, and generate various reports with the use of iCON office.

Dare to digitalise

For this particular project, Grupo Tonilo dared to go digital with Leica’s 3D excavator machine control solution to automate processes in a faster, more efficient and accurate way.

“By using Leica’s iCON iXE3 3D system, our company benefited for the first time from 3D CAD models and state-of-the-art GNSS technology to guide an excavator machine,” said Martins. This first contact with Leica’s 3D excavator machine control system meant a complete new workflow for Grupo Toniolo – from the design to the operation, this project represented an innovation on how they do business.

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