Transfer Chutes Design with Rocky DEM

This article focuses on how engineering simulations help better design transfer chutes for their smoother functioning and enhanced equipment life.

Transfer chutes are used widely for handling bulk materials. They can be used to change the direction of material flow and transfer material from one conveyor to another conveyor. A chute might seem to be a petty component in a huge plant, but it plays a significant role. If you don’t design the chute properly, you’ll witness a high maintenance cost, increased downtime and particle breakage. On the other hand, a well-built transfer chute can help reduce noise, decrease damage to conveyor belts and transfer chute walls, and reduce dust formation.

Prior to getting to design, I will list down the essential requirements for a good transfer chute design:

  1. Avoid material clogging
  2. Minimal equipment wear
  3. Minimal material degradation
DEM-Based Approach for Designing Transfer Chutes

Getting the optimum chute design is a time-consuming task because transfer chutes are not designed properly most of the times. For the above-mentioned design considerations, there are many constraints that you will need to apply while designing transfer chutes.

Discrete Element Method (DEM) can help designers such as you design better transfer chutes in lesser time. DEM can help you visualize the flow of particles (material) in transfer chute and provide useful data pertaining to each particle and all the boundaries in the chute. Needless to say, it is impossible to derive such level of detail from physical trials or finite element analysis. Besides providing much needed qualitative insights, DEM simulations enable you with the freedom to explore new designs and test them without the need for physical trials.

In the following sections, I’ll explain how Rocky DEM software will help you design high quality transfer chutes.

Avoid Material Clogging

Blockages in transfer chutes restrict the flow of material through the chute. Not only are blockages a detriment to the transport efficiency, but also they exert a lot of stress on the chute walls leading to serious damage. To make transfer chutes less prone to material blockages, impact angle should be decided based on material properties and inlet speed should also be tweaked accordingly.

Rocky DEM has all the capabilities necessary to address the needs for wet and dry material handling. Different material properties such as the rolling friction, static friction for particle interactions, elastic modulus, bulk density, adhesion coefficients can be accounted for. A unique capability of Rocky DEM is the availability of adhesion models that can replicate the flow of wet materials. This would foster the simulation of materials such as wet mortar in the construction industry or some crucial unit operations with wetting ingredients in the process industry.

Rocky DEM helps to model blockage and design better transfer chutes
Rocky DEM simulation showing blockage (blue colored particles are stationary)
Minimize Equipment Wear 

Wear leads to increased maintenance cost not only for transfer chutes, but also for the conveyor belt. Abrupt changes in material flow direction is one major reason for surface wear. The smoother the flow, the lesser will be the damage to transfer chutes. The angle at which the material hits the walls of the chute largely affects the wear. This angle will depend on the material velocity and properties of the material. Modification can be done to the chute design to minimize wear, such as by adding a curved guide surface at the mouth of the chute to direct the flow and make it smoother.

As you will understand, making these changes in physical trials and capturing test data is cumbersome. With Rocky DEM, this task is just a few clicks away. You can use any CAD tool to make geometry changes and then bring it into Rocky DEM to simulate performance of modified designs. Rocky DEM will provide you wall impact force; using this, you can decide the optimum velocity and finalize the most suitable design for the transfer chute.

Rocky DEM simulations showing Instantaneous Shear Power for transfer chutes
Instantaneous Shear Power for a transfer chute
Rocky DEM simulations showing Mean Shear Power for transfer chutes
Mean Shear Power for a transfer chute.
Minimize Material Degradation

The quality of the end product decides its price. Undesired material breakage and extravagant segregation or degradation can lead to a poor quality process outcomes. Particle degradation occurs due to impact on chute and shear either from collisions with walls or with other particles. Information about the forces that a particle experiences can give an indication of how much damage will occur.

Rocky DEM not only provides forces on each particle, but also simulates breakage of particle under higher forces using models which are backed by years of research. You can visualize the particle actually breaking into fragments as it proceeds through the chute.

Rocky DEM: Helping You Engineer Better Transfer Chutes

Designing Transfer Chutes is a complex process and testing multiple designs is an expensive affair. However, Rocky DEM makes it simpler, cost-effective, lesser equipment maintenance and upkeep, and helps you to produce a better quality product. It has the ability to

  • analyze large number of particles quickly due to its multi-GPU capabilities,
  • represent particle shapes used in your industry, and
  • multiple post-processing options to help you analyze the data efficiently.

Quite clearly, Rocky DEM will help you and your organization minimize prototype costs and product development times. You’ll recognize that these benefits will further accelerate product launches into the market and fetch your organization higher profitability margins.

Still curious to know all of this actually works? I’m going to speak in a webinar called Assessing and Improving the Bulk Material Handling Practices with Rocky DEM Simulations on February 15th at 2:30 PM IST. Come, join me in an hour of learning how Rocky DEM simulations can help you save and generate more revenue for your bulk handling business.

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