Mineral resources come out of the ground and are then processed into energy, fertilizer, steel, and so on. We all kind of knew that already.
But while mining and processing minerals are complex on their own, transporting the big loads of materials between the mine and processing plants also presents a unique, and fascinating, set of engineering challenges. Large-scale engineering challenges.
What’s the best way to move millions of tons of coal across the landscape? How many rail cars is that? What if you need to get it all onto a ship?
ThyssenKrupp Materials Handling (TKMH) explores just these questions. The South African company specializes in the design, supply, delivery, and commissioning of bulk materials handling solutions. The product line includes stackers to manage the storage of materials in the stockyard, loaders to move resources from truck to ship, and conveyors that stretch for miles.
The company takes on the big jobs. In fact, TKMH designs everything for the industry from a single piece of equipment to systems for a whole plant.
The bad news is all those big jobs can strain the design software, especially when someone wants to load the whole model or modify a part within the larger product. It happens frequently; in mining and materials handling especially, teams always have to be prepared to modernize, convert, and extend existing systems as new standards arise for output and efficiency.
But here’s the good news: All these large assemblies and updates are not as much of a headache as they used to be.
That’s because a few years ago, the TKMH team adopted PTC software for design and data management. That’s made it easier to work with the large assemblies.
Carel Van der Merwe, engineering manager, says that PTC’s advanced assembly capabilities and its “top-down” development approach have simplified the company’s work.
Top-down design is a process in which a product design is planned, structured, and executed from the top level.
“If we were to design a stacker from small parts up, then, later, if you wanted a version with a boom 10 m longer, you would have to go down to component level details to make the change,” says Van der Merwe. “By designing from the top down, i.e., defining an overall parametric skeleton first, you can later go back and for the same type of stacker, for example, you could move the pivot point of the boom, or make it wider and longer. Top-down design helps to minimize the amount of redesign work you need when changes are necessary.”