Conveyor belts are high cost items in any bulk materials handling application, so it is vital that damage and undue wear is avoided through the correct design of transfer points.

“Where chute systems are not properly designed and manufactured, mines will invariably face sky-rocketing conveyor belt costs,” says Mark Baller, managing director of transfer chute expert Weba Chute Systems.

“A custom solution, on the other hand, can reduce these costs by three or four times.”

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Baller highlights that conventional chutes tend to allow run-of-mine material – often up to half a metre in size – to drop from considerable heights onto conveyor belts.

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This is a common cause of damage and significantly reduces belt life. Differences between the material’s velocity and the speed of the belt also aggravates this wear.

A Weba chute loading bulk materials in a stockyard.

In addition to frequent belt replacement or repair, mines are faced with the disruption of unplanned stoppages and the unnecessary cost of this downtime.

“The answer lies in a holistic chute design that controls the flow, volume and velocity of material,” he says. “This control is a key factor in reducing wear and tear on belts, while also cutting dust levels which are caused by the impact of falling material.”

Weba Chute Systems achieves this through sound engineering principles, in particular by building the ‘super flow effect’ into its custom-designed products. The customer’s application and environment are also studied in detail to ensure that each design is fit-for-purpose.

“Our years of experience with transfer points have given us extensive insight into the range of data that we need for appropriately engineering the solutions we propose to customers,” he says. “This includes details of the product being moved and its consistency, the trajectory of the outgoing conveyor, and the transfer height.”

He emphasises that Weba Chute Systems conducts on-site assessments to check that the data being used is correct. The company uses 3D scanning and leverages this data using sophisticated 3D software for the assessment of information ensuring that designs are optimal and accurate. Discrete Element Method (DEM) simulation is also used as a verification tool.

“Many mines are inclined to underestimate the value that can be added to both their process efficiency and their bottom line by good engineering design. Like all other key equipment in a plant, chutes need to match precise operational requirements – hence the need for a customised solution,” Baller concludes.