Stress test with one of the best

Bulk Solids Modelling is using a specific type of modelling to take away the stress when looking for the right bulk handling equipment. 

Bulk Solids Modelling is using a specific type of modelling to take away the stress when looking for the right bulk handling equipment. 

When Peter Donecker developed dynamic scale modelling (DSM), he knew it had potential. So much so that it eventually led to the creation of his company, Bulk Solids Modelling.

“We were looking at wear materials in mining operations in general and in the course of that we noticed that a very small change in the geometry of the chute had a massive effect on the wear behaviour,” he told ABHR. 

“That’s when the penny dropped that it is not just the materials but how the ore flows.

“We thought how we can do this in a lab and came up with the idea for scale modelling.”

There is a perception in the industry that it is necessary to use some form of scaled down version of the actual ore in a model, but Donecker has sought to change that.

He believes to run a fully accurate simulation, a material made specifically for the situation at hand needs to be used to replicate real-world usage. 

The method has proven successful with Bulk Solids Modelling having worldwide reach after working with clients in Brazil, Canada, Africa and Asia.

“The first conceptual leap that people have to make is that density is not an issue… because we’re using Froude number scaling and the Froude number does not change with density, it is independent,” he said. 

“The real issue is when you take a cohesive material, like a sample of iron ore, and create a material that is one-tenth the particle size, it will be extremely cohesive, but we want the cohesion to move in the other direction.” 

For an accurate test and demonstration of a chute’s capabilities, the cohesive forces need to stay in the same proportion to other forces like the inertial force.  

However, the finer cohesive material gets the more cohesive it gets. This can cause a material to agglomerate and display much higher cohesive forces which impacts the testing results.

This is why Bulk Solids Modelling uses custom materials and moisture control in its testing to ensure consistent results. 

“We’ve got material that does not agglomerate, and we can control the cohesion via the moisture content,” Donecker said. 

“Because of this, we can explore a whole range of cohesive conditions (accurately), starting off with low moisture content and then increasing it. 

“We can see what happens and sort of stress test the situation.”

Donecker’s method has revealed other significant advantages which could benefit the bulk handling industry.

Using DSM serves as a point of difference to validate DEM results and shines a light on previously unforeseen issues with chutes. 

“The advantage of using scale modelling is that you can check the design that you have done in DEM with a completely different approach… that gives you the extra confidence you got it right,” Donecker said. 

With nearly 30 years in the industry, Donecker has seen plenty of companies caught out with an ineffective chute.

If a transfer chute does not work as planned, it becomes a major headache worth significant sums of money. For example, if the chute is dispersing an uneven load the cost to fix the imbalance, alongside the associated downtime and preparation time, brings in a hefty bill. 

“You may have spent a million dollars for the chute which is one cost but if you can’t process your ore through it, it can cost many millions of dollars,” Donecker said. 

“For example, if you’re processing 18,000 tonnes of ore per hour, every minute you can’t do that is worth a lot of money. 

“It’s quite a big deal and you’ve lost all the production time while they’re fixing it and it may not (fix the problem).” 

To avoid this crippling situation, Bulk Solids Modelling allows customers to try before they buy with scale models. 

Peter and the team can make tweaks to a model using a laser cutter and Perspex, enabling companies to see the impact of the alteration in real-time. 

“This way you’ve got everyone gathered together at the one time, looking at the model and everybody’s making suggestions in real-time, and each suggestions can be tried out,” Donecker said. 

The main reason Donecker and his team can deliver these changes in real-time is because the DSM method offers significant time-saving measures compared to alternatives. 

With DEM, simulations can be run for 24 hours after the inputs are set before it must be run again to test another set of inputs. The result is time-consuming and intensive. 

The company’s fully instrumented system can process simulations in 20 minutes and run through a year’s worth of DEM simulations in a fraction of the time. 

“This is one of the big advantages, a scale model runs faster than a full-scale chute because of the way time scales,” Donecker said. 

“The analogue system is vastly faster than the digital systems.”  

The Western Australian company is always looking to remain on the cutting edge and save its customers’ time.

When it comes to chutes, one of the most crucial factors is the volumetric throughput rate.  

The ability to accurately assess throughput rate and peak capacity is vital in an industry built around delivering commodities into supply efficiently.

The downside is it can take significant time to measure the throughput with the need to crash-stop the circuit and conduct a belt cut before emptying out the whole system and starting again. 

Donecker estimated the process used to take a whole day’s work until the company developed a laser scanning system to tackle the issue.  

“By using this real-time throughput measurement we’ve cut down what used to be a whole day to just a couple of hours, it is an absolutely huge improvement,” he said.

“I’ve had cases where the whole test program is completed is finished in two hours (because of this scanner).”

While these factors may sound simple, Bulk Solids Modelling has put in the work to ensure a fast and efficient testing process is available to
its customers. 

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