A major challenge in the mining industry is decreasing project budgets and minimize the loss of raw materials by reducing equipment maintenance and wear. This can be facilitated with the aid of computer simulation software, such as ANSYS and ROCKY. This work initially describes ROCKY software, a powerful Discrete Element Modeling tool that quickly and accurately predicts material flow by simulating solid particles of different sizes and shapes. ROCKY includes improved features, like particle breakage and the ultra-fast GPU processing option. ROCKY simulates particle breakage by using a model that analyzes the particle fracture in small pieces based on the energy generated from impact or friction. This is possible because, unlike other DEM programs, the software uses truly non-spherical particle models.
Materials handling companies all over the world, including those in the mining industry, use features of ROCKY to design and refine their transfer chutes, mills, feeders, vibrating screens, and other equipment. This work will also describe how engineers at VALE Carajás, the largest open iron ore mine in the world, are using this technology to improve the efficiency and reduce the need for frequent grid cleaning of the hoppers’ screen, which separates the rocks within the ore. The smaller stones and the sieved ore are sent to courtyards and storage silos, while the larger rocks go through the crushing mill to achieve a proper size.
With the aid of the ROCKY software, VALE could simulate the simultaneous behavior of spherical and non-spherical particles of different sizes, measure the impact forces from the rocks on equipment, and calculate the runoff speed of ore.
The data extracted from ROCKY was used in combination with ANSYS to conduct a structural analysis of the equipment. Engineers were able to virtually test the effect of proposed changes on the machine and how the ore would behave within the new structure. With the use of a coupled solution, Vale reduced the time spent by its staff on the development of this project by approximately 70%.