Sunday 5th Jul, 2020

Testing the limits of cement chute design

When a cement manufacturer wanted to upgrade its loading station, others balked at the challenge. Vortex Global was willing to rise to the occasion.

When a cement manufacturer wanted to upgrade its loading station, others balked at the challenge. Vortex Global was willing to rise to the occasion.

A team of engineers at a large cement manufacturer were looking for ways to improve their truck loading station which had been slowing down the facility’s productivity.

The dust collector was in need of an upgrade to limit the amount of fine cement particles that could escape into the atmosphere. Because of cement’s siliceous properties, workers were potentially at risk of serious medical conditions if dust emissions were not properly managed.

Additionally, the company was looking to include a loading chute which could be repositioned to reduce the amount of time wasted by drivers trying to line up trucks. Loading operators would also benefit from the change, as they would no longer need to manually push the loading chute into truck hatches.

Ideally, the upgrade would allow the chute to be positioned above the truck hatch to create a straight through channel for material flow. This would reduce wear to the stacking cones and result in savings on spare parts and maintenance.

With these considerations in mind, the team determined the ideal loading solution would require a dustless loading chute, equipped with a positioning system designed for 0.6 metres of side-to-side travel and 1.2 metres of front-to-back travel.

When the team went to the market to find a manufacturer, they were initially told such a design was not possible due to height limitations. The team then reached out to bulk handling manufacturer Vortex Global which began to design a low-profile unit to match the plant’s specifications.

“I was aware of Vortex slide gates; we have them in this facility. But at the time, I did not know they offered loading systems,” the facility’s plant engineer explains.

“Vortex claimed to reduce cable wear and offered a 10-year warranty on the lifting cables themselves to prove it. Our maintenance team liked the sound of that.”

The loading system included a four-cable hoist drive system for added stability and improved cable service, and three-piece computer numerical control-machined pulleys with rounded edges and precision cable grooves to reduce cable wear and backlashing.

Over several months, Vortex and the facility’s team collaborated on the project’s layout and design, including three-dimensional computer aided design drawings and several conversations before and during installation.

“The horizontal dimensions of the unit created some adventures during installation; equipment, power and communication cables had to be moved,” the plant engineer says.

“A Vortex field service technician came on site to our facility following installation to ensure smooth operation which was much appreciated.”

After installation, the cement manufacturer began to see a significant drop in the amount of labour hours required, leading to a much more efficient operation as a whole.

Since then, additional vibrators and an automated dust collector damper have been added to the Vortex unit to make the loadout area even cleaner.