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By S.K.Bag
hat are the major problems associated with bulk material
belt--conveyor transfer points?
Most of the major problems with bulk material belt-conveyor
belt transfer points can be
attributed to problems with the original design, field retrofits and the low priority given
during the design process. It is common for the transfer point to be the last part of a
belt conveyor system designed almost as an afterthought .
Some of the major problems that mines/plants have with transfer points are:
Plugging - Stops the entire operation.
Spillage - Corrosion, extra cost of maintenance and most importantly safety (one-half
of all the accidents that occur around belt conveyors in mines are attributable to
cleanup and repairs required by spillage and build-up
build per MSHA statistics).
Belt Wear - Poor chute design can reduce belt life by as much as 75% and belting is
the largest cost of the conveyor system.
Chute Wear - As conveyor throughputs become larger, the down time to fix and
repair a chute will not only be a direct maintenance cost but a lost of production,
directly impacting the output of the facility.
Material Degradation - Leads to dust generation, reduction in the quality of the
material and in some extremes the cause of a fire or an explosion.
Belt wear, impact damage
Chute wear on the sides dust generation and material degredation

There are five basic design objectives:-

to guide material on to a conveyor belt, at the speed
of the belt, in the direction of belt travel.
to eliminate material spillage.
to enclose material dribbles.
to enclose material from operating personnel.
to eliminate dust liberation.

Chutes are transfer points in a materials handling plant. They

often demand more attention and can be the source of more
downtime than the conveyors or equipment that precede or
follow them. Ideally the chutes are designed first, and then the
plant equipment and structures are placed around them. This is
sometimes not possible due to other constraints. For example,
such constraints may be the presence of critical supporting
steelwork, space restrictions underground and existing plant
where modifications are required.. As a result, chutes may suffer
and the final design can be a compromise.
Material Characteristics
Although chutes have a common purpose, they have to
accommodate a wide variety of material characteristics. Minerals are
found distributed in many different geological areas. In addition, each
geological deposit often contains materials with different properties.
Material characteristics can change from season to season or even
day to day, in the same mine.
Chutes are designed for the worst possible conditions and material
characteristics. It is essential to derive by testing the material
characteristics such as size distribution, maximum lump size,
moisture content, angle of repose etc. For changing conditions, the
spectrum of characteristics is required.
Pilot Plants

Pilot plants or sample plants are useful, not only to the

extractive metallurgist and plant operator, but also to the
chute designer. Such plants enable chute designs to be
tested and optimised on the actual material to be
Chute design sometimes needs to be finely tuned to the
material being transferred. It is often found that only
minor site modifications are required to turn a problem
chute into a successful one.
Operating Mines

It is essential to get feedback from operating

mines on what does not work and what was
done to rectify the problems. Otherwise,
previously inadequate design drawings are
copied for future projects, thus perpetuating the
1. Chute Angle:
Transfer chutes should be designed to ensure satisfactory flow
without blockages.
When determining chute slope angles, account must be taken of the
variation of friction angle with change in consolidation pressure i.e.
bed depth. High friction angles can occur at low bed depths. As the
bed depth increases, the decrease in friction angle becomes
significant. Cohesion & adhesion can also cause serious blockage
problems when corrosive bonding occurs, such as moist coal in
contact with carbon steel surfaces.
surfaces The bonding action can occur
after relatively short contact times.
Impurities such as clay in coal can also seriously aggravate the
behavior due to adhesion & cohesion.
Wall Friction Angle

The slope of the chute should be at least 5 5 larger than

angle of equivalent friction.
( min) = tan-1 [ tan ( 1 + KV H0 / B ) ] + 5, where
= Wall friction angle corresponding to H0
H0 = Bed depth
B = Chute width
KV = Ratio lateral to normal pressure
KV will depend on bulk solid properties. Normally KV = 0.5 to
1.0. In the absence of information KV may be taken as 0.8.
Block like motion in chute

Often moist bulk solids will adhere initially to a chute surface, but as
the bed depth increases, the correspondence decrease in friction
angle will cause flow to be initiated. In some cases flow commences
with block-like
like motion, as shown in the above sketch.
Chute Angles for material with difficult flowability :
It would be safe to keep the chute angle more than repose angle
of material by 15 - 20.. Chutes with valley angle geometries
need careful attention. In a chute with two adjacent 5555 plates,
the valley angle will be 45.. Hence there is the danger of
material build-up
up in the valleys. The valley angle is increased
accordingly, or designed out, e.g. in a vertical sided chute. In a
chute extended to carry the fines from belt cleaners, angles in
excess of 70 are required to prevent build-up
build of the often sticky,
wet, fine material that is removed from the belt. The fines (or
slimes) that stick to the belt have effectively no angle of repose -
they hang upside down.
2. Conveyor Head Chutes - The trajectory of material flowing from the
head pulley of a conveyor belt is predictable. Trajectories are sensitive to
belt speed, material load profile, size distribution and moisture content.
The trajectory is estimated from the centre of area of the material profile.
If the belt line is taken, the discharged material will impact the head chute
hood higher up than predicted. Once the trajectory is determined, the
chute hood is designed around the material flow path. Inspection access
covers are located out of the material impact zone or flow path. Cover
plates are sized and hinged so that a man can easily open them. Once
opened, they must not fall back with the possibility of injuries. On a safety
aspect, the sides of a head chute enclosing a head and snub pulley
should be extended backwards sufficiently to cover all possible nip points
on the belt.
Incorrect trajectory One method to cater for varying

Location of inspection plates


3. Chute Widths - Chute widths are usually designed to suit the piece
of mechanical equipment that follows the chute. Nevertheless, chutes
are designed to a minimum width of three times the maximum expected
lump size. For example, for a 300 mm lump size, the chute should be
900 mm -1 1 m square. Ideally, facilities are used to remove rogue
material from a materials handling system as early as possible. In run-
mine ore, such rogue material, consisting of outsize rock slabs, tramp
iron, timber, etc., would easily choke a properly designed chute.
Another important consideration is the volumetric flow rate of the
material. Once the chute is sized for the largest lumps, it is also sized
for the volume to be handled.

4. Changes In Flow Direction - Where one conveyor transfers to

another conveyor, the easiest configuration for the chute is when the
conveyors are in-line
line with each other. Conveyors at 90
90 to each other
involve chute work that is more complex but can be achieved without
many problems. A common rule of thumb is to provide twice the belt
width as vertical height for in-line
line transfers, and 3,5 to 4 times belt width
for 90 transfers. This generally allows sufficient height to enclose
dribbles, etc.
Most problems are encountered when conveyors are at a small acute
angle. Such small changes of direction involve awkward chute
geometries where there could be restrictions to the flow of material and
problems of build up of material on shallow plate angles.
5. Dead Boxes - Dead boxes are used to take the direct impact of
material discharged from a conveyor into a head chute. Other useful
applications are in long chutes or high chutes where the momentum of
falling material must be broken before reaching the lower conveyor belt.
Changes of direction are also accomplished in this manner. Once dead
boxes are filled, they form the ideal deflection plate or impact wear
plate, where the hardness of plate is equal to that of the feed material.
In general, dead boxes are avoided where the material is very fine, wet
or sticky. Here the dead boxes are not self cleaning, due to the absence
of large particles to give a scouring effect, and the fine material will build
up and cause blockages.
Typical dead box Cascade chute
Test Case, Slanted Rock-box
Rock slide
Material in rock box
The Langlaagte chute is a well-known
well configuration
throughout the South African mining industry .This chute was
originally intended for run-of-mine
mine ore situations to get the
fines to flow. Where a number of Langlaagte chutes feed a
single conveyor belt, every chute except the first one is
designed either higher or pivoted up out of the way when not
in use.
The underside of the feed chute skirts should rise, in the
direction of belt travel, to a maximum of 50 mm above the belt.
Chutes should be positioned at a minimum distance in front of
the tail pulley of a conveyor belt. This is to avoid the transition
distance where belt troughing is not ideal
6. Conveyor Feed Chutes - Langlaagte chute
Chute after transition distance

7. Flopper Gates - Flopper gates are used when one

conveyor is required to feed either of two discharge points.
Thus a bifurcating chute arrangement is required where each
flow path must satisfy the general chute design guidelines. A
critical area is the hinge of the gate which should be placed
above the apex of the double chute. Thus the gate is self
cleaning and rock traps, which could jam the gate, are
Flopper pivot above apex
Coal sticking to two-way chute on
tripper conveyor over bunker at
Rajmahal CHP under Eastern
Coalfields Ltd. Jamming cause
acute problem in coal flow. Due to
presence of bentonite, soil with
coal, it becomes very sticky. With
time consolidation the coal
sticking to chute becomes so
hard, needs cleaning by pocking,
hammering etc. Downtime is
increased. The problem is still
While cost is a significant consideration, it is not important that the
lining material is selected on the basis of service life and
performance. Factors to be considered include:
1. Surface friction and adhesion
2. Resistance to abrasive wear
3. Resistance to impact, if appropriate
4. Resistance to corrosion
5. Method of attachment
6. Initial cost
7. Installation cost and maintenance.
Side liners in chute
9. Skirt plate - In general, feed chute skirt widths are two thirds of
projected belt width, not two thirds of actual belt width as was common
The skirt seals are seen as seals and not as a means of containing the
material on the belt. There are cases where the skirts are terminated too
high above the belt, resulting in long, floppy seals. These very easily flop
over the edge of the belt, making effective belt training impossible. This is
generally the case when the skirts are too wide as well. The long skirts
are also subject to material loading, which increases the resistance to
motion of the conveyor, adding to power and tension, and accelerating
the conveyor belt top cover wear. When de-dusting
de is not required e.g.
on gold mines with wet materials, there is no need for rubber skirt seals.
Unnecessary skirt seals wear out the belt top cover and add to frictional
resistances. It is better to redesign the skirts themselves in this instance.
UHMW-PE PE (High performance liner):
liner) Traditionally, 304 2B Stainless
Steel is choosen for smooth flow. TIVAR 88, a special kind of UHMW-UHMW
PE lining material has been recognized worldwide for its low co- co
efficienct of friction, which exhibits better flow promotion properties &
performance. The hopper wall angle for TIVAR 88 can be 3 3 to 12 from
the horizontal shallower than 304 2B Stainless Steel depending upon
the flow properties of bulk material.
TIVAR 88 is also having much less adhesion than Stainless Steel.
Higher adhesion value affects flowability of material in chute. TIVAR 88
is hydrophobic (not readily wet by water) & Stainless Steel is hydrophilic
(has affinity to water).
TIVAR 88 has also excellent corrosion resistance & non-stick
characteristics, which provide better clean out.
Lining Materials - Side liners are generally 12 mm to 16 mm thick and
extend up to 3 times the depth of material flow to cater for surges.
Bottom liners are up to 25 mm thick. Liner plates are sized for a
maximum mass of 30 kg each, so that replacement in confined spaces is
easier. Dead boxes have lip liners.
Quenched and tempered steel plate, with hardnesses of BHN 400 or
BHN 500, is increasingly used for liner material. In high wear
applications, these materials are most cost effective in terms of price and
life, with thinner plate sizes specified. However, project engineers may
choose mild steel for lower wear applications. In certain circumstances,
rail mats have been used on the bottom chute plates. Thus, horizontal
rows of rails are bolted to the chute plate at 900 to the direction of flow,
forming a bed of dead boxes. Alternatively the rails are set in line with the
flow to allow self cleaning.

The application of vibrations to a wall surface can

significantly reduce wall friction and therefore promote
flow. Vibrations can also reduce bulk strength, further
assistance in promoting gravity flow.
The evidence indicates that the best results are achieved
by using frequencies of 100 Hz or higher and low