Tuesday 30th Nov, 2021

Using the best of both worlds to create something bulletproof

Transmin’s low profile feeders combine the benefits of belt feeders and apron feeders to give Australian mining companies enhanced flexibility.

When an ore handling facility in the Pilbara was undergoing a major upgrade, it reached out to conveyor manufacturer Transmin for help.

As part of the upgrade, a mobile reclaim hopper was to be installed at the tail end of the operations to recover dead material within the stockyard. It needed a hopper that was safe, user friendly, versatile, and didn’t need constant supervision.

The hopper handles up to 2500 tonnes per hour of iron ore and is capable of being loaded by front end loaders on opposing hopper side edges at the same time.

Transmin designed, fabricated, assembled, and commissioned the reclaim hopper to the clients’ specifications, using its low-profile feeder (LPF) technology to reduce maintenance downtime and increase safety at the site.

Damian Thorpe, Transmin’s Product Manager – Feeders, explains the LPF is a hybrid between a belt feeder and an apron feeder, using the benefits of both.

“Apron feeders need a dribble conveyor underneath due to how the pans work. Often, there will be some leakage that needs to be cleaned up as a result. Using a belt eliminates this material leakage entirely,” he says.

“Transmin developed the technology over 15 years ago and has developed it through ongoing research and development to rightly claim the LPF as the most significant innovation in the heavy-duty feeder space for over 50 years.

“One of its main benefits is to allow a reduction in the overall height of the plant. Lower buildings reduce the structural requirements, keep civil costs lower, reduce the weight required, provide less wind loading and keep capital expenditure costs lower.”

According to Thorpe, with the right configuration an LPF occupies up to 40 per cent less vertical height than a belt or apron feeder, with the possibility of being even lower if needed.

Transmin’s LPFs use two strands of chain to drive the system, eliminating potential belt tracking issues. As a result, the direction of the belt can be easily reversed. They are also relatively customisable, using a modularised design to speed up manufacturing and allows for both horizontal and inclined positioning.

Belt widths can be customised, with options between 800 millimetres to four metres. Transmin can also include preferred componentry such as belt scrapers/cleaners, motors, and gearboxes.

Thorpe says one customer wanted to replace a conveyor on their site with an LPF, as it required significantly less maintenance.

“We’ve designed the LPF to be durable, and that’s where it shines. It has a longer duration between major maintenance than most alternatives,” he says.

“Because there is a modular design, a lot of the componentry can be rotated in and out of service. We use rotatable spare part sections, so instead of taking out smaller parts, we take out the larger part and replace it while refurbishing the part removed in our Worksop.

“This reduces downtime and allows for periodic maintenance without shutdowns. We aim to make life as easy as possible when it comes to repairs, because there is a lot to do during a shutdown.”

This durability is the result of years of improvements to the design. Transmin’s workshop team, which also double as its service team, provide feedback from customers to the engineers to help improve the design. Most of Transmin’s manufacturing takes place in Perth, using a dedicated team to provide additional support to the local industry.

Durability was one of the top priorities for Transmin’s customers, which is why the company has focused on developing a robust, easy to maintain machine. Stuart Taylor, who used the LPFs in the Karara Project in WA has described the machines as “bulletproof”.

“In fairness, the machine was used above and beyond its initial design spec and it’s never missed a beat. This thing is bulletproof,” he said.

Transmin LPFs include toothed sprockets that positively drives the chain to reduce belt slippage and mis-tracking. In-process weighing, flow control gates, various drive styles, belt protection bars, Kevlar impregnated belt, and wear liners can be included to help the machine fit the specific application. Its belting does not need to be continuous and can be supplied in modular sections to be joined by a mechanical joiner.

The company can also integrate its ProEdge belts, which use a hot vulcanised edge strip to increase the bond between edge strip and the belt, further increasing wear life and reducing maintenance.

Thorpe says the product is constantly being finetuned.

“At the moment we’re investigating adding lightweight guarding to the LPFs. We’ve also seen the industry is interested in more advanced condition monitoring,” he says.

“We’re currently developing an Internet of Things-enabled condition monitoring solution for our line of rockbreakers and would love to roll it out across our other products.”