How to simulate bulk material behavior for optimized equipment design?

Whether you call them granular solids, bulk solids, bulk materials or particles, iron ores, rocks, pellets, tablets, grains, soils, gravel etc. all have one thing in common – they can vary hugely in size and shape and their behavior is complex. You could be dealing with heavy duty, large quarry rocks that are generating high force impacts; or perhaps a fine but highly abrasive materials such as sand; or even cohesive clay like materials can be difficult to handle and stick to equipment.

So when it comes to designing equipment intended to handle such materials, predicting how a specific material might affect a piece of equipment is challenging and assumptions may be dangerous and lead to expensive mistakes.

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Mine conveyor transfer failure – $10M/day in lost production

So how can this challenge be addressed?

There is a modelling technique called the Discrete Element Method – also known as the Distinct Element Method or DEM. DEM is a particle-scale numerical method for modeling the bulk behavior of granular materials and geomaterials including all the ones mentioned at the start of this post.

Using a software powered by DEM technology means you can simulate the behavior of real materials of any size and shape and their interaction with machines and equipment.


DEM simulation of large boulders/ rocks, fine and cohesive materials

By adding DEM in your design process, you can perform virtual testing of your buckets, excavators, truck bodies with an accurate representation of the bulk material they are intended to handle.


When combined with other CAE tools such as Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and Multi-body Dynamics (MBD), DEM can provide key insight into equipment designs. It allows engineers to reduce the reliance on hand calculation and assumption when designing heavy equipment and to address the challenges of how their equipment will perform when dealing with bulk materials.

What it means for you:

  • You get an accurate representation of loads and forces acting on equipment – this means more accuracy, no more hand calculations or assumptions
  • You can examine how various movements and conditions as well as different types of materials will affect the overall design
  • You reduce the need for physical prototyping – hence reducing costs significantly!
  • You increase confidence that your design will perform as planned in real conditions
  • You get greater insight into equipment performance

To find out more about bulk material simulation and using DEM with FEA or MBD,
download our ebook: ‘Optimizing heavy equipment design for handling bulk materials’.






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