Conveyors, Safety

Recyclability tack paying dividends for DYNA

It has been six years since DYNA Engineering planned to replace steel conveyor guards with recyclable high-density polyethylene. ABHR learns how the swap has affected the company.

It has been six years since DYNA Engineering planned to replace steel conveyor guards with recyclable high-density polyethylene. ABHR learns how the swap has affected the company.

Making a revolutionary to a main ‘bread and butter’ product rarely comes cheap for any organisation. But that is exactly what DYNA Engineering did in 2018.

The company was one of Australia’s first conveying equipment engineering specialists to begin using high-density polyethylene (HDPE) for its conveyor guards.

The logic behind this was to help prevent unnecessary environmental damage and unsustainable issues inherent with steel.

However, Thomas Greaves, DYNA Engineering’s general manager said the company never doubted its commitment and confidence. 

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“It was definitely the right way to go,” he told ABHR. 

The move was far from straightforward. 

Greaves said research, development and testing tied up weeks and months for the entire team, with significant costs and zero income.

“Then you can be faced with unexpected costs from procedures and systems that you might not have expected or underestimated in terms of expenses.”

“We also had to make the decision to invest heavily in new, dedicated facilities to make our own HDPE. And we had to purchase the associated tooling and componentry to allow us to fabricate our guards for a viable financial return.

“And on top of all this, the costs and risks of finding customers who would buy the product, as well as hiring people to make and install them, often at remote sites, contributed to some pretty nail-biting times in those early HDPE days,” he said.

Major customer benefits

The benefits of these fully-recycled-and-recyclable HDPE guards over traditional steel fall into three separate categories – environmental, safety, and productivity.

Steel conveyor guards were heavy and awkward to move. Site staff often needed to remove and re-install guards to maintain the conveyor, which would add repetitive stress and safety risks. HDPE conveyor guards can be up to 40 per cent lighter and can be removed in a matter of minutes, all without the need for special tooling. The guards simply slide into place and are fastened with two bolts, requiring no special skills.

During maintenance shutdowns, HDPE guards can be safely and easily secured on the conveyor handrail. This conveniently ensures they are out of harm’s way and reduces the likelihood of them being misplaced, which sometimes occurs amid the pressures of a maintenance shutdown.

Conventional steel guards also require a considerable amount of painting to maintain the safety yellow colour. The size of the mesh makes this a costly and often wasteful process – a lot of paint is used, and a significant amount is lost in the process. Operators often resort to hand painting, which is time-consuming and expensive. No painting is required with HDPE guards, which greatly reduces conveying system maintenance hours and cost. They can even be made in a special corporate or specific colour if preferred, not just in safety yellow. 

HDPE guards will not rust and are themselves recyclable, which Greaves said is a major benefit for an industry that is always wanting to be looking to continue building its environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials.

“The mining industry wants to become cleaner and greener. So do we. We all know how important our reputations are, and how important sustainability is.”

Because HDPE guards are easier to manufacture, DYNA Engineering can usually scale its production at its Perth-based facility based on the clients’ needs. 

“Replacement guards can be built in a couple of days and delivered directly to the customer, providing faster turnarounds when compared with international markets.

Always improving

Customers are increasingly impressed with both the design improvements and the product’s sustainability credentials.

2022 saw the company release its improved mesh design guards which give better visibility of the conveyor in operation due to a different triangular shape of the mesh. This is also better for high-pressure hosing operations. The reduction in flat frontal surfaces and the triangular shape of the mesh helps direct water through the mesh rather than bouncing the water back creating interference and dispersion. They can also be configured for access platforms, conveyor pull wires, retractable idler roller frames, metal detectors, and belt change stations, while maintaining strong chemical resistance.

Positive outlook ahead

The number of sites operating with DYNA Engineering’s HDPE conveyor guards now comprises all major mining areas and bulk handling terminals throughout Australia.

Greaves said most iron ore miners are consistently adding new HDPE guards.

“Our biggest difficulty at present is finding enough suitable people to employ to help us keep up with the ever-increasing demand for HDPE guards,” he said.

“But in some ways, this is maybe one of the ‘better’ problems you could have, when you consider the environmental and sustainable benefits each guard is providing compared to the damage and dangers caused by the old steel ones.

“They are fundamentally sustainable, assisting the mining industry establish more and more sound environmental outcomes.”

DYNA Engineering’s customers are looking for products made from recycled material, which can go on to be recycled again, reducing the amount of material that goes to landfill.

Greaves said the company has several other products in the pipeline its considering as candidates for conversion.

“The more we succeed in converting, the better for our customers and the environment. As my Dad said in an interview with ABHR a couple of years ago: ‘If you can build something that is well designed, meets the client criteria and operates effectively, you will always be successful.’ 

“Good engineering sets us apart, which is why we are always looking at new inventions and ways of doing things.

“Our current business growth and increases in installation sites seems to be proof that he was pretty well spot on!” Greaves said. 

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