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How chute design can ease materials handling headaches

Home Transport & Logistics Materials Handling How chute design can ease materials handling headaches

THERE is often more than one problem a plant faces in moving materials, with some of the most pressing being spillages and blockages at the transfer point.

That’s according to Alwin Nienaber, Technical Director at Weba Chute Systems, who said this creates risks to safety and the environment, leading to costly downtime.

Dust is also a common problem, compromising workers’ health and even leading to regulatory non-compliance. Excessive wear of conveyor belts and transfer point components is another headache for plant operators, often requiring frequent maintenance and causing unscheduled downtime.

“The source of these issues is invariably the uncontrolled discharge of material,” Nienaber said. “To effectively control the direction, flow and velocity of material, each transfer point needs to be custom-designed using sound engineering principles.”

He said the advantages of the Weba Chute system is that it addresses multiple bulk materials handling issues at once, adding that the company  develops its chute designs based on the ‘supertube’ effect, using sophisticated 3D software as well as discrete element method (DEM) simulation for verification.

The controlled transfer of material onto the conveyor belt reduces wear and tear on belts while also minimising the physical impact that creates dust. The cascade lining system can also be employed, allowing 95% of material to run on like material to reduce wear.

Nienaber said transfer points contribute to some of the highest maintenance costs in a bulk materials handling plant, and should therefore be considered as critical elements of a minerals processing system. A chute’s performance is especially relevant to the wear-life of conveyor belts, which can account for a large percentage of running or maintenance costs.  “Conveyors are carefully selected to match the plant’s operational needs, as are the feeders, crushers, hoppers and screens. Unfortunately, the chutes at the transfer points are often considered as simply fabricated platework, and not afforded the same detailed attention.”

He said optimum chute design and customisation can solve a range of plant challenges while reducing maintenance requirements, improving transfer conditions, increasing throughput and rendering a longer life to conveyor belts.

“Global best practice has in fact accepted the vital role that chutes play, recognising that they should be engineered to suit the specific application.”

Weba Chute System technology is used in over 5,000 transfer chute installations in mines and plants around Africa and abroad.

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