Specialist provider of slurry processing equipment Weir Minerals completed the on-going refurbishment of its rubber manufacturing plant at the end of 2009 as part of a strategy to increase rubber production.
The refurbishment of the rubber plant included new metal preparation machines, the installation of indicator lights on the hydraulic steam-heated presses, revamped moulds, an upgraded shopware system to increase capacity and a new extruder. It also included the upgrading of specific designs, significant investment in capital equipment and improved product quality.
Weir Minerals product manager for the rubber mill lining division Grant Stewart describes the new extruder, which was commissioned during November 2009, as the biggest innovation implemented during the revamp. "The company has experienced quality and manufacturing challenges in the past, but the new extruder eliminates these challenges," he says.
A global design team was employed to implement innovation and power efficiency into the design, which led to Weir Minerals' revamped facilities receiving world-class accreditation in a recent global audit. Stewart says that the rubber compound is continuously being improved by interfacing with customers globally.
The design of the new facilities reduces delay, which increases production capacity by about 20% and results in better quality products. The reduction of wear is also a significant 24% to 25% above the standard.
"A benefit of the new machines and extruder is that the rubber is more elastic, which reduces wear and improves reliability," Stewart points out.
Weir Minerals marketing manager René Calitz says that the company has been running trials against its competitors in rubber mill lining applications and has received positive results. "The rubber compound for mill liners is superior to that of our competitors, providing comparatively reduced wear. We have proved this in a number of recent trials where we have out-performed our competitors. This has a significant financial benefit, as the frequency of downtime of the mill is reduced," she asserts.
The three-year revamp of the rubber plant concluded at the end of 2009. The new innovations also contribute towards reducing the company's environmental footprint.
Meanwhile, Weir Minerals has introduced its latest product innovation, namely R55 rubber. Tear and tensile strength is significantly improved with R55, together with improved wear properties over conventional rubbers. This leads to an extended operating life of components and, in turn, results in significant cost savings for customers.
R55 is a premium-grade material for use in high-wear applications. It is a black natural rubber of low hardness and is used for pump liners and impellers, as well as cyclones. It is particularly suitable for large particle erosive slurry applications, such as mill discharge applications. The R55 material is based on natural rubber and therefore has limited chemical resistance. It can be used for general chemical duties, but is affected by hydrocarbons, oils, fats and solvents.
"The R55 material bridges the gap between R33 and R38, replacing two rubbers with one, to allow simplified stocking to the customers' benefit. The material will be phased in over a period of time until the complete range of parts is available in R55," says Stewart.
Weir Minerals mixes rubber on site and produces mould rubber for both slurry applications and mill liners. The company makes patented rubber formulas for mining applications and priority rubber mixes for companies within the group.