Dynamics of Material and Equipment Interaction

Theme focus

We aim at designing more efficient and sustainable machinery and systems for handling goods (dry bulk, powders, containers, etc.) with less energy consumption, maintenance costs and environmental pressure.. It is our expertise to understand, analyse and model the interaction between goods and equipment. This dynamical interaction is crucial for analysis, predictive modelling and predictive design of machinery such as cranes, belt conveyors, grabs, robots. Software we use to support the analysis and design is Discrete Element Method, Finite Element Analysis, Multi Body Dynamics, Computational Fluid Dynamics.

Two specific fields are distinguished within this research theme: 1. Analysis and Design of Bulk Handling equipment and systems and 2. Equipment design with FEM.

1. Analysis and Design of Bulk Handling equipment and systems

Handling of particulate solids, varying from fine powders to raw materials with big lumps is present in many production processes. For example: woody biomass and coal for energy production; coal and iron ore in mineral processing and steelmaking; grain, sugar, fruits, potatoes, seeds, beans, etc. in the food industry; production of chemical powders; powders and tablets in pharmaceutical industry. The design of equipment to transport and handle these systems of particles is generally based on experience and trial and error.

The behaviour of particulate systems is complicated and difficult to describe analytically, especially when the material interacts with machinery under various conditions.

With the introduction of particle based computational methods such as Discrete Element Method (DEM) it has become possible to model particulate systems, and to start virtual prototyping of equipment for food industry, agricultural industry, pharmaceutical industry, mineral processing, chemical industry and bulk handling at plants and in ports.

By modelling the particles and the interaction with machinery:

  • behaviour of materials inside a transport system can be analysed;
  • bottlenecks can be analysed;
  • design can be improved.



At this stage the quantitative validation of simulations to experimental data or analytical models is underexposed. In addition to that a lack of knowledge on handling characteristics of biomass materials is observed. Therefore this research has four main focuses:

  • Using experimental results to validate simulations on typical granular systems in the bulk material handling. This is currently performed in collaboration with Nemag BV, and involves DEM simulations with MBD coupling and real scale experiments of grabs.
  • Simulations and experiments on a laboratory scale are developed to test whether material in the laboratory scale simulation environment is correctly described. This is done amongst others with angle of repose tests, penetration tests.
  • Origination of dust and modelling of dust in dry bulk handling. Here many different types of equipment will be studied.
  • Behavioural characteristics of a wide variety of biomass types during handling. With the increasing amount of biomass being handled and the different biomass types and its varying properties, it is of crucial importance to understand the behavioural characteristics in order to design optimal handlings systems in terms of energy efficiency, and dust. Emphasis is explicitly on the suitability of existing equipment used for coal handling in the whole supply chain.

2. Equipment design with FEM

For the structural analysis of transportation equipment such as cranes, heavy lift beams and foldable containers, we use Finite Element Method as a design tool. Finite element models are used to study the influences of the different loads and designs of the equipment by checking a number of criteria such as: Material stress, Fatigue, Corner load, Deflection, Eigen frequencies, Buckling, Dynamic behaviour.

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