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Rotary kilns systems have evolved considerably in form and complexity over the last 120 years, but

the kilns
themselves have certain common features. This page lists these and describes their evolution.

Rotary kiln terminology
The Kiln Shell
The shell of the kiln is made of mild steel plate. Mild steel is the only viable material for the
purpose, but presents the problem that the maximum temperature of the feed inside the kiln is
over 1400°C, while the gas temperatures reach 1900°C. The melting point of mild steel is
around 1300°C, and it starts to weaken at 480°C, so considerable effort is required to protect
the shell from overheating.
Historically, the construction of rotary kiln shells has closely paralleled the construction of
The engineers who pioneered the first rotary kilns all had a background in locomotive construction.
Shell sections were made from flat rolled plate, of thickness typically in the range 18-25 mm.
The plate was cold-rolled to the required curvature, typically into semi-circular pieces. Two of
these were then joined to make a cylinder, usually of length about equal to the diameter. The
pieces were butt-jointed together using a strap of steel plate of similar thickness attached with
rivets. The cylindrical sections were joined end-to-end in a similar manner. Short sections were
usually assembled at the factory, and final assembly was performed on site, with the kiln in

Picture: ©NERC: British Geological Survey Cat. No. P540333. Front end of Ribblesdale Kiln 2 (constructed
1937): shell constructed mainly from staggered semi-circular sections, with all joints riveted.
Riveted construction continued until WWII. The technique of making welded joints in such
heavy plate by arc welding developed in the USA. As in the shipbuilding industry, welding was
adopted only rather slowly in the UK. Welding has the obvious advantage that a lighter
construction is possible, without the extra weight of the straps. Kiln suppliers began to use
welding after WWII, but on-site assembly continued using rivets because of the lack of the
required skill at cement plants. Typically sections of length up to about 10 m - the longest that
could be moved by road - were welded, then riveted together when in place.
Finally, from the late 1950s, all-welded kilns were installed. Although welded construction
reduced the weight of kilns, it had the distinct disadvantage that the shell, without the
reinforcement of thick straps, became somewhat less rigid, despite the adoption of thicker plate
(25-35 mm).

Picture: ©Rugby Archive: Cat. No. RC-3-6-8. Back end of Southam Kiln 7 (constructed 1961): shell entirely
welded. The shell still consists of staggered half-cylindrical sections.
Except for the very earliest kilns, the shell was strengthened at the location of tyres and turning
gear by providing extra layers - "wrapper plates" - of steel, either rivetted or welded on, in order
to resist the high flexural forces encountered there.
The ends of the kiln have special features. At the back end there is often either a conical
constriction or a "closure plate" reducing the diameter, both intended to prevent the rawmix
from spilling over the back of the kiln. At the front end, clinker at 1200°C or more is flowing over
the lip of the kiln, and the shell is subject to very aggressive conditions. Castings of heat
resistant steel are attached to the end of the mild steel, contoured to retain the refractories of
the nose ring. Because the shell inevitably gets hot, the tendency is for the steel to "bell out" at
the end, until the brickwork will no longer stay in. Because of this, early kilns were supplied with
easily replaceable nose sections. Modern kilns keep the nose cool with elaborate systems to
duct pressurized cold air around the outside of the nose.
Shape of Kilns
Early rotary kilns were simple cylinders. However, the idea that different parts of the kiln ought
to have different diameters emerged quite early. Before 1900 in the USA, kilns were being
installed with the front (hot) half having a shell diameter 20-30% greater than the rear half. A
wider burning zone with a reduction in its diameter at the outlet end was favoured because this
was considered to produced a zone in which the material bed depth was increased, thereby
slowing material flow down, and allowing clinker to "soak" at the peak temperature. A further,
more practical reason for a wide burning zone shell was that it allowed room for thicker
refractory and for thick coating that usually forms in this zone.
The provision of expanded zones in other parts of the kiln enjoyed periods of popularity at
various times. Expanded mid ("calcining") zones were advocated in the 1920s, while various
forms of expanded rear (cold end) zones had a long and continuing popularity, these becoming
more standard as it became known that most "long" kilns are limited in their capacity by the gas
velocity at the back end. At the same time, there has always been a strong body of opinion in
favour of "straight" kilns, it being argued that the benefits of expanded sections are outweighed
by their disadvantages - the tapered sections are mechanically weak and hard to line with
stable brickwork.

The wet process kilns at Dunstable: No 1 at the top. The kilns are 30 ft apart. These exemplify the variations -
often eccentric - in shapes of wet process kilns.
The early commercially successful rotary kilns in Britain were nearly all "straight" cylinders, the
exceptions being those at Norman (1904). Lengthening of the early kilns
at Wouldham and Bevans resulted in kilns with enlarged burning zones, while the lengthened
kilns at Swanscombe had enlargements at both ends. Among new installations from 1909 to
1914, only 15 out of 44 were "straight", the rest having enlarged burning zones. The pattern
was repeated in the 1920s, when 46 out of 57 new installations had enlarged burning zones,
and of those, four also had enlargements at the cold end. The latter included the Lewes kiln,
which was the first of what became a common FLS design, with elongated wide front and rear
sections, and a narrower "waist" occupying the middle third. The other back-end enlargements
were by Vickers, who during the 1930s offered short, large-diameter back-end "bulges" both on
new kilns and as retrofits to existing kilns - for example they were fitted on the FLS kilns
at Wilmington and Hope. These were supplied as part of the project to fit wet kilns with chains,
and led by 1938 to the development of the Vickers Desiccator, designed to act as a short, wide
heat exchanger. Many of these were fitted in order to uprate the short wet process kilns of the
1920s, and their characteristic shape remained a feature of many kilns long after their
inefficient internals had been removed.
After WWII, larger wet process kilns began to be installed, and these fell into two
camps: Vickers Armstrong supplied kilns with enlarged burning zones only, while FLS supplied
mostly kilns with enlarged rear sections only, employing an identical design for the Long
Dry kilns at Padeswood, Pitstone and Platin.
With the abandonment of wet process, most of these embellishments have disappeared. The
larger Lepol kilns had short enlarged rear sections, although the smaller kilns were straight.
Suspension preheater kilns are invariably short, straight cylinders, with minor conical
constrictions at the inlet, and sometimes the outlet.
Mechanical Considerations
All rotary kilns essentially take the form of beams supported at a few points -
the tyres - along their length, with the added complication that they rotate. The
shell has to cope with all the forces involved, but is necessarily thin, since
weight must be minimised. The design and maintenance of the kiln need to
keep the distortion of the structure within acceptable limits. Flexure as the kiln
rotates causes reduction in the life of the refractory lining (see below) as well
as fatiguing the shell itself.
A number of different mechanical deformations occur. Diagrams show the
nature of the distortion in an exaggerated form.
• Bending of the kiln under gravity:
o Axial distortion – the tendency of the kiln to sag between two
successive tyres (fig. 1)
o Transverse distortion (ovality) – the tendency of the kiln to
flatten, mainly in the vicinity of the tyre (fig. 2)
• Distortion due to damage:
o Blistering – usually due to local over-heating (fig. 3)
o "Waisting" or "necking" – usually due to the shell expanding
beyond the limit of the tyre clearance (fig. 4). This typically
happens if the shell temperature rises more than 180°C
above design temperature in the vicinity of the tyre.
o Banana distortion – usually due to over-heating one side of
the kiln during a crash-stop (fig. 5)
• Structural defects:
o Misalignment – vertical displacement of the rollers from their
correct position
o Kinks and dog-legs – off-axis defects during assembly or
maintenance of the shell
• Torsional distortion – the twisting of the shell caused by the torque of
the drive – a very minor effect.
• Thermal expansion – the kiln shell expands radially and longitudinally.
Radial expansion closes up the clearance within the tyre, so reducing
ovality. Longitudinal expansion affects the location of the tyres with
respect to the rollers and of the ends of the kiln with the hood and
exhaust duct. The kiln system, of course, is designed to take up its
correct position when operating at design temperature. Since the
1930s kilns have been designed to expand 0.25-0.3%. Earlier kilns
probably expanded more than this.
The axial and transverse distortions are the main concern: distortion due to
damage and structural defects tend to amplify their effects.
The axial flexure is greatest at the tyre, and increases with the span (relative to
kiln diameter) between tyres. This is mitigated by extra layers (“wrappers”) of
plate under the tyres.
Ovality affects both the tyre and the shell, but is much greater for the latter
because of its thinness, and increases with the ratio of kiln diameter to shell

To protect the shell from the high temperatures of the feed and combustion
gases, a brick lining is used. The early rotary kiln patents of Ransome, Stokes
and Hurry & Seaman simply specified firebrick (although Stokes went so far as
to require best firebrick). The 3’6” diameter Ransome kiln had brickwork 6”
thick. In the case of the Ransome and Stokes kilns, because real clinkering
temperatures were never achieved, the quality of the bricks was a moot point.
As rotary kilns began to be used successfully in the USA, the maintenance of
the lining became a major preoccupation.
Ordinary firebrick is made from aluminosilicate clays that are relatively free
from contaminant elements, so that when fired they are largely a compound of
silica and alumina, with the silica (at least in the cheaper grades) in
considerable excess. Naturally, siliceous bricks are attacked by the highly
basic clinker in the hottest parts of the kiln, and two strategies emerged in the
first few years of kiln operation:
• maintenance of a constant thick coating of “frozen” clinker material on
the surface of the brick, to protect it from further attack.
• employment at least in the burning zone of more expensive bricks
with increased proportions of alumina (>50%), made using bauxitic
The bricks for cement kilns have to be made in a special tapered form in order
to fit the curvature of the kiln shell. The iron and steel industries had prompted
the production of refractories with a wide range of sophisticated chemistries,
but it took some time for rotary cement production to increase to the stage at
which these ideas were applied to cement kiln bricks. It was not until the 1920s
that higher-alumina bricks became available in the UK, and manufacturers
wanting to try them had to import them from the USA and Germany.
Subsequently, other types of brick became available for the hotter parts of the
kiln. Clearly, to avoid chemical attack, a basic brick is required, and bricks
based on dolomite, magnesite and chromite became available.
An odd diversion from mainstream development in the early years was the use
of "clinker" refractory. This was particularly favoured in Germany, and was
fairly consistently recommended on kilns from German suppliers. Concrete
made from graded clinker and portland cement was of course very much
cheaper than purchased brick, but its life was usually very short, and its use
mostly died out in the 1930s. It was last used at Masons in the late 1940s. It
continued in use in the burning zones of the Anhydrite Process kilns.
With a wide variety of brick types to choose from, complex zoned bricking
arrangements developed. Cheap siliceous brick was used in the coolest
zones, grading up to higher alumina in the hotter parts, and the hottest parts
were provided with basic brick, the type selected depending on the nature and
thickness of coating produced by the local raw material. The selection of more
sophisticated brick types was always a compromise between the enhanced
brick-life expected and the greatly increased price per brick. From the 1980s,
the use of chromite-containing bricks was phased out due to environmental
regulations. By these strategies, the burning zone brickwork of wet process
kilns in the post WWII period could be expected to last for a full year’s
operation. Bricks in the cooler zones would usually last for many years or
decades. A typical long-term-mean refractory consumption of a wet process
kiln would be in the range 1-2 kg per tonne of clinker made, so the refractory
was still a significant running cost.
With the advent of more efficient dry processes, and particularly precalciners,
the relative cost of refractories has been reduced, mainly because of the larger
output that can be obtained from a given sized kiln tube. Parallel with this is a
reduction in the relative amount of heat wastage – “shell losses” – radiated
from the surface of the kiln.
The desirable characteristics of refractories which must be achieved by careful
selection are:
• refractoriness – i.e. the ability of the brick to retain its physical
properties at the operating temperature
• volume stability – i.e. no excessive expansion
• chemical resistance – i.e. resistance to the attacking species in the
feed and kiln atmosphere in the zone in question
• abrasion resistance
• low thermal conductivity
• coatability – in general a porosity or surface texture allowing the
clinker liquid to “glue” coating to the surface
Factors tending to reduce refractory life include:
• intermittent kiln operation – stops and starts cause thermal shock to
the bricks and the coating
• variable clinker chemistry – good bonding of coating requires that the
chemical and thermal environment should remain constant
• poor “running in” of linings. Many types of brick undergo chemical
changes during warming up, and this process must be well regulated
• overheating due to excess fuel or periods of “thin” feed
• distortion and/or flexure (“ovality”) of the kiln shell
• badly directed or impinging flame
Tyres and Rollers
The purpose of tyres (often called riding rings) and rollers is to support the kiln and allow it to rotate with minimal
friction. Rotary kilns are among the largest items of permanently moving industrial machinery, the largest
examples weighing in their fully-loaded form several thousand tonnes. Despite the challenges of their size and
their high temperature, the best examples of rotary kiln rotate on their rollers almost frictionlessly, the power
supplied by the drive being almost entirely in order to oppose the eccentric load of the contents of the kiln. On
cutting the power to a kiln, the kiln will “roll back” and unless a brake is applied, will continue to swing like a
pendulum for ten or fifteen minutes before coming to a standstill. This finely-tuned mechanical condition requires
sophisticated design of the kiln’s supports.
A standardised design evolved during the first three decades of the twentieth century, allowing the great
escalation in size of kilns that then followed.

Tyre mounting
The tyre itself is usually a single steel casting, machined to accurately circular dimensions and with a mirror-
smooth texture on all surfaces. Early tyres were occasionally produced as half-sections that could be easily
assembled and replaced, but this was very soon abandoned because of the resulting rapid and erratic wear at
the joints.
In the standard design, the tyre was mounted loosely on the kiln shell. Inevitably, the tyre is cooler than the kiln
shell, and so a small gap allows differential expansion to take place. The gap is usually designed to be about
0.2% of shell diameter at normal operating temperature. The kiln tube bears down upon the inside of the tyre
through smooth-surfaced chairs which also have lugs bracketing the tyre, preventing it from slipping along the
kiln axially. The spacing of the chairs also reduces the amount of heat conduction from the kiln shell to the tyre.
The tyre needs to remain relatively cool because so large a casting would be unlikely to survive a large radial
temperature differential during heating up of the kiln. Another effect of the gap is that tyres would gradually
precess around the kiln, with one complete turn in every 500 turns of the kiln. Measuring the rate of precession
was a rough-and-ready way of assessing the width of the expansion gap while the kiln was in operation. Small
changes due to wear could be adjusted by adding shims.
The expansion gap leads to distortion as discussed above, with the shell sagging within the loose fit of the tyre,
which causes the refractories to flex and break. If the kiln becomes sufficiently over-hot to close up the expansion
gap, then permanent damage to the shell occurs. The early kilns had the chairs attached directly to the shell, and
damage to the shell and refractories in this area soon led to the provision of one or two extra layers of shell plate
- "wrapper plate" - in the tyre area. From the 1920s, all kilns had triple-thickness shell under the tyre chairs, and
this made ovality problems manageable until kilns over 5 m in diameter started to be constructed.. The largest
diameter British kilns at Northfleet (where the burning zone internal diameter was 6.096 m) suffered major
difficulties with short refractory life. Since scale-up of modern precalciner kilns requires the use of large
diameters, “splined tyres” have been developed since the 1990s (although these are occasionally encountered in
more primitive form before that). These allow the tyre to interlock with the shell (while maintaining an air gap) in
such a way that the kiln is suspended from the “3 o’clock” and “9 o’clock” positions rather than have the weight of
the kiln entirely concentrated at the “6 o’clock” position as in the traditional design. This has the effect of reducing
the magnitude of ovality distortion by 75% or more, although the resulting design is much more complex and
therefore expensive. This expense is easily offset by savings in refractory costs, and all recent kiln installations
have used this new design.
The basic design of rollers has changed little over the years. The rollers are mounted on a massive cast iron or
steel base plate which provides the inward horizontal forces on the rollers and distributes the weight of the kiln
over the pier. The spacing between the rollers has to be small enough to prevent large horizontal forces, but
large enough to keep the kiln laterally stable. Rollers are designed to subtend 60°at the tyre centre, and this
seems always to have been the case. Minor adjustment is allowed so that the kiln can be kept aligned (i.e. to
keep the centres of the tyres co-linear) as small changes take place, such as wear of the tyre or settlement of the
pier. The roller outer face is made wider than that of the tyre, mainly to allow for contraction of the kiln during
shut-down. This poses a problem: if the tyre remains in one position relative to the roller, wear or plastic
deformation causes a depression to form on the roller face. It is therefore normal practice to deliberately make
the kiln “float” (i.e. regularly move uphill and downhill across the rollers) so that wear is evened out. Because the
kiln slopes (typically 1.5°to 3.5°) it has a natural tendency to slip downhill as it turns. From the earliest times, this
tendency was compensated by “cutting” the rollers – skewing their axes by a very small angle so that an uphill
screw action is imparted to the tyre. This action relies upon the friction between the tyre and roller surfaces, and
operators could therefore make the kiln move up or down by adjusting the amount of friction. As a further
precaution to prevent the kiln from falling off its rollers, thrust rollers bearing upon the side of the tyre are used.
These are usually located on the roller beds nearest the drive, where movement most needs to be restricted.
Relying upon friction, “cutting” of rollers necessarily increased the rate of wear, and after being standard practice
for many years, it was abandoned from the 1950s onward in favour of the use of mechanical thrusters to float the
kiln. These usually take the form of hydraulic rams attached to the thrust rollers, which are automatically
controlled to impart a saw-tooth axial oscillation to the position of the kiln, with an amplitude of a few centimetres.
Number of tyres
As mentioned above, a rotary kiln is essentially a rotating beam, so its tendency to sag between the supports
means that the distance between the supports must be limited, and longer kilns must therefore have more tyres.
The earliest kilns had only two supports, so that there was no need to confront the problem of kiln algnment. In
fact, during the early 1890s, the prospect of these problems was a disincentive to building kilns over 30 ft long.
But the new patent kilns of the late 1890s were extended to 60 ft with three tyres. The question of whether it was
feasible to progress to longer kilns was settled with Edison's kilns of 1905. These 150 ft kilns bizarrely had one
tyre on each of their 10 ft cast iron sections - a total of 15 tyres. These kilns were an evolutionary dead end, but
at least demonstrated that there need be no limit to the length of kilns.

Three kilns had eight tyres: West Thurrock kiln 6, Westbury kiln 2 and Masons kiln 5. Note: planetary cooler
outrigger tyres not included.
Since the amount of sag between supports depends on the ratio of the span to the diameter, the actual number
of tyres employed depends upon the kiln's length/diameter ratio, but also upon the load that could be
accommodated by the tyre/roller systems of the time. The ratio of between-tyre span to kiln diameter settled
down to a mean value of about 6. The total mass of wet process kilns increased in proportion with their output,
and kilns were designed with as many as eight tyres. The emergence of dry process kilns brought about a return
to the use of short kilns with three tyres. The following charts show the evolution of these factors with time, as
running mean of five.
The most recent precalciner kilns, because most of the processing is done in the preheater, can have very low
length/diameter ratios (<14) and this re-introduces the possibility of mechanically simplified two-tyre kilns. Splined
tyres are combined with self-aligning roller assemblies and through-the-roller drives (see below), allowing the
system to continue to function even if the kiln is bent. This has been adopted for the kilns
at Rugby, Ballyconnell, Kinnegad, Tunstead and Platin.
If a kiln has length 14D and has two tyres located at 25% and 75% of the length, then the span between the tyres is 7D, which is about
the practicable limit. The Kinnegad kiln has a girth-gear drive.
The Kiln Drive
Ever since the first Ransome kiln (until recently) rotary kilns were turned by means of a single
girth gear (known as the turning gear) surrounding the kiln. The early kilns turned very slowly,
the girth gear meshing with a worm gear. Subsequently full-speed rotation of kilns in the range
0.5-1.5 rpm became standard, and the gear meshed with a pinion running at 10-20 rpm. The
pinon shaft was driven by a gearbox. Some kiln gearboxes derived their power from layshafts
driven by a common electric motor or a steam engine, but this was comparatively uncommon in
Britain, and most kilns had their own dedicated electric motor. In many older plants, rotary kiln
drives represented the first use of electricity for anything other than lighting.

Turning Gear
Until the advent of frictional drives (see below), kilns only ever had one turning gear and this
supplies all the torque to turn the kiln, so in the case of a long kiln, it is usually positioned
somewhere near the middle (strictly speaking, the centre of mass) to minimise the amount of
torsional distortion produced in the shell. Preferably a relatively cool section of the kiln is
chosen. The gear is placed near to a tyre so that it is accurately aligned with the kiln axis, with
minimal wobble. It is normal for the nearby tyre to be fixed in position with thrust rollers, so that
as the kiln expands on warming up, the turning gear position remains fairly constant, while the
nose and tail of the kiln expand outward. The pier of the nearby tyre is usually extended to
include the pinion mounting bed, the gearbox and the motor, although on early kilns it was
common to mount the motor on the kiln house floor, and connect it to the gearbox with a flat
belt. In the case of shorter dry process kilns with preheaters, it has been normal practice to
locate the turning gear next to the rear tyre, at the coolest part of the kiln.
Early turning gears were attached directly to the shell. Differential expansion in such
circumstances causes the gear to break and the kiln shell to "neck", and this practice was soon
abandoned in favour of some sort of flexible mounting. Various mountings have been used, but
by far the most common is the tangential mounting, which emerged in the first decade of the
twentieth century. Flexible plates are rivetted (and later welded) to the kiln shell tangentially,
the other end being fixed to the gear ring through a flexible coupling. This allows expansion of
the shell to take place unfettered. It also results in minimal heat transfer to the gear ring, so that
the latter remains cool enough for conventional lubricants to be used. Tangent plates must
operate in tension, and so they differ from longitudinal mountings in that the kiln may not be run
in reverse.
There is an urban legend that, when the first kiln at Westbury was commissioned, the chains were hung in the
wrong direction, screwing the feed uphill instead of downhill. Rather than delay the Grand Opening, the polarities
of the motors were reversed, and the kiln was run backwards until the dignitaries had departed.
Power Train
Until the 1960s, kilns had a single pinion engaging with the gear wheel. These were almost
invariably located on the rising side of the kiln. This places it underneath the feed bed, which is
marginally cooler than the other side which is in contact with hot combustion gases. It also
places the turning effect closest to the source of the eccentric load. The rotation of the kiln lifts
the feed up the side of the kiln, and the energy required to maintain its centre of gravity above
the lowest (6 o'clock) point is the main component (80-90%) of the energy consumed. In the
case of kilns containing curtain chains, these also produce an eccentric load.
Rotary kilns have always had variable speed drives. From the earliest times there was always,
at least, an option of "full speed" and "half speed". This allows the operator to vary the rate at
which the feed advances down the kiln, and in particular, allows the kiln to be warmed back up
again if for some reason the burning zone has become too cold to sinter the clinker. On early
drives, speed change was brought about by use of "fast and loose" pulleys of various sizes.
However, with DC motors it was also possible to vary the speed of the motor itself, and this
ability was one of the main reasons for the early adoption of electric power. However, variable
speed was not viable for more powerful motors, so this placed a limit on the size of kiln that
could be turned with a single motor, the maximum being around 250 kW.
An alternative strategy for larger kilns is to have two pinions acting on the gear wheel, one on
each side of the kiln. This was problematic for earlier technology, because of the problems of
having two motors competing to supply torque at varying speed, but from the 1960s, advances
in motor control allowed dual drives to be installed on larger kilns. Because it is related to
eccentric load, kiln rotating power is more or less proportional to speed. The need for higher
rates of rotation began to emerge with suspension preheater kilns in the 1960s, and much
higher speeds of 4 rpm or more are required for short precalciner kilns. Modern drives, in line
with the large, high speed kilns being installed, can be much larger (>500 kW from each motor
in a dual drive), with speed varied over a wide range by means of solid state controls.
However, the largest British drives appear to have been the pair of 580 kW motors on each of
the six kilns at Northfleet

Picture: ©NERC: British Geological Survey Cat. No. P539361. Drive of Plymstock Kiln 1 (constructed 1961). As
is normal with short, dry process kilns, the drive is close to the rear - the back end seal is visible top right. The
girth gear is placed close to a tyre for stability, and axial movement is restricted by a horizontal thrust roller,
visible under the kiln. The drive pinion is behind the left hand roller. Behind that is the gearbox, and the 67 kW
electric motor is in the rectangular enclosure on the left edge. The roller bearings, gearbox and motor all have
heat shields to protect them from radiant heat from the kiln shell. From the position of the girth gear tangent
plates, it can be seen that the kiln turns clockwise when viewed from this direction, and the drive pinion, as is
normal, is on the "rising" side of the kiln, under the feed.

Picture: ©Rugby Archive: Cat. No. RC-10. Helical girth gear on Rochester Kiln 6 during construction (1978). The
drive was on the enlarged (5.3 m) back end section of the kiln, making this one of the larger girth gears. Because
of the high power requirement (580 kW?), this is a dual drive. The rising-side pinion is shown: the other is off-
frame to the left, and the other gear-box is just visible through the hole in the girth gear.
Auxilliary Drives
An additional feature of kilns from the 1950s onward was the provision of an "auxilliary drive"
which is engaged in the event of failure of the main drive. Once a kiln has been raised to
operating temperature, it must be kept turning, at least intermittently, because the upper part
cools faster than the lower part which contains the hot feed bed. If this situation continues,
differential contraction will cause the kiln to bend. A further problem is that, at the hot end of the
kiln the feed is partly liquid, and will "freeze" into a solid block unless turned over by kiln
rotation. Frozen feed, on finally turning the kiln, will pull out the underlying refractory lining. The
earliest "barring gear" on smaller kilns consisted simply of a highly geared-down capstan that
could be turned by hand. More modern systems commonly consist of a small diesel engine that
can be started up and engaged with the gear-box, even if there has been a complete power
failure, turning the kiln at about 0.2 rpm.
Friction Drives
With the re-emergence of two-tyre kilns on precalciner systems, some kilns have been supplied
without girth gears, the torque being supplied through the rollers. This relies upon the friction
between roller and tyre, and the critical requirement is that the friction should be sufficient to
start a heavily-loaded kiln from the stalled condition. On older kilns, this was never a viable
proposition, but the large-diameter two-tyre kilns have a sufficiently large roller loading that
tangential friction is greatly in excess of the likely requirements. Drive through the tyres serves
further to simplify the design of two-tyre kilns. Torque is applied to the roller shaft(s) by either
an electric motor and gearbox or by a hydraulic drive.
The Kiln Hood
The purpose of the kiln hood is
• to provide an insulating front closure for the kiln
• to provide a secure entry-point to the kiln for the firing pipe
• to provide a relatively safe place for the operator to view the formation of clinker in the
hottest part of the kiln
• to duct the hot secondary air from the cooler into the kiln with minimal leakage and
wastage of heat.
The last of these would today be considered to be the most important requirement, but in the
early days the importance of secondary air was not always appreciated, and some (including
Lathbury and Spackman) maintained that all combustion air should enter through the firing
pipe. For this reason, early kiln hoods were usually very short, and communicated with a small,
restrictive cooler throat.

Picture: from article in The Engineer: Norman Kiln A1 hood viewed westwards in 1904.
Typical Fellner & Ziegler hood design. Note the firing pipe entering below and to the right
of the kiln center-line towards the clinker bed - the kiln turns anti-clockwise. Early short
kilns had difficulty concentrating the heat into the burning zone. The clinker fell into
a rotary coolerbelow the firing floor. The cooler air was used in coal drying, and little
entered the kiln directly.
The hood receives direct radiant heat from the white-hot clinker and refractories and the flame,
and so is refractory lined for protection from this. It also needs to be strongly constructed to
cope with pressure variations that may occur. On the other hand, there is a need to gain
access to the kiln for maintenance of the refractories. This was particularly the case during the
experimental first decade of the twentieth century, when the service life of refractories was
often very short. For this reason, from the first patents onward, the kiln hood was mounted on
wheels or rollers so that it could be rolled back from the kiln nose. The need to do this later
became a reason for restricting the size and cross-section of kiln hoods.

Hood of Wilmington Kiln 4 from the south in 1921. Typical FLS design of the time with a
concentric cooler below the kiln.
A significant step-change in hood design came with the Fuller grate cooler patent, which put
heavy emphasis on the speed of cooling of the clinker and the aerodynamics of the secondary
air. This led to the installation of deeper hoods, and the escalation of both hood depth and kiln
diameter led to the abandonment of moveable hoods in the early 1960s. Modern large hoods
have doors in the front large enough for small vehicles to enter the kiln.

Picture: ©NERC: British Geological Survey Cat. No. P539367. Hood of Plymstock Kiln 1 (constructed 1961): a
larger, fixed hood. The kiln rotates anticlockwise, so the feed bed is on the right hand side of the kiln. The
operator is viewing the feed diagonally from the left, under the flame, in order to get a long perspective view.
Note the oil-fed burner. Below is a Fuller grate cooler.
For maximum thermal efficiency, modern kilns use a relatively small amount of cool primary air
through the firing pipe, and coolers produce secondary air at high temperature, so hoods are
carefully aerodynamically designed to ensure that the secondary air envelopes the flame in a
manner that optimises combustion.
The use of the hood as a view-point for the operator was essential in early practice. The peak
temperature of the feed in the front of the kiln is critically important, since a fall in temperature
causes the free-lime content to rise rapidly, and clinkering (i.e. sintering) may cease altogether,
causing fine feed to rush forward into the cooler. On the other hand, too high a temperature is
liable to cause loss of coating and damage to the kiln. Although various kinds of pyrometer for
temperature measurement have been available throughout the history of rotary kilns, it can be
safely said that they were not an effective means of control until the end of the twentieth
century. The sole control of temperature was the expert eye of the operator. Criteria were the
colour and brightness of the clinker, the height to which the clinker climbs the kiln wall (which is
related to the amount of liquid formed) and the position where clinkering starts. The control
panels were therefore located on the firing floor and the operator interspersed scrutiny of the
instruments with frequent visits to the kiln hoods to monitor progress. Cement plants stood or
fell by the round-the-clock expertise of their kiln operators.
From the late 1960s, instrumentation started to improve, and the operator’s reliance on visual
information was aided by TV cameras mounted on the hood inspection ports. This led to the
possibility of centralised control rooms remote from the kiln. More modern cameras are
provided with infra-red sensitivity and the image is processed to show colour-coded
temperature. Modern firing floors are usually deserted unless something has gone wrong.
Kiln Seals
The seals connect the ends of the kiln to the kiln hood and the kiln exhaust
duct. They prevent leakage of cold air into the system at these points. Gases
are moved through the kiln by the suction provided by a fan in the exhaust or
in the preheater, so the efficiency of the fan relies upon minimal inleak at the
back end seal. Furthermore, even if the fan is capable of handling a large
amount of inleaking air, the dust control equipment and the preheater (if
present) will be inefficient if they have to handle an excessive amount of gas.
The front-end seal ensures that there is sufficient suction to draw the
secondary air from the cooler into the kiln.
Both these seals have to deal with high temperatures, and so must be either of
a simple heat-proof design, or must be kept cool by means of external fans.
Both must also be capable of remaining air-tight as the kiln expands and
contracts, and must cope with rotation of a kiln that may be slightly distorted.
© Dylan Moore 2013: last edit 09/02/14.