Driving innovation in the world of cement and minerals

Despite the worldwide financial crisis, in 2009 FLSmidth will spend more on research and development than in the previous year – all to improve customer processes via advanced products and service.

FLSmidth has continued to increase focus on R&D over the last decade – in both the cement and minerals industries. The goal is to continue to push the boundaries of innovation, so customers can benefit from the latest technologies.
With R&D Centres in Denmark, the US and India, FLSmidth is able to develop and test new solutions close to the relevant markets – and the R&D Centres often work directly with customers to develop new solutions that address specific needs. This has led to many new innovations, including work done with an Australian company to calcine a by-product from alumina production.

From small-scale pilot to full solution

FLSmidth’s R&D Centres include laboratories, workshops and pilot testing facilities that support its R&D activities. Product development often involves testing a pilot-scale version of the solution, which enables R&D engineers to analyse performance before applying the solution to a full-scale industrial prototype. The HOTDISC, an innovative way of burning alternative fuels, was developed at R&D Centre Dania in Denmark in this way. Project engineers tested how different waste-materials burned in the HOTDISC before launching the full-scale version to the market.

The laboratories are also available to the industry, and can be used to test new set-ups, material mixes for clients or various other tests.

Focus areas for FLSmidth research

In order to generate positive results and value, research must maintain sustained focus on the areas that are critical for clients. FLSmidth is working to ensure that it has the required skills in:

  • Cement products
  • CO2 and energy efficiency
  • Harmful gaseous emissions
  • Fuels and combustion
  • Comminution
  • Materials and wear processes
  • Minerals liberation
  • Phase separation

Pushing for new products

Over the last 15 years, FLSmidth has released a stream of new products – and new inventions and updates will be released onto the market soon. These include products that reduce energy consumption, increase plant efficiency, capacity and availability, and make operating complex cement and minerals plants simpler.

All this requires the latest technology, as well as innovation tools that are capable of simulating real-life situations, correlating the results and increasing understanding of processes and machinery. One such tool is CFD modelling software, which was used to develop the world’s largest flotation cells for Rio Tinto’s Kennecott plant in Utah, USA. During the development work, the FLSmidth engineering team working with university experts used CFD models of existing flotation cells, and then scaled them up using dimensionless and hydrodynamic analysis. The result? The new SuperCells have a volume of 300 m³ to 350 m³, and were installed in the Kennecott KUCC plant at Salt Lake City in the US (The world's largest and most efficient flotation cell).

Investing in talent

But innovation isn’t just about ideas – it’s also about people. As well as a dedicated team of more than 150 R&D staff located in the main R&D centres, FLSmidth has many other teams working with innovation. In addition, FLSmidth sponsors a number of PhD students, and their research concerns all aspects of cement and minerals processes.

All this means FLSmidth will be ready to face the future challenges presented in the cement and minerals industries – and continue to provide customers with state-of-the-art technologies that improve bottom line performance.

R&D Centre in India starts operations

FLSmidth’s latest laboratory, part of a new R&D Centre in Chennai in India, will significantly increase FLSmidth’s overall standard testing capacity by providing tests for process design and proposals. The Chennai laboratory is capable of producing the basic fuel and raw material analyses required for sizing equipment for new cement plants, and it can also offer support with commissioning, optimisation and trouble-shooting.

Housed in a separate building at the FLSmidth site in Chennai, the laboratory is the second such facility in the FLSmidth Group (the other is located at Dania in Denmark). Both laboratories share common test procedures, quality assurance systems, IT/LIMS systems and international standards – and as a result, both can deliver the same consistently high quality test results in identical report formats.

The laboratory in Chennai was officially opened on 29 April 2009.

New Centre in the US

The new FLSmidth Minerals Technical Centre in Salt Lake City in the US will be inaugurated in 2010. It will include a large laboratory and pilot testing centre to support Minerals R&D activities and the preparation of commercial proposals.