From Graduate to Engineering Manager – an Engineer’s journey

This month we’re celebrating an important milestone for the EDEM technical team with Stephen Cole, Engineering Manager, reaching 10 years of service with DEM Solutions! We took this opportunity to have a chat with Stephen and reflect on his career and experience with the company.

  • Stephen, when did you join the company and what was your role at the time?

I joined DEM Solutions in November 2005 after graduating from Edinburgh University. I had some experience and interest in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and my initial role was as an Applications Engineer with an aim to support projects involving EDEM and EDEM-CFD. One of the initial projects I worked on was simulation of sub-sea gravel removal with De Beers Marine.

Excavation-profile-simulation-458x300 Simulate profile of excavated material vs experiments

  • Can you describe some of the projects you were involved in over the years?

I’ve been involved in a range of different projects and applications of EDEM, in Agriculture, Mining, Pharmaceutical and food processing industries.

Unfortunately with most projects we can’t share details of the work we do; however, the up-side of this is that I’ve had the opportunity to see the impact of simulation on a wide range of applications. Another benefit of this is that I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from some excellent engineers and scientists in industry-leading companies.

I have been involved in Agricultural machinery design, investigating how different geometries impact on material flow rates and also developing new applications for more challenging material types.

Within the mining industry I’ve been to mine sites to collect samples and perform experimental tests and calibration on the materials, following this up with simulation and analysis on different transfer chutes to investigate the reasons for the down-time. Specifically looking at the impact of cohesive materials and highlighting potential areas for the material to build-up. Similarly I’ve worked on projects that involved reducing mill liner wear for commercial companies in Chile.

Stephen On-site collecting material samplesOn-site collecting material samples. Investigating a problematic transfer chute in North America due to cohesive material.

Hatch Transfer chute coal Working with Hatch Australia to design for utmost reliability. Transfer chute transporting coarse product coal and dewatered filter cake

From the steel making side I’ve looked at loading and energy efficiency of blast furnaces.  The processing of the material can cause segregation prior to the loading and we investigated how different material types and different equipment types impact on the loading and segregation.

Within the process industries I’ve looked at high shear wet granulation. With Bristol-Myers Squibb we worked on a proof-of-concept study for this process.

Within the heavy equipment industry I delivered a project involving comparing the efficiency of different dozer blade designs for coal handling facility. The aim of this was to investigate overall efficiency of the equipment and also compare it with equipment from competing manufacturers.

  • How has your role evolved within the company?

My different roles evolved from being an Applications Engineer and Consulting Engineer, both of which focused on customer training, project work and technical support. More recently the roles of Consulting Team Lead and Engineering Manager have involved supporting and training other engineers to achieve the same goals.

  • What do you like most about EDEM?

I joined with a background in Engineering and CFD, with no experience in DEM and I was able to setup and run a simulation with EDEM in my first day (and this was the days when we didn’t have any tutorials!). The ease of use, especially how to define shape, is one of the key features of EDEM. It means that we can focus on the customer problem rather than how to actually use the software.

  • How much faster is the current version of EDEM compared to version 1.0? Any other key differences you want to highlight?

Looking at a range of benchmarks over different hardware now EDEM 2.7 is running between 110 and 150 times faster than when I started. This takes into account the typical hardware that we were using at the time (4 CPU’s, Intel Xeon) and now using the latest Intel Xeon E5 we are typically seeing simulations run on desktop PC’s using 20+ processors.

Another major change is the ability to model different material types. EDEM from 1.0 has always had the ability to model shape and ‘dry granular material’; however, at the start this was limited to 1 Contact Model. Including the API in EDEM 2.7 there are approximately 19 different contact models and multiple different physics models in addition to this. This includes the now-standard JKR Cohesion model and more advanced models for plastic deformation and bonded particles.

  • What do you like most about working for DEM Solutions?

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel as part of my different roles at DEM Solutions. Providing training while staying by Manly Beach in Sydney was possibly one of the highlights; however, visiting our customers in Japan, China, Korea, South Africa, India and the Americas has always been interesting. Also I’ve always enjoyed working with my DEM Solutions colleagues (past and present) as this has always been positive.

Thank you Stephen and congratulations on your 10 year anniversary with the company!

Interested in joining the EDEM team? Check our current job opportunities.

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