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Reducing wear of a coal reclaimer belt

feeder through DEM analysis
T.J. Donohue, B. Chen, A.W. Roberts
TUNRA Bulk Solids, University of Newcastle, Newcastle 2308, Australia

Abstract methods of feeding for bulk solids since optimal solution and what was possible to
Wear is a critical issue for bulk solids han- they were first introduced. Belts are ex- retrofit on site. A number of DEM analysis
dling equipment. Typically, wear in bulk posed to various types of damage during techniques are presented in this study to
handling equipment results from a combi- their operation, with wear being one of compare the two designs, and to conclude
nation of both impact and abrasion. It is the key reasons for belt failure. A number the paper wear readings from site for the
essential to ensure that the wear of bulk of studies on belts subjected to sliding and feeder belt before and after the modifica-
solids handling equipment is minimized abrasive wear has indicated that the wear tion are presented.
so that a long service life with minimal resistance depends on the detailed proper-
maintenance can be achieved. ties of the material as well as the external 2 Continuum Wear Model
In this paper, an application of the Dis- wear conditions, such as applied pressure. Wear in materials handling equipment may
crete Element Method (DEM) combined A particular area of interest for this study result from impact wear, abrasive wear, or
with a wear model is applied for the analy- is the analysis of the wear of feeder belts most commonly a combination of the two.
sis and reduction of the wear of a feeder in a reclaimer. The factors that may influence wear are the
belt in a coal reclaimer. The throughput In the past, classical analysis methods properties of the material being handled,
of the reclaimer is 9300 t/h, with a veloc- based on the analysis of material flow in the properties of the material being worn,
ity of the feeder belt of 1.3 m/s and feeder bins and hoppers has been the sole de- and the loading conditions. The topic of
width of 3000 mm. In this study, the DEM sign tool available. While this method wear is certainly a complex one, with the
model not only provides a qualitative de- has proven extremely useful in the past work of Cenna [3] giving a brief insight into
scription of the bulk solid flow through and has been shown to deliver excellent the discussion. In this study, we have fo-
the reclaimer but also gives detailed in- results [1], it is not without its limita- cused on the loading conditions and make
formation concerning the interactions of tions. In recent times, DEM is becoming use of a simple wear model in order to seek
particles in contact with the feeder belt. In more prevalent in its application to solve an improvement in the reclaimer design.
addition, site validation of the DEM mod- industrial problems. DEM is described as The simple wear model used is based on a
elling was achieved in defining the flow a numerical method that can be used to traditional continuum method as presented
profile. Results of the flow review for the simulate the flow of granular bulk solids, in Roberts [4]. The relative wear parameter,
reclaimer and the redesign option to re- with the basic principle being to model Wa, is reproduced in this paper and pre-
duce belt wear are presented. An option to each individual particle as a separate en- sented below:
retrofit the reclaimer to reduce both belt tity that can undergo a range of forces as
feeder wear and improve flow through the observed in reality. These forces typically (1)
trouser leg was investigated. The compari- include gravity and contact forces with
son was performed by analysing a range of other particles and walls, as well as cohe- In equation (1), b is the coefficient be-
parameters in DEM including the normal sive and adhesive forces if the bulk solid tween the bulk solid and the feeder belt,
force on the feeder belt and the frictional is cohesive in nature. Calculations for the is the bulk density of the bulk solid, Vx is
energy loss due to the particles in contact forces, and resulting displacements, are the component of velocity of the bulk solid
with the feeder belt. DEM results showed made for every particle at very small time parallel to the feeder belt, Vb is the velocity
that the feeder belt wear could be sig- steps throughout the simulation. As a re- of the feeder belt and Vy is the component
nificantly reduced after the modification sult, DEM simulations are often computa- of velocity of the bulk solid perpendicular
of the reclaimer, and these results were tionally intensive. The reader is directed to the feeder belt. In this equation, the
confirmed by site data once the design to Katterfeld and Groger [2] for more fun- Vx2 term represents the impact pressure of
modification was installed on site. These damental information about DEM and its the bulk solid on the feeder belt while the
techniques and findings are intrinsic in application in bulk solids handling. (Vb -Vy) term is the relative rubbing veloc-
establishing methodologies for improve- The focus of this paper is an indus- ity. As this equation shows, the wear of the
ment in the design of bulk solids handling trial case study focussed on the reduction feeder belt can be reduced by either reduc-
equipment. of wear of feeder belts in a coal handling ing the normal pressure on the belt, or by
reclaimer. In the current reclaimer, the reducing the differential velocity between
1 Introduction life expectancy of the feeder belts, due the feeder belt and the bulk solid. This will
The entire spectrum of bulk materials han- to the belts wearing out, is approximate- be the focus of the DEM modelling.
dling and storage applications include the ly 12 months. The aim of this study is to
receiving, unloading, stocking, handling modify the reclaimer design in order to 3 DEM Model
and supply of the raw materials. In this minimize feeder belt wear and to ensure The DEM software used for the modelling
materials handling chain, wear is a critical maximum life expectancy. In this paper, presented in this paper is Rocky, devel-
issue for bulk solids handling equipment. only two designs will be presented; the oped by Granular Dynamics Internation-
It is essential to ensure that wear in bulk original design and the final modified de- al. This software uses a hysteresis linear
solids handling equipment is minimized sign. Through the course of the project a spring model for the normal force interac-
so that a long service life with minimal number of redesign options were investi- tions and an elastic-frictional force model
maintenance can be achieved. Belt feed- gated, however the final design presented in the tangential direction. Rolling resist-
ers have become one of the preferred in this paper is a compromise between the ance is implemented according to the type

20 Australian Bulk Handling Review: July/August 2013


C model described in Ai et al. [5], while adhesive forces between

particles and walls and cohesive forces between particles and par-
ticles are included through a simple constant force model.
Calibration of DEM parameters is a widely published area, with
the work of Coetzee and Lombard [6] and Wensrich and Katterfeld
[7] being recent examples. The correct calibration and selection of
DEM parameters is one of the most important steps in discrete ele-
ment modelling, and in the field of bulk solids handling there are a
number of commonly used tests. While bench top testing is wide-
ly used, the alternative is to use full scale validation of the DEM
model. This is typically achieved by comparing the DEM model to
data taken from site in the form of photos, videos and throughput
analysis. For this particular study, the reclaimer was handling a
wide variety of coals and so a detailed calibration procedure was
not possible. As this was the case, the DEM parameters were se-
lected based on past experience of TUNRA Bulk Solids which has
been gained over a wide variety of projects using DEM in which
the bulk solid being handled was coal.
As discussed previously, two designs were included in this study,
with the first design being the existing configuration as-is on site,
and the second design being the final option selected for retrofit-
ting on site. It was necessary in this project to investigate a solution
that could be fitted to the existing configuration to minimise capital
costs. For the simulations, the transfer chute trouser legs were pre-
filled to the same level for both simulations, with this operating level
being determined from site data. The belt feeder was then switched
on to a speed of 1.3m/s until steady state operation was reached, at
which point an analysis was undertaken. Steady state operation was
defined by the throughput being constant and the forces acting on
the feeder belt also remaining constant.
Simulations for the two configurations were undertaken using
spherical particles with a diameter of 50 mm using the parame-
ters as described previously. For these simulations, computational
limitations restricted the use of the full particle size distribution
(PSD), as using the full PSD would have meant a simulation time
of months. This approach is typical for industrial problems and is
accounted for by a correct calibration and selection of DEM param-
eters, as discussed previously. During the steady state period of
the simulation there were approximately 1 million particles in the
simulation at any one point.

3 Problem Set-up and Redesign Concept

The existing configuration of the reclaimer is shown in Figure 1,
with a single incoming conveyor belt being used to fill the two
trouser legs of the transfer chute. The velocity bar shown in the
figure represents the colour scale used to colour the particle in the
simulation according to their absolute velocity, with the dark blue
indicating zero to low velocity and red indicating velocities of 8.0
m/s and higher. The operating parameters of the reclaimer used in
the DEM simulations can be seen in Table 1.

Throughput 9,300 tph

Incoming belt velocity 4.8 m/s
Inclination + transition angle 9.3
Head pulley diameter 1.2 m
Incoming belt width 2.5 m
Outgoing belt velocity 5 m/s
Outgoing belt inclination 0
Outgoing belt width 2.5 m
Feeder velocity 1.3m/s
Feeder width 3m
Slewing angle 65

Table 1: Operating Parameters.


two designs analysed are the normal force

acting on the belt, the frictional energy
loss due to the interaction of the particles
and the feeder belt, and lastly the average
relative velocity of particles in contact
with the feeder belt. These set of results
have been selected as they are similar to
the wear model presented previously in
equation (1), and a reduction in these val-
ues will lead to a reduction in the wear of
the feeder belt. In addition to the above
numerical outputs from the simulations, it
is also possible to visually compare results
by way of surface contours. Surface con-
tours have been compared below in Figure
3 for the original design and the redesign,
with these surface contours representing
shear intensity and impact intensity. These
contours are calculated discretely for each
element in the surface boundary via the
dot product of force multiplied by veloc-
Figure 1: Isometric view of the flow through the reclaimer using DEM modelling. ity in the normal and tangential directions,
with the results shown in the figure an
average in the steady state flow period.
The surface contours shown for each of
the designs have used the same scale, with
this colour showing red for the high inten-
sity regions and blue for the low intensity
regions. The results show the reduction
in the shear and impact intensity for the
redesign which occurs through the inclu-
sion of the flow inserts. Also visible is the
asymmetric wear of the feeder belts in the
existing design most likely being caused
by the non-central loading of the feeder
Figure 2: Image showing the placement of the inserts into each of the trouser legs. belt from the trouser legs. The inclusion of
the flow inserts assists in alleviating this
The final design solution that was se-
lected was to install flow inserts into the
bottom of each of the trouser legs, as seen
in Figure 2. This modification consisted of
4 inserts being placed in each trouser leg
of the chute. Two inserts were placed per-
pendicular to the direction of the feeder
in each trouser leg, with the other two in-
serts being placed parallel to the direction
of the feeder. The concept behind this de-
sign was that it would reduce the vertical
pressure in the bulk solid. In both the case
of the initial design as well as the design
with inserts, the stress field in the bulk
solid would be active. However, with no
inserts the vertical pressure is distributed
over a much larger area, the pressure be-
ing higher in the central region than at the
chute boundaries, although there would Figure 3: Impact and Shear intensity contours for each feeder belt under the trouser legs of the transfer chute for the original
be some asymmetry due to the trouser design and the redesign.
legs. The higher pressure regions would The more uniform and somewhat lower non-central loading profile.
lead to higher localised wear. The theory magnitude pressure distribution provided In addition to the above surface con-
behind this concept is that the use of the by the inserts would lead to more uniform tours, data can be plotted to compare the
inserts allows the vertical pressures to wear of reduced magnitude. two designs in a more numerical manner.
have a reduced magnitude due to the fact This data can be seen in Figure 4, where
that the average pressure is roughly pro- 4 DEM Results and Discussion the normal force on the feeder belt and the
portional to the widths of the apertures From the DEM simulations, it is possible frictional energy loss between the particles
between the insert plates rather than be- to extract a wide variety of results post and the feeder belt have been plotted over
ing proportional to the width of the trou- simulation. For this particular work, the time (the results shown in the figure are
ser leg opening when there are no inserts. main points of comparison between the per feeder belt). The simulation was set-up

22 Australian Bulk Handling Review: July/August 2013


between the particle and the feeder belt,

and VB is the velocity vector of the feeder
belt. This calculation was made for all par-
ticles in contact with the feeder belt in the
steady state time period of 30 40 seconds,
and the results were averaged along the
length of the feeder belt. The results for the
existing reclaimer design and the redesign
with the inserts can be seen in Figure 5
where only the relative velocity in the di-
rection of the feeder belt has been plotted.
Figure 4: DEM simulation data for normal force on feeder belt (left) and frictional energy loss between particles and feeder belt (right). As can be seen, there is a reduction in the
relative particle velocities along the length
in such a way that for the first 22.5 seconds results show a 25% reduction in the nor- of the belt for the redesign with the inserts.
the feeder belts were stationary while the mal force on the feeder belt and a reduc- The combined effect of a lower normal
material fills the trouser legs of the chute tion of 40% for the frictional energy loss force coupled with lower relative velocities
to the nominated level, after which time between the particles and feeder belt. of particles in contact with the belt will cer-
the belts were switched on and flow In addition to the previous analysis, tainly act to reduce abrasive wear.
through the transfer commenced. This is data was also compared for the relative
reflected in the data shown in Figure 4. Ex- velocities of the particles and feeder belt 5 Site Results
tracting quantitative data from the simula- (only those particles in contact with the The recommended flow inserts have been
tions such as this should be done with cau- feeder belt). The relative velocity of each installed into the trouser legs of the re-
tion, as without a detailed understanding of the particles in contact with the feeder claimer and wear data of the feeder belts
of the range of DEM parameters and their belt (Vrel) was calculated using the follow- has been collected. At this stage it is also
effect on the flow mode being modelled ing equation; worth mentioning that the two inserts
it is possible that they are not comparable perpendicular to the flow did not extend
to reality. However, for the purposes of (2) all the way across the opening of the trou-
this design study only relative compari- ser leg, and the reason for this is so the
sons were made. If an average is taken for Where VP is the velocity vector of the inserts could be preassembled off site and
the two outputs shown in Figure 4 in the particle, P is the rotational velocity vector installed in one piece. Photos of the in-
steady state period of 30 40 seconds, the of the particle, rc is the coordinate vector serts in their preassembled state as well as

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Figure 6: Flow Insert preassembled before installation (left) and installed into the trouser legs
Figure 5: Comparison of relative velocities of particles in contact with the feeder belt over the of the transfer chute (right).
length of the belt (averaged over the steady state time period of 30 40 seconds).
from the DEM modelling. The main reason for this is that while
installed into the trouser legs of the chute can be seen in Figure 6. the modelling can predict the interactions of the particles with
Data collected from site, for the original design, indicated that the feeder belt, it cannot predict the response of the feeder belt to
for one feeder belt the top cover of the feeder belt wore a total of the interactions of the particles and belt. Added to this is the non-
5.3 mm for a total of 3.2 million tonnes of handled coal. In compar- linear behaviour of the wear mechanism. More research needs to
ison to this, once the flow inserts were installed into the reclaimer, be conducted to further improve DEM wear models so that they
the new wear data showed only a 1.0 mm wear of the top cover can predict the response of a conveyor belt (or chute liner) from
for 3.0 million tonnes of coal. The details of the feeder belt (rubber the interactions between the particles and surfaces.
compound, strength rating) remained exactly the same before and
after the installation of the inserts. A comparison of the wear rate 5 Conclusions
shows that the wear rate was approximately 1.65 x 10 -6 mm per An application of the Discrete Element Method (DEM) combined
million tonnes for the original design, and after the installation of with a wear model has been applied for the analysis of a feeder belt
the inserts it is 0.33 x 10 -6 mm per million tonnes. These figures in a coal reclaimer. Using the DEM analysis technique a range of pos-
indicate a wear reduction of approximately 80%. In comparison sible solutions were considered for this project, with the redesign
with the DEM results, the actual wear experienced on site is argu- option presented in this paper being the preferred option. A num-
ably greater than that predicted from the modelling. However, it ber of flow inserts were used in each trouser leg directly above the
is realized that there is no direct quantitative measure of the wear feeder belts, with the idea behind these inserts being to reduce the
vertical pressure in the bulk solid as well as creating a more uniform
wear profile. Data from the DEM simulations showed that for the re-
design option the normal force on the feeder belt was reduced, the
frictional energy loss due to interactions between the particles and
belt was reduced, and the relative translational velocity of the parti-
cles in contact with the belt was also reduced. The combination of
all these results leads to a total effect of wear reduction on the feeder
belt. The redesign option from the modelling was carried through
to installation on site, and the wear readings from site agreed with
ARE YOU... the wear reduction predicted from the DEM modelling. In terms of
magnitude of the wear, the site data for the wear readings registered
a larger reduction in wear than compared to the modelling, with
BULK SOLIDS HANDLING... this result indicating more research should be conducted in an ef-
fort to include the response of the wear surface to the interactions
predicted in the modelling.
... If so, you can now expand your capabilities by joining the 5 References
Australian Society for Bulk Solids Handling.
[1] Roberts A W. An Overview of Feeder Design Focusing on Belt
The Society has a mission to enhance the discipline of and Apron Feeders, Bulk Solids Handling, 2001, 21, pp13-25.
bulk solids handling through research, education and sound engineering [2] Katterfeld A, Grger T, and Minkin A. Discrete Element Simula-
practice. tion of Transfer Stations and their Verification, Bulk Solids &
Further information on the Societys activities, its Constitution Powder Science Technology, 2007, 2.
and registration procedures are available from the : [3] Cenna, A A, Allen, S, Page, N W, Dastoor, P, 2001. A polyeth-
Australian Society for Bulk Solids Handling ylene-reinforced polymer composite abraded by bulk solids,
Centre for Bulk Solids and Particulate Technologies Wear, 249, pp 663-671.
The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308 [4] Roberts, A W. Chute Performance and Design for Rapid Flow
Phone: (02) 4033 9055 Fax: (02) 4033 9044 Conditions, Chemical Engineering Technology, 2003, 26(2),
email: pp 163-170.
Website: [5] Ai J, Chen J, Rotter M, and Ooi J Y., Assessment of rolling resist-
ance models in discrete element simulations, Powder Technol-
ogy, 2011, 206, pp 269-282.
Membership is open to ALL practitioners in [6] Coetzee C J, and Lombard S G. Discrete Element method mod-
bulk solids handling and related technologies. elling of a centrifugal fertiliser spreader, Biosystems Engineer-
ing, 2011, 109, pp 308-325.
[7] Wensrich, C.M., Katterfeld, A., Rolling friction as a technique
for modelling particle shape in DEM, Powder Technology,
2012, 217, pp 409-417.

24 Australian Bulk Handling Review: July/August 2013