DEM particle upscaling for large-scale bulk handling equipment and material interaction

Stef Lommen, Javad Mohajeri, Gabriel Lodewijks, Dingena Schott*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)
167 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: The development of bulk material handling equipment can be accelerated and made less expensive when testing of virtual prototypes is adopted. However, the modelling of a grab unloader requires a large volume (77 m3) of iron ore pellets, making the computational costs prohibitive. This paper investigates the extent to which the original particles can be substituted by larger, coarser grains. It is crucial that this particle upscaling does not alter the realistic behaviour of the simulated bulk material, nor its interaction with the bulk handling equipment. Approach: First, our coarse graining technique is explained and set out for the particle system at hand. The material behaviour is then characterized using three laboratory experiments (two angle of repose tests and a penetration test). Next, the results of simulations using two contact models with and without coarse graining with different scale factors are compared with the measured material behaviour and material-equipment interaction. This includes a comparison of the macrobehaviour of the bulk material and the tool interaction of coarser grains in a cutting and sliding process. After reaching a satisfactory verified solution on the laboratory scale, the material behaviour and interaction behaviour of a large-scale experiment are modelled. A simulation model of a grab unloader was used for validation of the chosen coarse graining approach. Findings: Using the scaling method presented, the macroscopic tests indicated consistent material behaviour, regardless of the chosen particle scale for two contactmodels. Scaling of the tool interaction process produced mixed results: the sliding process scaled consistently but the penetration process did not, most likely because it is significantly harder for coarser grains to move since they have to move further to the sides before the tool can pass, leading to higher normal forces and frictional forces on the tip. This inconsistency was compensated for by adjusting the wall friction coefficient in the tip of the penetration tool. Once this adapted coarse graining scheme was applied to the industrial-scale simulation of a grab unloader, it produced consistent particle-scale invariant results. Originality/value: This research is the first to show how coarse graining schemes for DEM simulations can be applied to large-scale bulk handling equipment involving dominance of material equipment interaction through penetration of the bulk material.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-282
JournalPowder Technology
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Angle of repose
  • Coarse graining
  • Grab
  • Industrial scale
  • Iron ore pellets
  • Material equipment interaction
  • Particle upscaling
  • Penetration
  • Simulation


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