Dragline Bucket Design at VR Steel

VR Steel (Pty) Ltd designs, builds, and repairs fabricated mining equipment attachments. Clients include: Anglo Coal, Arch Coal, BHP Billiton, BMA Coal, Coal India, CRM, and Xstrata. VR Steel has dragline bucket customers in the US, South Africa, Australia, Brazil, and India.

With EDEM virtual prototypes VR Steel field-tests new design options, custom-designs for specific users, builds fewer physical prototypes, shortens the design cycle and increases customer’s productivity.

EDEM Simulation of a dragline bucket


Optimization of dragline bucket performance and productivity–for a wide range of media and mining conditions around the globe.

VR Steel needed to develop a new optimized bucket design–balancing efficiency, capacity, durability, and projected O&M costs.

VR Steel wanted to streamline the design process. Their customers needed design solutions assured to:

  • Fill easily and empty completely
  • Operate at maximum capacity
  • Boost wear protection
  • Reduce operating costs
  • Improve overall efficiency

EDEM's Role

VR Steel used EDEM coupled with multibody dynamics simulation software, to simulate both the bulk soil dynamics and the dynamics of the bucket and lifting gear.

This cutting edge, integrated particle-machine dynamics solution successfully modelled the transient particle-structure interaction– simulating the complete digging cycle of a dragline bucket.

This virtual performance testing predicted the prototype bucket:

  • Mode and rate of fill
  • Transient loading of bucket & gear
  • Wear patterns and rates


EDEM’s ability to accurately simulate the performance of the prototype bucket designs and wear packages resulted in:

Engineering Solutions:

  • Increase in fill level
  • Shorter filling cycle
  • Reduction in bucket mass
  • Lower operating costs provided an overall productivity gain of 2%.

Benefits to VR Steel:

Improved bucket design delivering:

  • Only one physical prototype
  • Repetitive virtual testing under the same operating conditions
  • Faster convergence to the best design

When a 45 ton bucket digs through soil during its filling cycle, numerous loads are applied to the structure at various locations over time, which can eventually lead to wear and strain on equipment. The combined capabilities of EDEM and MSC Adams gave us the insight to be able to minimize the level of wear and strain on equipment whilst in the design stage - before going into full production. We therefore increased the productivity for the customer while minimizing peak strains in their equipment. What more could the customer and OEM want?

Bertus Haasbroek, Chief Design Engineer VR Steel

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