Productivity improvements are critical for mining companies that want to remain competitive in today’s environment.
From a materials handling perspective, two common ways to increase productivity are by raising throughput or removing barriers that affect consistent performance.
Materials handling specialist, Flexco regularly delivers transfer chute replacements that aim to lift throughput or eliminate concerns, such as blockages, spillage or dust issues.
One of Flexco’s clients at a port, for example, required a 25 per cent increase in throughput from a transfer, but requested no changes to the supporting structure.
Flexco was able to meet this request with its FlowFirst conveyor transfer system, a solution based on the proprietary Tasman Warajay Technology that has been designed, manufactured and supplied by the company since 1984.
After using FlowFirst to develop an initial design, Flexco presented a model and video of the discrete element modelling (DEM) at the new design rate to the client.
Using the DEM as proof of design, it provided the port operator with the confidence to proceed with the project without costly structural changes being needed.
It is cases like this that provide the experience and expertise behind Flexco’s FlowFirst designs, which are optimised to increase productivity while decreasing dust generation, blockages, spillage and wear.
The FlowFirst approach, based on the Tasman Warajay Technology software, is continually being developed and enhanced by Flexco.
The company develops FlowFirst’s optimum material flow path first, before the physical transfer chute and ancillary equipment are designed around that flow path. The geometry of the flow is optimised to meet the material and operational needs of customers, according to Chris Hair, Flexco Australia’s product manager for transfer systems.
Hair says Flexco is committed to enhancing its understanding of material transfers, and the design requirements to deliver the best transfer possible, by developing software that complements the existing technology.
“Flexco has developed a system that combines the latest Air Flow Science with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and DEM, which allows the company’s personnel to understand and validate not only the flow of the material throughout the transfer, but also the dust generated during the transition as well,” Hair tells Australian Mining.
Flexco transfer systems feature several standout characteristics, including reduced transfer chute component wear for minimal ongoing maintenance and operating costs. This aspect of the transfer helps companies with materials handling equipment to deliver high year-on-year return-on-investment for the life of the plant
The transfer systems also significantly reduce blockages; deliver low levels of dust generation, spillage and material degradation; soft and central loading on the receiving belts to lower belt wear; and low noise levels.
Flexco transfer chutes are designed to perform under varying operating conditions for free-flowing bulk materials, including variances in moisture content and flow rates that are normal and expected in bulk material handling operations.
“Severe conditions that impact flow properties and/or create excessive build up on flow surfaces and materials, which are not as free flowing, may require additional consideration and add complexity to the designs, but there is usually a solution we can provide to solve the issues,” Hair says.
Quality is, of course, a critical consideration for Flexco in the development of FlowFirst. Hair says Flexco transfer chutes are renowned in the mining industry for the quality of the end product that is delivered, as well as the ease that retrofit replacements are made on site during the plant shutdowns.
“To ensure this, once the decision has been made by our customers to replace an existing transfer chute with a Flexco Transfer Chute, we conduct 3D scans of the existing structure the chutes will be installed into,” Hair adds.
“This guarantees our engineers and designers are working with the most accurate data available and avoid costly clashes during installation.”
Flexco further utilises 3D scanning technology by conducting scans of the internals of existing chutes on site.
By conducting 3D scans of the internals of the existing chutes, Flexco is able to identify problem areas, including high wear areas. Flexco can accurately provide tailored solutions to rectify the problems once these areas are identified.
Flexco also delivers these outcomes for miners and materials handling companies that require a new transfer for a greenfields operation. With early involvement on a greenfields site, Flexco’s engineering and design team for preliminary chute designs helps achieve numerous benefits.
The company’s engineering and design team will advise whether the existing geometry of the transfer chutes, particularly head height, is suitable to apply the technology and will provide recommendations on suitable modifications.
Flexco’s specialist team will also suggest suitable wear liners for each application and provide preliminary blocked chute loads for structural checks.
Hair says mining companies are well placed to achieve optimal performance through the application of the FlowFirst technology when Flexco is engaged from the beginning of a project.
“This has been proven again with our supply of transfer chutes to the second stage of the mine development after three years of operations of the first stage,” Hair says.
“At this stage our transfer chute design has helped to reduce the head height of several conveyors, helping to lower both initial build and operational costs.”
Evidence of Flexco’s successful methodology and products is backed by miners and other companies with materials handling requirements, most of which have numerous transfers.