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DOI 10.1007/s00366-015-0408-z


A combination of the ICA‑ANN model to predict air‑overpressure

resulting from blasting
Danial Jahed Armaghani1 · Mahdi Hasanipanah2 · Edy Tonnizam Mohamad3 

Received: 25 January 2015 / Accepted: 3 June 2015

© Springer-Verlag London 2015

Abstract  Blasting operations usually produce significant including coefficient of determination (R2), root mean
environmental problems which may cause severe damage square error and value account for were utilized to check
to the nearby areas. Air-overpressure (AOp) is one of the the performance capacity of the predictive methods. Con-
most important environmental impacts of blasting opera- sidering these performance indices and using simple rank-
tions which needs to be predicted and subsequently con- ing method, the best models were selected among all con-
trolled to minimize the potential risk of damage. This paper structed models. It was found that the ICA-ANN approach
presents three non-linear methods, namely empirical, arti- can provide higher performance capacity in predicting AOp
ficial neural network (ANN), and imperialist competitive compared to other predictive methods.
algorithm (ICA)-ANN to predict AOp induced by blasting
operations in Shur river dam, Iran. ICA as a global search Keywords  Blasting · Air-overpressure · Artificial neural
population-based algorithm can be used to optimize the network · Imperialist competitive algorithm
weights and biases of the network connection for training
by ANN. In this study, 70 blasting operations were inves-
tigated and relevant blasting parameters were measured. 1 Introduction
The most influential parameters on AOp, namely maximum
charge per delay and the distance from the blast-face, were Blasting refers to the controlled use of explosives for the
considered as input parameters or predictors. Using the five purpose of breaking down, excavation, or removal of the
randomly selected datasets and considering the modeling rock mass. This is the most commonly used technique for
procedure of each method, 15 models were constructed rock fragmentation in civil and mining engineering appli-
for all predictive techniques. Several performance indices cations, e.g., quarry operations, road and dam construc-
tions, etc. However, blasting has a number of negative
side effects on the environment, such as air-overpressure
* Danial Jahed Armaghani (AOp), ground vibration, flyrock, dust and fumes, and so on [1–5], especially if blasting operations are carried out
Mahdi Hasanipanah near to residential buildings, factories, etc. or they are not designed appropriately [6, 7]. AOp resulting from blasting
Edy Tonnizam Mohamad is an undesirable side-effect of the use of explosives. AOp affects structures and can produce damage when quarrying,
1 which may result in conflict between the quarry manage-
Young Researchers and Elite Club, Qaemshahr Branch,
Islamic Azad University, Qaemshahr, Iran ment and those who are affected [8–10].
2 Several empirical equations have been developed to
Young Researchers and Elite Club, Qom Branch, Islamic
Azad University, Qom, Iran predict AOp induced by blasting operation [11–14]. As
3 a result, these methods are not accurate enough, whereas
Department of Geotechnics and Transportation, Faculty
of Civil Engineering, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, 81310 prediction of AOp values with high degree of accuracy
UTM Skudai, Johor, Malaysia is essential to estimate the blasting safety area [14]. In

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addition, these equations need to be updated when new Generally, during blasting operations, AOp waves are
blasting parameters are available. Aside from empirical created from four main sources [11, 30]:
equations, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques
such as artificial neural network (ANN) as a quick solution • Air pressure pulse (APP): the rock displacement at
for engineering problems has received attention recently in bench face as the blast progresses.
field of geotechnical engineering [15–19]. However, ANNs • Gas release pulse (GRP): generated by the gas escape
have a number of disadvantages: slow learning rate and through rock fractures.
getting trapped in local minima [20, 21]. The ANN perfor- • Rock pressure pulse (RPP): caused by vibration of
mance can be considerably improved by the use of optimi- ground.
zation algorithms such as imperialist competitive algorithm • Stemming release pulse (SRP): produced by the gas
(ICA) as reported by many scholars [5, 22, 23]. This study escape from blast-hole once the stemming is ejected.
is aimed to investigate the efficiency of the empirical and
intelligent systems, namely ANN and ICA-ANN in predict- Many parameters influence the AOp like maximum
ing AOp resulting from the blasting operation. charge per delay, burden and spacing, detonator accuracy,
stemming, charge depth, and direction of initiation, weak
strata, overcharging, atmospheric conditions, and condi-
2 Air‑overpressure tions arising from secondary blasting [11, 26, 31, 32].
Nevertheless, as mentioned by many authors [2, 11, 13]
The explosion occurs by the shock wave of chemical reac- the most influential parameters on AOp are maximum
tion when the reactive gases pressure reaches the sonic charge per delay and distance from the blast-face. Blasting-
velocity [24]. The gas pressure velocity quickly rises as induced AOp cannot be easily predicted since, in different
the explosive detonation occurs within the blast-hole. cases, the same blast design may generate different results.
Suddenly, surrounding rocks are loaded by the blast-hole
pressure, which produces a compressive holes pulse and
moves away quickly from the blast-hole. Mainly, the pres- 3 AOp prediction methods
sure in blasting is indicated by shock and gas mechanisms
[25, 26]. A large shock wave from explosive into the sur- Several empirical models have been proposed to predict
face produces AOp. Therefore, the AOp is a shock wave AOp using its influential parameters. The use of the cube-
which is refracted horizontally by density variations into root scaled distance (SD) factor is a common technique to
the atmosphere. AOp has two atmospheric pressure waves: predict AOp. The relationship between the SD and the two
an audible high frequency sound and sub-audible low fre- parameters, namely explosive charge weight per delay and
quency [26]. The lower boundary of detectable sound for distance from the blast-face, is formulated as follows:
human ear is 20 Hz and below than that it is unhearable.
However, sound of more than 20 Hz frequency may cause a SD = DW −0.33 (1)
concussion to the human ear [13]. According to Kuzu et al. where D denotes the distance (m or ft) and W is the explo-
[13], in terms of sound, AOp is measured based on Pascal sive charge weight (kg or lb), and SD is the scaled distance
(Pa) or Decibels (dB). factor (m kg−0.33 or ft lb−0.33). A site-specific AOp attenu-
In cases where the energy of AOp waves goes above the ation formula can be developed when statistical analy-
atmospheric pressure (194.1 dB), the surrounding struc- sis techniques (i.e., least squares regression analysis) are
tures may be, to some extent, damaged [27]. Explosion applied to the representative AOp data [33, 34]. The gener-
causes the average level and higher spectral frequencies alized predictor equation for the prediction of AOp is given
in AOp to be higher, whereas the AOp amplitude reduces as follows [11]:
by 6 dB for every doubling of distance from recipient to
AOp = H(SD)−β (2)
blast [28]. The attenuation range becomes smaller, −3.1 to
−10 dB, depending on the differences between the source in which AOp is measured in dB, and H and β are the site
spectra and propagation conditions. The AOp degree of factors. The site factor values, H and β, for some blasting
damage possibility for structures is 180 dB, general win- conditions are tabulated in Table 1.
dow breakage is 171 dB, and occasional window breakage Using both rock material and free air properties, some
is 151 dB [13]. According to Siskind et al. [11], as reported numerical models are introduced and linked to Autodyn
by the United States Bureau of Mines (USBM), a value 2D in the study conducted by Wu and Hao [35] to make
of 134 dB is recommended for AOp limitation. Therefore, a simulation of AOp and ground shock induced by sur-
many attempts have been made to control AOp values [13, face explosions. An empirical method was developed by
29]. Rodríguez et al. [31] to predict AOp generated by blasting

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Table 1  Site factors for some References Description H β

blasting conditions
Siskind et al. [11] Quarry blasts, behind face 622 0.515
Quarry blasts, direction of initiation 19,010 1.12
Quarry blasts, front of face 22,182 0.966
Hopler [9] Confined blasts for AOp suppression 1906 1.1
Blasts with average burial of the charge 19,062 1.1
Hustrulid [12] Detonations in air 185,000 1.2
Kuzu et al. [13] Quarry blasts in competent rocks 261.54 0.706
Quarry blasts in weak rocks 1833.8 0.981
Overburden removal 21,014 1.404
Hajihassani et al. [14] Quarry blasts, front of face (distance of 300 m) 10,909 1.09
Quarry blasts, front of face (distance of 600 m) 959.48 0.45

works outside a tunnel. The performance of their method the AOp values predicted by SVM are much closer to the
was evaluated with several tests and it was shown capable actual values compared to empirical methods. Hajihassani
of being used under various conditions. Kuzu et al. [13] et al. [14] proposed an approach based on hybrid particle
introduced an empirical equation for predicting AOp. They swarm optimization (PSO) and ANN model for the predic-
considered two critical parameters of AOp, i.e., the weight tion of AOp induced by quarry blasting. For the evaluation
of explosive materials and the distance from the blast-face of the accuracy of the proposed PSO-based ANN model,
to monitoring point in their model. They analyzed 98 AOp the AOp values measured by this model were compared
readings recorded from the quarry blasting operations in to those obtained by the empirical formula and the results
different conditions and concluded that their proposed showed the applicability of the proposed PSO-based ANN
equation could predict AOp with a reasonable accuracy. approach to predict AOp. In order to predict AOp using two
Using the data recorded from two quarries, Segarra et al. intelligent systems, namely adaptive neuro-fuzzy infer-
[36] proposed a new AOp predictive equation. The AOp ence system (ANFIS) and ANN, 166 blasting operations
measurements and blasting data were extracted from a total were investigated by Jahed Armaghani et al. [39] and the
of 122 records of 40 rock blasting operations with low to most effective parameters on AOp were measured. At the
very low strength. After all, they achieved an empirical end of this study, they mentioned that when higher accu-
equation with 32 % accuracy. racy of AOp prediction is needed ANFIS model would be
In addition to the above-mentioned empirical methods, the proper alternative compared to ANN technique. Table 2
numerous studies have been developed to predict AOp shows some studies with their performances in predicting
using soft computing techniques. Khandelwal and Singh AOp using soft computing techniques.
[37] proposed an ANN model using distance from the blast-
face to monitoring point for the prediction of AOp. They
compared the performance of ANN with that of the multi- 4 Artificial neural network
variate regression analysis (MVRA) and the United States
Bureau of Mines (USBM) predictor and proved the supe- Artificial neural network (ANN), which is an information
riority of their proposed model over MVRA and USBM processing system, makes a simulation of the functions
in terms of estimation accuracy. Considering the distance and structure of human brain. This network is a highly
from the blast-face to the monitoring point and the maxi- interconnected structure consisting of a large number of
mum charge per delay, Mohamed [38] applied ANN and a simple processing elements (i.e., neurons). This network
fuzzy inference system (FIS) to the prediction of AOp. He is capable of recognizing similarities when they are pre-
made a comparison between the results obtained from the sented with new input parameters after appropriately pre-
predictive models and the values of regression analyses and dicting the output pattern. Neural network is applicable as
observed field data. The ANN and FIS models were shown an alternative for some statistical analysis techniques such
more accurate compared to the regression analysis. Using a as multivariable regression, auto correlation, trigonomet-
total of 75 datasets related to three mines in India and the ric, linear regression, and so on. Using three fundamental
technique of support vector machine (SVM), Khandelwal components, a network can be defined; the components are
and Kankar [2] attempted to predict AOp. The AOp values network architecture, transfer function, and learning law
obtained from the SVM technique were compared to those [42, 43]. These components are defined based on the given
of a generalized predictor equation. They concluded that problem(s).

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Table 2  Several works on AOp prediction using soft computing techniques

References Technique Input No. of dataset R2

Khandelwal and Singh [37] ANN DI, C 56 R2 = 0.96

Mohamed [38] ANN, FIS DI, C 162 2
RANN  = 0.92
2  = 0.86
Khandelwal and Kankar [2] SVM DI, C 75 R2 = 0.85
Tonnizam Mohamad et al. [40] ANN HD, S, B, N, D, ST, PF 38 R2 = 0.93
Hajihassani et al. [14] ANN-PSO HD, S, B, ST, PF, N, DI, C, RQD 62 R2 = 0.86
Hajihassani et al. [41] ANN-PSO BS, MC, HD, ST, SB, RQD, PF, NH, DI 88 R2 = 0.89
Jahed Armaghani et al. [39] ANN DI, MC 166 R2 = 0.83

S spacing, B burden, ST stemming, PF powder factor, SVM support vector machine, C maximum charge per delay, D hole diameter; HD hole
depth, N number of row, PSO particle swarm optimization, DI distance from the blast-face, RQD rock quality designation, SB subdrilling, NH
number of hole

Several algorithms have been designed to train the neu- some of the best countries are called imperialists while
ral networks, among which the back-propagation (BP) the remaining countries form the colonies of the selected
algorithm is known as the most robust technique [44–46]. imperialists. ICA comprises three main operators, namely
BP can solve predictive complex engineering problems; assimilation, revolution, and competition. During the
it makes BP so popular among all algorithms for training assimilation, colonies are attracted towards the imperialists;
ANN [47, 48]. Generally, the feed-forward back-propa- this is because of their enthusiasm for power, culture, and
gation neural network (BPNN) contains at least three lay- economy, which are possessed by imperialists. Through
ers, namely input, hidden, and output layers. In each layer, the revolution, some sudden changes occurred in the coun-
there are some elementary processing units (i.e., neurons) tries’ positions. Colonies, during assimilation and revolu-
each of which is linked with the next layer through weights. tion, have the potential to reach a better state compared to
Depending on the given problem, the number of hidden that of their corresponding imperialist and take control of
layers and their neurons (nodes) change. The number of the empire [50]. In competition, the imperialists strive for
input and output neurons is similar to variables of input and more colonies and the whole empires attempt to possess
output. For the purpose of differentiating between differ- the colonies of other empires. Depending on their power,
ent processing units, the values that are named biases are all imperialists have the chance to possess a minimum of
presented in transfer functions. The net output of a neuron one colony of the weakest empire. Therefore, during the
or layer to its real or actual output is planned by transfer competition operator, weak empires collapse gradually and
functions [45]. In training the network, the data process- more powerful empires enhance their power. This proce-
ing from the input layer to the next (hidden layer) contin- dure goes on until only the most powerful empire remains
ues until date reaches the last (output) layer (forward pass). in power and the others collapse.
Within this layer, a comparison is done between the output As explained before, ICA starts with producing a set
and the actual values. Then, the difference between output of random candidate solutions each of which is known as
and actual values is propagated back through the network a country. In an Nvar dimension optimization problem, a
(backward pass), which updates the biases of the individ- country is represented by a 1 × Nvar array (see Eq. 3).
ual neurons and the individual weights of the connections.  
The process continues until the network error is converged
Country = P1 , P2 , P3 , . . . , PNvar , (3)
to a threshold that is defined by a corresponding function, where pi signifies various factors such as culture, economy,
which is generally the root mean squared error (RMSE). religion, and language, which are important in character-
izing a country. Consequently, the cost of each country
should be obtained through the evaluation of the function f
5 Imperialist competitive algorithm in variables P1 , P2 , P3 , . . . , PNvar ; therefore,
Imperialist competitive algorithm (ICA) is a global search
Costi = f countryi = f P1 , P2 , P3 , . . . , PNvar (4)
population-based algorithm that was developed by Atash- Subsequent to the generation of N countries (Ncountry), a
paz-Gargari and Lucas [49] to be used in optimization definite number of countries that have the lowest costs
problems. ICA gets started with a random initial popula- are chosen as the imperialists, i.e., Nimp and other coun-
tion or candidate solutions which call countries. However, tries (colonies) are represented by Ncol. The colonies are

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Fig. 1  Schematic of forming
initial imperialists and colonies

distributed among empires based on the empires’ initial

powers. For this reason, knowing all empires’ costs, the
normalized cost, is obtained as follows:

Cn = max{ci } − cn , (5)

where cn is the cost of the nth imperialist, maxi{ci} is the

maximum cost among imperialists, and Cn is the normal-
ized cost of the nth imperialist. The relatively low normal-
ized cost of each imperialist indicates its relative weakness.
Using the normalized cost of each empire, pn, the param-
eter of imperialist normalized power can be obtained by
Eq. 6. Based on this parameter, the colonies are distributed Fig. 2  Assimilation procedure in ICA [49]
among empires.
  powerful imperialists (i.e., those with bigger stars) take the
possession of more colonies.
pn =  N (6)
As mentioned earlier, during the assimilation operator,

i=1 i
colonies are attracted to their corresponding imperialists.
However, the power of an imperialist is dependent on the Figure 2 shows a schematic form of this procedure. As dis-
number of its colonies. Thus, for each imperialist, the ini- played in this figure, distance between an imperialist and
tial number of colonies, i.e., the Nth imperialist, is calcu- its colony is represented by d and the colony moves toward
lated using Eq. 7. its imperialist by x units, where x signifies a random num-
ber with uniform distribution (see Eq. 8).
N.C.n = round{pn .(Ncol )}, (7)
where N.C.n stands for the number of colonies for the nth
x ∼ U(0, β × d), (8)
imperialist. As shown in this equation, this is equal to the where β denotes a number close to 2 (many research-
nearest integer number that is obtained through the product ers have used the value of 2 for β [49]. In addition, Fig. 2
of the normalized cost of the nth imperialist and its colo- shows the deviation in the movement of a colony toward its
nies. The colonies are distributed amongst different empires corresponding imperialist (for enhancing the search prop-
using a random procedure and according to the empires’ erties of the algorithm). This deviation is modeled through
N.C. number. Subsequent to ascertaining the initial num- defining the parameter, θ parallel to the previous parameter
ber of imperialists and their colonies, the ICAs’ evolution- (i.e., x), θ is a random parameter with uniform distribution
ary loop gets started until the stop criterion is met. Figure 1 (see Eq. 9).
demonstrates a schematic view of the formation of initial
empires and their colonies. As shown in this figure, more θ ∼ U(−γ , γ ), (9)

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Fig. 3  Competition among
empires to attract the colony of
weakest empire [49]

where γ denotes a parameter whose values are determinant N.T.C.n = max{T.C.i } − T.C.n (11)
of the amount of deviation (search area) in the movement
of a colony. However, choosing θ equal to π/4 often leads 

to satisfactory results [49].

Ppn =  N (12)
Nevertheless, as demonstrated in Eq. 10, in ICA, an imp

i=1 N.T.C.i

empire’s total power, i.e., the nth empire, is defined as the
summation of the nth empire’s power and a percentage of Based on the probability of attracting the targeted col-
the colonies’ power: onies for each empire, the above-mentioned colonies are

T.C.n = Cost imperialistn
 allocated to the other empires. Then, the targeted colonies
   are allocated to the empire with the highest relevant index
+ ξ mean Cost colonies of empiren , (10) in vector D. This competition procedure continues until
where T.C.n signifies the total cost of the nth empire and the weakest empire collapse (i.e., it loses all its colonies).
ξ represents a small number close to zero. As recommended Weak empires collapse one after another until only one
by Atashpaz-Gargari and Lucas [49], the value should be in empire remains, which possesses all countries as its colo-
the range of 0.002–0.1 for ξ. As implied by small values of nies. It is also noticeable that the algorithm can have other
ξ, the total cost of the nth empire roughly equals the total stopping criteria, for example, achieving a desirable value
cost of its imperialist. for the objective functions. Figure 4 presents flowchart of
Nevertheless, as previously stated, the gradual loss of the ICA algorithm.
the empire’s power results in the collapse of the empire. ICA has been widely utilized as optimization algorithm
Assuming an empire, i.e., the weakest empire, is about to optimize the complex problems. Kaveh and Talatahari
to collapse, there would be a competition among other [51] applied ICA to optimize the design of skeletal struc-
empires to attract the colonies of the weakest empire. tures. In the study conducted by Nazari-Shirkouhi et al.
Figure  3 shows this procedure. In this figure, the weak- [52], ICA was used to solve the integrated product mix-out-
est empire is represented as Empire 1, and Empires 2 to sourcing optimization problem. Application of ICA algo-
N strive to attract the weakest colony of Empire 1. For rithm in automated clustering of remote sensing images
the simulation of such a competition, first, the probability was presented by Karami and Shokouhi [53]. In addi-
of attracting the target colony in respect of the empire’s tion, this algorithm was applied to determine the optimum
power is determined through calculating the normalized weights and biases used in ANNs [22, 23, 54]. To predict
total power of the nth empire N.T.C.n (see Eq. 11). After- soil compaction indices, Taghavifar et al. [22] employed
wards, the probability of attracting a target colony for each conventional ANN and ICA–ANN techniques. They suc-
of the empires (Empires 2 to N) can be calculated through cessfully indicated that the network optimized by ICA can
Eq. 12. perform better compared to conventional ANN technique.

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6 Site description and AOp monitoring

The Shur river dam is located in the south of province Ker-

man, Iran, in the adjacency of Sarchemeh copper mine and
Rafsanjan city, and at latitude of 30°1′48″ and longitude of
55°51′47″ (see Fig. 5). Also, this dam is the tallest asphaltic
concrete core dam in Iran. The type of bed rock in the dam
area is andesite and tuff. The site is situated in the area with
high seismicity where maximum design earthquake (MDE)
is 0.8 g [56]. The dam structure is separated to two parts
including main and saddle dam. The height of these dams
is 85.5 and 36.5 from the foundation for main and saddle,
respectively. Also, the crest length of the dam is 450 m.
Features of Shur river dam are listed in Table 3.
There are two mines in the vicinity of the Shur River
dam, namely main and second mines. In these mines, blast-
ing operations were used to produce fragmented rocks. In
these operations, ammonium nitrate fuel oil (ANFO) and
emulsion explosive were used as main explosive and prim-
ing, respectively. Since the mentioned mines are very close
to dam structure, AOp is one of the most important environ-
mental impacts of blasting operations in this region. There-
fore, it is essential to estimate AOp with the high degree
of accuracy. According to Tables 1 and 2, the most-used
input parameters in predicting AOp are maximum charge
per delay and distance from the blast-face. A total number
of 70 blasting operations were monitored at the dam site
and the values of AOp, maximum charge per delay and
distance from the blast-face were measured and used to
develop predictive models in this study. In this study, Mini-
mate Pulse produced by Instantel was utilized to measure
the AOp values. By using this equipment, AOp range from
88 dB (7.25 × 10−5 psi or 0.5 Pa) to 148 dB (0.0725 psi or
500 Pa) can be recorded. Properties of seismograph equip-
ment are shown in Table 4. In addition, summary of the
data used in the AOp modeling is listed in Table 5.

7 Prediction of AOp using empirical

and intelligent techniques

In order to predict AOp, three non-linear techniques,

Fig. 4  ICA flowchart [49]
namely empirical equation suggested by Siskind et al. [11],
ANN, and ICA-ANN, were applied in this study. In these
models, maximum charge per delay and distance from the
Furthermore, ICA was utilized to optimize ANN networks blast-face were considered as predictors or inputs. The fol-
in the studies carried out by Marto et al. [55] and Hajihas- lowing sections describe modeling procedure of the afore-
sani et al. [5] in predicting flyrock and ground vibration mentioned methods to predict AOp. Subsequently, to dem-
resulting from blasting, respectively. In both researches, onstrate the ability of these methods, the measured values
they showed the superiority of ICA-ANN technique in of AOp were compared with the corresponding predicted
comparison with the other used-methods. values of AOp.

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Fig. 5  A view of Shur River dam

Table 3  Features of Shur river dam 7.1 Empirical equation suggested by USBM

Property Description
Previously, several scholars suggested some empiri-
Type of dam Rockfill dam with asphalt concrete core cal equations for prediction of AOp using the suggested
Upstream side slope 1.75:1 (H:V) method of USBM (see Eq. 2). In this study, an attempt was
Downstream side slope 1.5:1 (H:V) made to develop an empirical equation for estimation AOp
Dam body volume 2,400,000 m3 using two predictors including maximum charge per delay
Asphalt concrete volume 16,000 m3 and distance from the blast-face. To do this, five differ-
Reservoir Volume 34,000,000 m3 ent datasets were selected randomly (to training and test-
Data of project From 2007 to 2012 ing datasets) from all 70 datasets for choosing the most
precise equation. A visual basic code was written to select
the random datasets through the randomizer function [57].
The idea behind using some data for testing is to check the
Table 4  Properties of minimate pulse performance capacity of the developed model. Swingler
Vibration monitoring Air-overpressure monitoring [58] suggested 20 % of whole datasets for testing purpose,
while this value was recommended as 25 % in the study
Range Up to 254 mm/s Linear range 88–148 dB
conducted by Looney [59]. Furthermore, Nelson and Ill-
Resolution 0.127 mm/s Linear resolution (500 Pa
ingworth [60] offered a range of 20 % to 30 % of whole
datasets for testing purpose. Considering these recommen-
Accuracy ±5 % or 0.5 mm/sLinear accuracy 0.25 Pa
dations, 20 % (14 datasets) of whole datasets (70 datasets)
Frequency range2–250 Hz Linear frequency 2–250 Hz
response was selected randomly as testing datasets, whereas the
remaining 56 datasets were used for training the mod-
els. Using the selected datasets, five power equations (see
Eq.  2) were proposed to predict AOp as listed in Table 6.
In construction of these equations, results of maximum
Table 5  Summary of the data used in the modeling charge per delay and distance from the blast-face were used
Parameter Unit Symbol Category Min Max Mean to calculate the SD values. The statistical software package
of SPSS version 16 [61] was used to construct and analyze
Maximum charge kg C Input 135 1240 791.72 the empirical equations. As shown in Table 6, when con-
per delay
sidering only model development datasets, R2 of the pro-
Distance from the m DI Input 56 1541 366.88 posed empirical equations vary between 0.675 and 0.742.
However, the R2 values are in the range of 0.703 and 0.899
Air-overpressure dB AOp Output 109.1 147.6 126.62
when testing datasets are taken into consideration. More

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Table 6  Proposed empirical equations for 5 randomly selected data- Table 7  Suggested equations for determining the number of neuron
sets in hidden layer [66]

Dataset no. Proposed equation R2 Heuristic References

1 AOp = 167.51 SD−0.083 0.691 ≤2 ×  Ni + 1 Hecht-Nielsen [64]

2 AOp = 172.32 SD−0.092 0.742 3Ni Hush [62]
3 AOp = 169.32 SD−0.087 0.722 (Ni + N0)/2 Ripley [67]
4 AOp = 167.97 SD−0.085 0.687 2+N0 ×Ni +0.5N0 × N02 +Ni −3 Paola [68]

Ni +N0
5 AOp = 167.76 SD−0.083 0.675 2Ni/3 Wang [69]

Ni × N0 Masters [70]
2Ni Kaastra and Boyd [71]
information regarding selection of the best equation will be Kannellopoulas and Wilkinson [63]
given in results and discussion section. Ni number of input neuron, N0 number of output neuron

7.2 ANN modeling
technique to solve AOp problem. It should be noted that
In ANN modeling procedure of this study, the same data- only results of R2 were considered as performance criteria
sets performed in the analyses of empirical equation were to select the best model. Performance indices of all models
applied. As a first step of ANN modeling, all data should be with five hidden nodes for training and testing datasets are
normalized using the following equation: presented in Table 11. Levenberg–Marquardt (LM) learn-
ing algorithm was used in constructing ANN models. Study
Xnorm = (X − Xmin) / (Xmax − Xmin), (13) by Hagan and Menhaj [72] suggests the efficiency of this
where Xnorm represents the normalized value of the algorithm compared to other conventional gradient descent
measured parameter, Xmin is the minimum value of the techniques. More discussions regarding the selection of the
measured parameters, Xmax is the maximum value of the best ANN model to predict AOp will be given later.
measured parameters, and X is the measured value.
Performance of ANN models depends strongly on the 7.3 ICA‑ANN modeling
suggested architecture of the network [62, 63]. Therefore,
determination of the optimal architecture is required to As mentioned earlier, many optimization algorithms such
design an ANN model. The network architecture is defined as GA by Montana and Davis [73], PSO by Kennedy and
as the number of hidden layer(s) and the number of neurons Eberhart [74], artificial bee colony by Karaboga [75], and
in each hidden layer(s). As stated by Hecht-Nielsen [64] ant colony by Socha and Blum [76] have been proposed for
and Hornik et al. [65], any complex problem can be solved training ANN to obtain a set of weights and biases. These
using only one hidden layer. Hence, one hidden layer was algorithms can minimize the error values of the system as
chosen to build the ANN models in this study. In addition, stated by many researchers [22, 77–80]. In this objective,
determining neuron number(s) in the hidden layer is the ICA was applied for determining the optimum weights and
most critical task in the ANN architecture as stated by Son- biases of ANN model to minimize error values of the sys-
mez et al. [66]. Table 7 tabulates some equations related to tem. A hybrid of ICA-ANN model was employed to predict
the determination of number of neurons proposed by sev- AOp resulting from blasting operations at Shur river dam,
eral scholars. Based on this table and considering two neu- Iran. In order to have a perfect comparison between all pro-
rons in input layer (Ni) and one neuron in output layer (No), posed predictive models, the same randomly selected data-
the number of neurons which should be used in the hidden sets were utilized.
layer is in the range of 1–6.
In order to determine the optimum number of neurons 7.3.1 ICA parameter
in the hidden layer, using the same datasets of last part (5
randomly selected datasets), 30 ANN models were con- Before developing hybrid ICA-ANN model, some impor-
structed using one hidden layer and number of hidden tant parameters of ICA should be determined. As discussed
neurons of 1 to 6 as shown in Table 8. According to this earlier, the most effective factors on ICA algorithm include
table, considering average R2 values of both training and number of imperialism, number of country, number of dec-
testing datasets, model No. 5 with five hidden neurons out- ade, β, θ and ζ. Regarding β, θ, and ζ parameters, it seems
performs the other ANN models. Hence, five was selected that a review of the previous studies is needed. Atashpaz-
as number of hidden neurons in constructing ANN models. Gargari and Lucas [49] recommended β  = 2 in the origi-
Therefore, structure of (2 × 5 × 1) was suggested for ANN nal study of ICA. Additionally, this value was successfully

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Table 8  R2 of trained ANN models to predict AOp using hidden neurons of 1–6
Model no. Nodes in hidden layers Network result
Iteration 1 Iteration 2 Iteration 3 Iteration 4 Iteration 5 Average
2 2 2 2 2
R R R R R R2
Train Test Train Test Train Test Train Test Train Test Train Test

1 1 0.806 0.823 0.819 0.733 0.802 0.796 0.797 0.815 0.811 0.801 0.807 0.794
2 2 0.819 0.787 0.799 0.844 0.794 0.836 0.821 0.785 0.813 0.826 0.809 0.816
3 3 0.887 0.728 0.840 0.861 0.814 0.918 0.843 0.863 0.845 0.633 0.846 0.801
4 4 0.879 0.669 0.876 0.794 0.865 0.810 0.847 0.803 0.799 0.890 0.853 0.793
5 5 0.862 0.835 0.879 0.882 0.879 0.827 0.859 0.910 0.858 0.885 0.867 0.868
6 6 0.884 0.780 0.877 0.679 0.846 0.785 0.870 0.880 0.840 0.802 0.863 0.785

Table 9  Effects of different Model no. Number of country Network result Ranking Total rank
numbers of countries in
predicting AOp Train Test Train Test
2 2 2

1 25 0.779 0.104 0.604 0.081 6 6 1 9 22

2 50 0.760 0.101 0.745 0.100 4 8 7 4 23
3 75 0.776 0.091 0.767 0.098 5 12 8 5 30
4 100 0.735 0.101 0.842 0.096 3 8 11 6 28
5 150 0.797 0.097 0.770 0.075 11 9 9 10 39
6 200 0.785 0.096 0.683 0.112 8 10 5 2 25
7 250 0.797 0.097 0.664 0.094 11 9 2 7 29
8 300 0.780 0.096 0.738 0.107 7 10 6 3 26
9 350 0.789 0.095 0.673 0.112 9 11 3 2 25
10 400 0.760 0.103 0.840 0.069 4 7 10 11 32
11 450 0.804 0.095 0.907 0.048 12 11 12 12 47
12 500 0.795 0.097 0.677 0.092 10 9 4 8 31

applied by Hajihassani et al. [5], Taghavifar et al. [22], and [5], respectively, to predict flyrock and ground vibration
Ahmadi et al. [23]. Moreover, β > 1 was suggested in the induced by blasting. Therefore, in this study, 12 hybrid
study conducted by Niknam et al. [81]. Atashpaz-Gargari ICA-ANN models with various Ncountry were constructed
and Lucas [49] introduced θ = π/4 in the initial version of (see Table 9). In these models, to find the optimum Ncountry,
ICA and this value was successfully implemented by Marto number of decade (Ndecade) and number of imperialism
et al. [55] and Ebrahimi et al. [82] in different fields. In (Nimp) were set as 200 and 10, respectively. The obtained
the case of ζ, values of 0.1 by Atashpaz-Gargari and Lucas network results including RMSE and R2 for each model
[49], 0.05 by Taghavifar et al. [22], and 0.02 by Hajihassani were listed in Table 9. Furthermore, a simple ranking
et al. [5] have been suggested. Considering the above dis- method proposed by Zorlu et al. [57] was applied to obtain
cussion and using trial-and-error procedure method, values the optimum Ncountry. Note that, a model will be excel-
of 2, π/4 and 0.02 were selected for β, θ and ζ, respectively. lent if the R2 is one and RMSE is zero. Results of rank-
ing values for training and testing of each model as well
7.3.2 Number of country as their total rank values were calculated and presented
in Table 9. Based on total rank values, Ncountry = 450 can
In the previous researches, various Ncountry values were provide higher performance capacities of ICA-ANN model
utilized for solving the engineering problems. Value of compared to other number of countries. Therefore, value
40 was suggested by Ahmadi et al. [23] in predicting oil of 450 (model No. 11) was selected as Ncountry in modeling
flow rate of the reservoir. Ncountry = 56 and Ncountry = 135 procedure of ICA-ANN. For more information regarding
were introduced by Marto el al. [55] and Hajihassani et al. simple ranking method refer to Zorlu et al. [57]. It should

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Fig. 6  The effect of Ndecade on

the network performance of

be noted that, in the modeling procedure of the ICA-ANN training and testing datasets are shown in Table 10. Here,
technique, 80 % of whole datasets was assigned to train the a simple ranking procedure proposed by Zorlu et al. [57]
system, whereas, the remaining 20 % was considered as was used to select the best number of imperialists. Based
testing datasets. on total rank values presented in Table 10, Nimp  = 20
(model No. 4) shows better performance of the network
7.3.3 Number of decade compared to other Nimp. Therefore, value of 20 was cho-
sen as optimum Nimp in modeling of ICA-ANN for pre-
Determination of Ndecade is the next step of ICA-ANN mod- diction of AOp.
eling procedure. A practical way to determine the optimum
Ndecade is to compare the results of the analysis of differ- 7.3.5 Network architecture
ent Ndecade. Therefore, another parametric study was per-
formed to identify the effect of Ndecade on the network’s In the last step of ICA-ANN modelling, using the sug-
performance. In these analyses, a fixed Ndecade  = 1000 gested ANN structure (2 × 5 × 1), same randomly selected
was utilized. Such analyses were conducted to monitor datasets, and obtained ICA parameters from the previous
the changes in the cost function or RMSE for each dec- steps, five ICA-ANN models were trained. In addition,
ade. Results of parametric study on Ndecade for Ncountry of similar to two other predictive methods, the testing datasets
25 to 500 can be seen in Fig. 6. Based on this figure, sig- were also used in each train. The relevant results of training
nificant changes are observed in the first decades, whereas and testing datasets of ICA-ANN models as well as their
the changes were moderate up to number of decade equal discussion will be given in the following section.
to 800. After the mentioned Ndecade, there are no significant
changes in the RMSE results for all numbers of countries.
Hence, the optimum Ndecade was set to be 800 in ICA-ANN 8 Results and discussion
modeling. It is worth mentioning that in determining num-
ber of decades, the other obtained ICA parameters from In this research, three non-linear techniques, namely power
previous steps were utilized. empirical equation, ANN, and ICA-ANN, were developed
to predict AOp obtained from Shur river dam, Iran. During
7.3.4 Number of imperialists the modeling process of this study, all 70 datasets were ran-
domly selected to 5 different datasets (training and testing)
Knowing the optimum number of countries and decades, for development of the non-linear models. Some perfor-
to obtain the optimum number of imperialists, another mance indices including R2, value account for (VAF) and
sensitivity analyses are needed. For this purpose, Nimp RMSE were computed to check the capacity performance
values ranging from 5 to 65 were utilized to determine of all predictive models:
the best Nimp. In this step, the achieved parameters from N  ′ 2

previous steps were utilized. Performance indices, i.e., 2 i=1 y − y
R = 1 − N
R2 and RMSE of different number of imperialists for i=1 (y − ỹ)
2 (14)

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Table 10  Effects of different Model no. Number of country Network result Ranking Total Rank
numbers of imperialists in
predicting AOp Train Test Train Test
2 2 2

1 5 0.827 0.087 0.475 0.127 13 13 2 5 33

2 10 0.816 0.091 0.544 0.117 12 11 3 8 34
3 15 0.759 0.095 0.766 0.117 3 8 11 8 30
4 20 0.739 0.097 0.894 0.084 2 7 13 13 35
5 25 0.795 0.097 0.658 0.094 6 7 6 12 31
6 30 0.800 0.091 0.696 0.119 8 11 8 7 34
7 35 0.807 0.093 0.606 0.115 9 10 5 9 33
8 40 0.810 0.091 0.595 0.120 11 11 4 6 32
9 45 0.778 0.097 0.797 0.095 4 7 12 11 34
10 50 0.799 0.088 0.709 0.128 7 12 9 4 32
11 55 0.808 0.094 0.365 0.111 10 9 1 10 30
12 60 0.799 0.097 0.659 0.094 7 7 7 12 33
13 65 0.779 0.097 0.736 0.095 5 7 10 11 33

var y − y′ models of linear multiple regression and ANN for pre-

VAF = [1 − ] × 100 diction of UCS. Additionally, this method was success-
(15) fully implemented in the study conducted by Yagiz et al.
 [83]. They applied this method to select the best ANN
and non-linear multiple regression models for predic-

RMSE =  (y − y′ )2 , (16) tion of PR values of Queens tunnel, USA. A ranking
value was calculated and assigned for each training and
where y, y′ and ỹ are the measured, predicted, and testing dataset separately (see Table 11). It is worth not-
mean of the y values, respectively, N is the total number ing that the RMES results of ANN and ICA-ANN tech-
of data and P is the number of predictors. Theoretically, niques were obtained for normalized datasets, whereas
the model will be excellent if R2 is one, VAF is 100 these values were achieved in modeling of empirical
(%), and RMSE is zero. Results of models performance models using the original (not normalized) datasets.
indices (R2, RMSE and VAF) for all randomly selected This is due to limitation to make a power relationship
datasets based on training and testing are presented in for AOp prediction. Total ranking of training and test-
Table  11. High performances of the training datasets ing datasets for three predictive models is shown in
indicate that the learning processes of the predictive Table  12. According to this table, model No. 1 exhib-
models are successful if those of the testing datasets ited the best performance of AOp prediction for empiri-
reveal that the models’ generalization ability ia satisfac- cal method, while models No. 2 and 3 yielded the best
tory. Based on Table 11, since, the obtained results of results in predicting AOp for ANN and ICA-ANN tech-
models’ performance indices are very similar, select- niques, respectively. When considering both training
ing the best models is too difficult. Sometimes, R2 of and testing datasets, the prediction performances of the
the training dataset of a predictive model may be higher ICA -ANN models are higher than those of empirical
while that of the testing dataset for the same model may and ANN models. The selected power equation (model
be lower. For instance, according to the obtained results No. 1) is shown in the following equation:
of ANN model, R2 values of 0.879 and 0.859 were
achieved for train 3 and train 4, respectively, which AOp = 167.51 SD−0.083 (17)
indicate higher performance capacity of train 3 in train- The graphs of predicted AOp using empirical, ANN, and
ing stage while these values were obtained 0.827 and ICA-ANN techniques against the measured AOp for train-
0.910 for test 3 and test 4, respectively, which express ing and testing datasets are shown in Figs. 7, 8, 9, respec-
higher performance capacity of test 4 in testing stage. tively. As shown in these figures, the ICA-ANN model can
To overcome this difficulty, Zorlu et al. [57] introduced perform better in the prediction of AOp in comparison to
a simple ranking method to choose the best predictive other predictive models. Based on these figures, R2 equal
models. They used this procedure in selecting the best to 0.961 for testing dataset suggests the superiority of the

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Table 11  Performance indices of each model and their rank values for all predictive approaches
Method Model R2 RMSE VAF Rating for R2 Rating for RMSE Rating for VAF Rank value

Empirical Train 1 0.691 5.337 69.131 3 4 3 10

Train 2 0.742 5.216 74.160 5 5 5 15
Train 3 0.722 5.501 72.225 4 2 4 10
Train 4 0.687 5.339 68.675 2 3 2 7
Train 5 0.675 5.339 67.510 1 3 1 5
Test 1 0.886 4.221 85.833 4 3 4 11
Test 2 0.703 4.841 61.482 1 1 1 3
Test 3 0.793 3.167 79.235 2 5 2 9
Test 4 0.867 4.191 85.390 3 4 3 10
Test 5 0.899 4.272 89.621 5 2 5 12
ANN Train 1 0.862 0.075 86.163 4 4 3 11
Train 2 0.879 0.075 87.850 5 4 4 13
Train 3 0.879 0.076 87.854 5 3 5 13
Train 4 0.859 0.075 85.906 3 4 2 9
Train 5 0.858 0.074 85.750 2 5 1 8
Test 1 0.835 0.093 82.116 2 1 2 5
Test 2 0.882 0.060 87.964 3 5 3 11
Test 3 0.827 0.082 65.485 1 3 1 5
Test 4 0.910 0.080 88.798 5 4 5 14
Test 5 0.885 0.084 88.423 4 2 4 10
ICA-ANN Train 1 0.971 0.037 97.075 4 4 5 13
Train 2 0.962 0.038 96.172 1 3 1 5
Train 3 0.972 0.033 97.040 5 5 4 14
Train 4 0.963 0.045 96.220 2 1 2 5
Train 5 0.964 0.041 96.437 3 2 3 7
Test 1 0.952 0.039 95.132 1 2 1 5
Test 2 0.968 0.038 96.794 4 3 4 11
Test 3 0.961 0.049 96.059 3 1 3 7
Test 4 0.969 0.025 96.825 5 5 5 15
Test 5 0.960 0.037 95.298 2 4 2 8

ICA-ANN technique in predicting AOp, while these val- Table 12  Results of total rank for all predictive techniques obtained
ues are 0.886 and 0.882 for empirical and ANN models, from five randomly selected datasets
respectively. It is worth mentioning that the performance Method Model Total rank
capacity of the ICA-ANN model is higher than the perfor-
Empirical 1 21
mance capacities of the other techniques implemented by
2 18
previous scholars (see Table 2).
3 19
To demonstrate capability of the developed models in
predicting AOp, several empirical models including Siskind 4 17
et al. [11], Hopler [9], and Kuzu et al. [13] from all pre- 5 17
sented models in Table 1 were selected to predict AOp val- ANN 1 16
ues. Predicted AOp values using Siskind et al. [11], Hop- 2 24
ler [9], and Kuzu et al. [13] models, respectively, against 3 18
the all 70 AOp values measured in the site, are shown in 4 23
Figs.  10, 11, 12. R2 values of 0.667, 0.655, and 0.689 for 5 18
Siskind et al. [11], Hopler [9], and Kuzu et al. [13] mod- ICA-ANN 1 18
els, respectively, indicate lower prediction capacities of the 2 16
empirical models, while these values are obtained as 0.728, 3 21
0.880, and 0.971 for power equation, ANN and ICA-ANN 4 20
models, respectively. 5 15

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Fig. 7  R2 of measured and predicted AOp values for training and Fig. 10  Predicted values of AOp using Siskind et al. [11] model
testing datasets using empirical model against monitored AOp

Fig. 8  R2 of measured and predicted AOp values for training and Fig. 11  Predicted values of AOp using Hopler [9] model against
testing datasets using ANN technique monitored AOp

9 Conclusions

In this study, an attempt was made to predict AOp induced by

blasting using empirical, ANN and ICA-ANN methods. This
was accomplished using the blasting data obtained from 70
blasting operations at Shur river dam, Iran. The most influen-
tial parameters on AOp, namely maximum charge per delay
and the distance from the blast-face, were considered as input
parameters or predictor, whereas the values of measured AOp
were set as the output parameter. Using the five randomly
selected datasets and considering the modeling procedure of
each model, 15 models were constructed for all predictive
techniques. Considering some model performance indices
Fig. 9  R2 of measured and predicted AOp values for training and
such as R2, RMSE and VAF and using simple ranking method
testing datasets using ICA-ANN technique proposed by Zorlu et al. [57], the best models were selected

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