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Simulation provides very important insights


into the


development process, and in many cases, it substantially reduces the development time for new products. The situation with process engineering is quite different.


The only routine solution has, until now, been to optimise turbomachinery using computational flow dynamics (CFD). Now, the Discrete Element Method (DEM) can offer suitable state-of-the-art tools to simulate particle flows and mechanical process workflows. Dr Jorge Carregal Ferreira, head of the Rocky DEM unit at the Grafing office of CADFEM GmbH, explained: “Physical simulation has previously been used only to a limited degree, if at all, in mechanical process engineering to date. “Reliance is generally placed on experience or on lab tests. But the limit is regularly reached when scaling-up from test benches in the lab to large-scale plant intended for manufacturing, or when transferring from a familiar production plant to a new facility. “In these areas, simulation lets us understand the key


influences and make the right decisions regarding process parameters. The result is significant cost savings, since the risk of having to readjust the production plant is reduced. It is also possible to perform parameter studies, sensitivity analyses and optimization processes to establish the right process parameters.”


THE STIMULUS OF SIMULATION Sustainable manufacturing therefore demands a sound understanding of all the physical effects of the individual processes, or what are known as “unit operations”, which combine to form the overall process. Here, too, physical simulation can provide important insights and improve the overall manufacturing process efficiency. Mechanical process engineering is very strongly characterised by particle and material flows. Materials and bulk solids are crushed, transported, classified, mixed, separated and treated. Entire components are transported, sorted, treated and further processed.


“Using the DEM, we can simulate these processes, understand and optimise them,” said Dr Ferreira. “This takes account of the movements and contacts between the particles. With a very large number of particles, often more than a million, this calls for suitably powerful hardware. With GPU (graphics processing unit) technology, the DEM now lets us simulate a much larger number of particles and the actual particle shape.” Quality control in mixing processes is based on quality of the mixture and throughput performance. In practice, measuring mixture quality is very difficult, since the plant must be stopped, and access allows for only a limited test sample. “This is where the DEM simulation helps to make the process transparent, since we can determine the


quantitative mix quality at any time and at any location using the right statistical analysis,” he added. “We can then determine the impact of the influencing


parameters and input values, which will enable us to recommend the ideal operating parameters.” In the pharmaceutical industry, tablet coating remains an important element in the tablet production process. Although the tablet itself contains the expensive active ingredient, for reasons concerning customer acceptance the coloured surfaces must be produced with a high level of accuracy and no trace of damage. These coating processes are therefore crucial, since even a small number of tablets with damaged edges must be disposed of as waste, which incurs high costs. With DEM simulation it is possible to arrange the upscaling and process parameters to keep waste to a minimum. Ferreira went on to conclude: “We assume that DEM simulation will become a standard tool in mechanical process engineering in the next three to five years. That is comparable to the situation in mechanical engineering, in which the finite element method has grown to become a standard tool in the past 15 years and is now used on a routine basis. And just like the situation with mechanical engineering, simulation will result in significant changes in future process engineering.” All issues relating to this are discussed at POWTECH events, making them an ideal forum for specialists in the process industries and engineers relying on the future technology of additive or generative manufacturing. POWTECH events also include solutions for de-dusting metal powders, and provide the latest developments for processes, such as size reduction, agglomerating, separating, screening, mixing, storage and conveying.


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