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Using Realistic Bulk Material Loads in ANSYS for Optimized Equipment Design

When designing heavy equipment such as bucket loaders, truck bodies and diggers, finite element analysis tools, such as ANSYS, are a ‘must-have’ in any design engineer toolkit in order to assess the structural integrity of designs and ensure their durability and performance. But while FEA will provide engineers with a wide range of tools for setting up meshes, joints, and boundary conditions, there is one thing missing in this analysis: the bulk material itself that the machine is supposed to handle! DEM (Discreet Element Method) offers additional capabilities to account for bulk materials.

Mining Machinery dragline bucket

Real bulk materials such as coal, iron ores, gravel are complex in their behaviors. They can vary widely in shape and size. Think about a bucket moving a material like sand. It can be free-flowing one day but after a heavy rain shower it becomes highly cohesive and very difficult to handle. This sort of variability means it is very difficult for engineers to predict how they will behave with their equipment and traditionally they have to resort to using simplified estimates of what the forces and loads would be on the equipment, or rely on expensive physical prototyping late in the design cycle.

At EDEM we specialize in the realistic simulation of bulk materials. Our software is used by engineers to recreate the behavior of a wide range of materials such as coal, mined ores and soil and understand how they interact with equipment. This minimizes the reliance on load approximation when designing equipment and allows realistic what-if analysis to be performed earlier in the design cycle, without the need for extensive physical testing.

dump truck simulation

Introducing EDEM for ANSYS – Bulk Materials Simulation for All

To date, bulk materials simulation has largely been in the realm of a small pool of experts, primarily due to the perceived complexity of incorporating an additional simulation method into a workflow, and this has acted as a major barrier to uptake for many design engineers.

To address this challenge, we have worked closely with ANSYS to develop ‘EDEM for ANSYS’ – a tool that eliminates this barrier and makes bulk material simulation available to all ANSYS users. For the first time, engineers can include realistic material loads as standard in their structural analysis without the need for specialist knowledge or expertise in bulk material simulation.

EDEM ANSYS simulation

EDEM for ANSYS is an easy to use tool, fully streamlined and integrated to work within the ANSYS Workbench environment. It comprises of an interface (launched directly from a custom analysis system in ANSYS Workbench) where engineers can set-up and run their bulk material simulations. Users have access to a library of thousands of material models representing ores, soils, rocks, gravels and much more. There they can select the best match for their real material and get the right inputs for their simulation straight away.

During simulation the realistic forces arising from the bulk material interacting with the equipment are captured and made available to be linked to other ANSYS analysis systems, such as Static or Transient Structural. Here, it can be used as an input boundary condition for an FEA simulation. EDEM Static structural tree

By adding the insight of EDEM, engineers no longer have to rely on hand-calculation and assumptions to determine equipment loading and they are able to reduce the frequency and cost of expensive physical prototyping. EDEM for ANSYS makes this technology available to all engineers without the need to learn a new technology.

Industry Example: Optimizing truck body performance at Austin Engineering

Austin Engineering is a designer and manufacturer of customized dump truck bodies, buckets and ancillary products used in the mining industry. This leading OEM uses EDEM and ANSYS to model and virtually test the design of their truck bodies to improve durability and performance.

dump truck

Each site where their equipment is deployed is different, and Austin Engineering has to customize their designs for each client to cope with the local environmental challenges and meet productivity requirements. Optimized durability and performance efficiency is a key part of all their custom truck body designs. Physical prototyping at this scale is expensive, and each custom design needs to be tested virtually to guarantee performance at each site.

Austin Engineering deploys EDEM and ANSYS software to evaluate each of their truck body designs. EDEM provides accurate pressure distributions of material acting on equipment. These loads are then transferred and used as inputs into structural and fatigue analysis in ANSYS Mechanical.

Austin Engineering truck body

Using EDEM with ANSYS enables Austin Engineering to improve the durability and performance of each truck body design. The realistic material loads from EDEM significantly improve accuracy compared to traditional approaches and mean truck body designs are strong, efficient and will perform in a range of operational conditions. Combining EDEM insight with ANSYS tools allows Austin Engineering to show their clients how a design will perform on-site, and ensure that their needs are met before it is sent for fabrication.

Learn more

Learn more about EDEM for ANSYS.