On many of the pages on our website, you will find references to a simulation platform that we use to underpin our consulting solutions.
We haven’t been very specific about actual the simulation platform we use, as we believe it is the solutions that matter most to our clients. Nevertheless, there is still a degree of merit in outlining our approach to process simulation, as it can help our clients (current and prospective) understand how we are able to address their challenges. Hopefully, the result is increased confidence in our ability to deliver the said solutions.
This post is the first in a series that will describe the components of our simulation platform. Each post will build on the last, hopefully painting a picture of a unique and highly flexible toolset that can address a wide range of problems in minerals processing.
Our guiding philosophy in simulation is to make our models as ‘predictive’ as possible. The goal is to be able to take models out of the operational ranges they were calibrated in and still be confident in the fidelity of the results.
This objective has driven us to add new, sophisticated capabilities and methods to existing commercially-available software platforms.
The series of posts will also supplement the existing pages on our web site and provide a useful context for a range of other simulation topics we have planned in the future.
So without further ado, we will launch into our first discussion and address the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ – we use the SysCAD simulation platform provided by Kenwalt.
SysCAD is a software application that simulates complex process flowsheets. You can visit www.syscad.net for a longer overview of its capabilities.
In short, it allows a user to build a complete model of a metallurgical processing plant. Such a model encapsulates all of the knowledge of the processing system, making it invaluable for plant design, operational optimisation, business improvement and a multitude of other analytical tasks.
The applications of SysCAD (and other similar packages) are wide ranging. Here are some of SysCAD’s key features we use in our solutions.
Steady-state and dynamic simulation
The main advantage from our perspective is the availability of both steady-state and dynamic simulation modes. This gives us incredible flexibility in designing models to address particular problems.
We tend to use steady-state models where longer-term performance is important, and dynamic models for understanding the impacts of short term variability. It’s a relatively simple workflow to upgrade a steady-state model to dynamic, as both share the same underlying flowsheet and unit operation model base.
We will discuss the benefits of steady-state and dynamic simulations in greater detail in a subsequent post, once each of the ‘building blocks’ of our complete platform are in-place.
As you might have gathered from browsing our website, there is a pretty heavy emphasis on communition and classification in our solutions. Off the shelf, SysCAD has an extremely limited suite of unit operation models for mineral processing. This presents something of a problem, as SysCAD has plenty of other advantages that we would still like to make use of.
To get around this problem, we use a highly customised version of the software. Through the SysCAD Model Developers Kit (SMDK), we have created a suite of our own mineral processing unit operations.
These models are public domain versions of current state-of-the-art models available in packages such as JKSimMet and JKSimFloat (amongst others) or described in mineral processing literature.
For the technically inclined, our SMDK models are implemented as fast-executing native C++ dynamic link libraries that appear seamlessly as drop-in unit operations in the SysCAD application.
The same model code is integrated into Microsoft Excel, which is extremely convenient when it comes to fitting parameters to survey data, validating unit models, analysing and visualising unit operation performance etc.
In fact, the modular nature of our code base means it can be integrated directly into ANY simulation package that allows the use of dynamic link libraries, COM object models etc.
Our current list of mineral processing models includes:
- Blast fragmentation (Kuz-Ram and similar)
- Jaw, cone and gyratory crushers, VSI/impact crushers, mineral sizers (Whiten and our Kinematic Crusher Model)
- SAG mill (Leung, Morrell et al, including full dynamic mode)
- High Pressure Grinding Rolls (HPGR) (Daniel, Torres)
- Ball mills, drum scrubbers and tower mills (various JKMRC)
- Rod mills (JKMRC and Herbst-Fuernestau approaches)
- Vibrating screens (Load-based VSMA etc., efficiency curves)
- Hydrocyclone (various models)
- Dense Medium Separators (cyclones, drums etc.)
- Hindered settler (aka teeter bed separator, upward current classifier)
- Flotation cell (P9 kinetic model, more on this in later posts)
All of the models above function in both steady-state and dynamic simulation modes. In addition, the SAG Mill and Hindered Settler models have been implemented as ‘true’ dynamic models; that is, their internal contents are in a constantly unsteady state, resulting in residence time effects (this has implications for short time-domain dynamic simulations).
Because we maintain our own model base source code, we are constantly adding new functionality, testing and validating code etc, making our platform a ‘live’ and continuously evolving toolset. In a sense, we are not limited to ensuring long-term model compatibility for a wide range of users – we have the flexibility to improve our platform if and when it is appropriate.
On several occasions, we have built new models from literature sources into SMDK during the course of projects, if particular issues arise that cannot be solved by our current model base. It’s about the using the right tools for the job, and incorporating new models is pretty straightforward for us, given our experience and expertise.
The SMDK also allows us to expand the data contained in simulated plant streams to many dimensions. An example is our diamond liberation framework, where ore types are subdivided into multiple density fractions; each fraction has an ore particle size distribution; and each ore particle size fraction has a population of discrete diamond stone sizes locked within it. Other properties (vector or scalar) can be similarly added, such as liberation textures, magnetic susceptibilities etc.
The SMDK is the key tool upon which all of our enhanced capability is built. It give us the freedom and flexibility to incorporate process knowledge and parameter sensitivity in the right places, for the right applications – giving us the insight we need to develop practical solutions to mineral processing problems.
In our next post, we discuss one key SysCAD enhancement in more detail – multicomponent comminution and classification.
Updated: Read on in Part 2: Multi-component comminution modelling.