Wilhelm Löbbe and Konrad Grebe (coal plow) to be inducted into the International Mining Technology Hall of Fame

Developers of the coal plow, Wilhelm Löbbe and Konrad Grebe will be inducted in the Underground Production category at the gala dinner in the Brown Palace Hotel, Denver on February 16 (www.im-halloffame.com)- lead sponsor Stantec. Caterpillar nominated Wilhelm Löbbe (1890 – 1950), who “invented and refined the coal plow in an attempt to modernize and mechanize underground coal mining. The invention of the ‘Loebbe Plow’ in the early days laid the foundation for establishing plowing as the preferred high-productivity longwall mining method for seam heights below 1.8 m.” Separately, Konrad Grebe was nominated by Peter Zuber, Export Manager, Bochumer Eisenhütte Heintzmann. Grebe invented the plow for coal production in thin seams. It was introduced in 1941 at Ibbenbüren colliery in Germany, which is still producing and -of course- only with plows as it only has thin seams.

Grebe worked for Ibbenbüren colliery and was the man who drove the development of plowing with the first tests, etc. He had the idea of using plows as extraction machine. The first test machines were made at the mine’s workshop. Grebe was nominated Pioneer of labour” in 1943.

Wilhelm Löbbe worked for as the Chief Engineer at Westfalia Lünen, which was the first manufacturer of plows besides the Ibbenbüren mine workshop, until 1950. Later of course Westfalia became DBT, then Bucyrus Europe and now Caterpillar. Löbbe transferred the results of the tests, etc. into a real engineered machine. The combination of chain conveyor and plow into one machine was Löbbe’s accomplishment.

Returning to the Caterpillar nomination, Dr Uli Paschedag, Director Product Segment Underground, Caterpillar Global Mining explains that “plowing is a long-known coal mining method invented in the early 1940s. Many different plow models were designed and trialled underground until in the mid-1990s only two models remained: the Reisshakenhobel® or base plate plow and the Gleithobel® or gliding plow. Power and plow speed have increased steadily over time; however it wasn’t until 1989 when the biggest weakness of plow systems was overcome: automated plowing, using electrohydraulic controls, with defined cutting depths. This finally allowed plowing to become the most productive mining method for seams below 1.8 m thickness.

“This technology step like most inventions in plowing came from Caterpillar’s predecessor Westfalia Lünen. Another milestone was yet another invention by Westfalia as the world’s first and only really mine-worthy and rugged control system PM 4 was introduced in 1993. Today, three standard plow systems are offered by Caterpillar together with tailor-made plow shields and the currently most advanced electronic shield control system, the PMC®-R. Installed cutting power of up to 2 x 800 kW, coupled with a blazing plow speed of up to 3.6 m/s and world-leading automation capabilities leads to an integrated longwall mining system for medium and thin seams which produces more clean coal at lower cost than any shearer can.

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