Discrete Element Method (DEM) simulations for optimizing bulk material handling equipment

SSAB has been developing and manufacturing abrasion- and impact-resistant wear plate for more than 40 years. In parallel, vast knowledge has been acquired about wear mechanisms in many different industrial processes and applications.

Now, SSAB Services offers DEM simulations that combine our field expertise with fast optimization techniques for the design of tippers and other bulk material handling equipment.

Bypassing physical prototypes for determining material flow

Optimizing their geometry and overall design can greatly influence the performance of bulk handling equipment. In many different industries, profitability can heavily depend on operations running smoothly, with limited downtime.

DEM is, in simple terms, the numerical methods for computing the motion and effect of a large number of small particles. DEM as a software tool can be very useful to understand how a material flow will behave and how geometries can be optimized during the design of equipment. Different variants can easily be tested and compared. Finding and addressing any potential problems before the equipment is produced can be very valuable. Using DEM this way can, of course, also be a way of minimizing the building and evaluation of physical prototypes, which can be costly and time consuming.

Visualizing tipper filling and discharging

There are additional advantages in using DEM simulations when designing tipper bodies and containers. Designers can visualize how the material will fill the tipper body and get an indication of the loaded volume – as well as the location of the load’s center of gravity. For tipping, it can be beneficial to study how the material flow behaves. For example, how fast the material exits the body, and at what stage the material starts to slide against the floor.

Determining tipper wear patterns

Discrete element method can generate a plot showing the Cumulative Contact Energy, which indicates what the wear pattern will look like. This can give good information on how to choose plate thicknesses for different parts or how to design wear liners. Different shapes can be tested to find the best wear distribution.

Modeling tipper stability

Stability can be critical for some tippers, like this sugar cane trailer. In these designs, it’s important to know how much material is left inside the body at different tipping angles. Modelling the bulk material in the correct way is important for achieving the desired tipping behavior.

DEM simulations of complex particle flows

Discrete element method can also model the tipping behavior of more complex particle shapes; for example, scrap material. A DEM simulation can show the interaction between a tipper with its contents. When designing surrounding equipment, it can be necessary to understand how wide the material will spread when discharging.

DEM combined with CFD and FEM

Discrete element method can also be used in combination with other tools like CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) or FEM (Finite Element Method). Pressure distributions from DEM simulations can be imported into FEM software and used for structural simulations. Deflected geometries from FEM simulations can be imported into DEM software.

The introduction of several commercial DEM software packages has made the technique more widely accepted by industrial designers and engineers. Increasing computational power, including graphic processing (GPU), has also made it possible to simulate more complex situations with a larger number of particles. New models and applications are continuously being introduced: for example, particle breakage. It is likely that we in the future will see an even wider adoption of discrete element method – and new ways of utilizing this very powerful tool.

Bring the power of DEM to your bulk material handling equipment

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