Javier Schmal
Managing Director in Latin America
Martin Engineering

Material Flow Blockage Can Be Tough Enemy to Defeat

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 17:57

The companies with the greatest ability to withstand the tests of time are those that offer the best solutions for the worst problems. In the midst of the Great Depression, Martin Engineering’s founder, Edwin F. Peterson, was dismayed as he witnessed foundry workers clear sand blockages in foundry equipment by hitting the molding machines with hammers. This technique resulted in damage to equipment and a loss in productivity, two problems that Peterson was determined to solve. In the 1940s, upon discovering that vibration could be used to unblock backed up material from industrial equipment, he developed and released the Vibrolator. Close to 70 years later, the Vibrolator is still widely used in various industries.

“Martin Engineering has long been focused on producing innovations, and has not been resting on its laurels since Peterson’s days,” says Javier Schmal, the company’s Managing Director in Latin America. “Many years ago, we introduced air cannons, a range of transfer point equipment, and belt cleaners. One example is a belt cleaner that reduces the impact of carryback material, which can impede an operation due to the necessary maintenance and safety precautions. This product has been subjected to continuous improvements, making it safer and easier to install, to operate, and to maintain.” Alongside the belt cleaner, Martin Engineering’s air cannon can be used to improve material flow at transfer points, silos, hoppers, or any space where material is transported. Additionally, the company’s transfer point equipment can be used for points where material is transferred onto a conveyor belt. These transfer points are prime locations for spillages, dust accumulation, and other problems that can constrain material flow. With the reliance on conveyor belts to move materials growing ever stronger in the mining industry, Martin Engineering is tailoring many of its services to mining companies. “We work with conveyor belt engineering companies that specialize in basic and tailings engineering, and focus on OEMs to help them design transfer points,” explains Schmal. “Unfortunately, some mining companies seek only to save money in the short-term, which is why we communicate to them the importance of quality products and services. This is achieved through visits to mines, our Foundation books, and our relevant success stories.” Part of this communication is to show mining firms while they continually rely on conveyor belts to move material, specify services and solutions for maintaining material flow, preventing blockages, and avoiding material losses.

When mines increase production, a reliable conveyor belt system is crucial to avoid the bottlenecking of materials. According to Schmal, a clean material transfer system can increase the component’s wear life by 25% and reduce safety risks during cleaning and controlling material spillage. Material sticking to a conveyor belt can cause large-sized material to fall and damage the rollers, causing companies to consume more energy when moving material and increasing the damage to the conveyor belt cover. Many companies send personnel to clean these points, but this proves to be very risky and potentially dangerous. Without belt cleaners, Schmal estimates that up to 40 tonnes can fall and accumulate within one day at certain chokepoints. A primary cleaner will remove larger material while subsequent cleaners will remove finer material that sticks to the conveyor belts. With sufficient conveyor belt cleaners, one can remove even micrometer particles from the belt, reaching up to 98% belt efficiency. However, an efficient cleaning system does not preclude maintenance. That is why Martin Engineering offers different service packages to keep permanent solutions working with the best performance as possible. “In addition to belt cleaner systems, we have a conveyor belt support system that is designed to absorb the impact on the conveyor belt; these solutions are modular, making them easy to install and maintain,” he describes. “We also work on transfer point skirts with a stilling zone that reduce and seals the internal air volume created at the transfer points. This allows a mining company to avoid fugitive dust.” The behavior of dust in a mine has been particularly relevant to Martin Engineering for a long time, through the acquisition of TNJ in September 2013, it added dust suppression solutions to its product portfolio. With those solutions now part of Martin Engineering’s package, the company is determined to add to its innovations in this area as well. This will be welcome news to mining companies, given the plethora of ways in which dust can negatively impact their operations. “Dust not only contaminates the surrounding area, it also affects the health of the workers,” states Schmal. “Dust reduces the lifespan of equipment and increases the need for maintenance, while representing a loss of potentially valuable material. Our dry collection equipment collects dust through the filtering of air, while the dust suppression solutions use water, chemicals, or foam to prevent the generation of dust.”

Since Peterson’s vision during the Great Depression, Martin Engineering’s determination to continue its material flow research, and deploy innovative solutions to improve the process, means it will build upon its legacy for years to come.