Smart thinking coupled with innovative technology and ultra-reliable equipment are paying dividends for Queensland-based manufacturer OreKinetics.
Despite the strong Australian dollar, the electrostatic separation technology company is exporting over 60 per cent of its revolutionary machines to titanium mining operations all over the world including China, India, South Africa, US, Canada and Indonesia.
Research by Peter Gates, OreKinetics founder and managing director, in 1999 led to the development of the company's UltraStat conductive induction separator, and the CoronaStat ionised field separator the following year.
"Our electrostatic mineral separators have been widely accepted as the new benchmark in their field, with installations on four continents testament to their rapid and ongoing acceptance," Gates explained.
"Our machines can separate minerals better than any other. That's the reason for our success; impressive service coupled with innovative IP."
He said the separators have been specifically developed for mining and associated industries and extensive plant exposure has been gained resulting in a proven and robust process technology.
"The separators greatly improve process efficiency, reduce plant complexity and allow separation of minerals not previously possible.
"Our machines are very robust and capable of processing five to eight tonnes of material an hour on a continuous basis; 8000 hours a year or more, in hot industrial mining environments, in truly tough conditions, where it is extremely dusty and gritty.
"So when it came to choosing the electric motors and the gearboxes to drive our machines we went with SEW-EURODRIVE right from the beginning, and still only use their equipment now 13 years on.
"SEW-EURODRIVE gives us high-quality, reliable service, plus the quality of the company's products are excellent.
"They are good robust motors and gearboxes that can operate in extremely harsh environments."
Gates says his customers are often not at all interested in what motors are inside.
"Our customers just want an efficient, reliable machine. That's why we choose SEW-EURODRIVE for all our motors and gearboxes.
"We get excellent support plus they offer us the ability to get our larger quantities directly from Germany, by the container load. We bought well over 1000 gearboxes from SEW-EURODRIVE last year," Gates said.
"Another key advantage for us is SEW-EURODRIVE's MEPS 3 higher efficiency motors.
"With high efficiency motors we can set the machine's overloads at a normal current setting with the benefit that we get slightly higher output torque giving us the capability to set higher brush tensions in our machines if required," Gates added.
High efficiency gearmotors
Working closely with OreKinetics, John Bellert, technical sales representative with SEW-EURODRIVE, explained that the electrostatic separation technology company produces a range of machines demanding different quantities of gearmotors.
"For example on one separator there are eight SPIROPLAN W Series and six parallel shaft helical F Series gearmotors."
Bellert said the reason OreKinetics choose SEW-EURODRIVE gearmotors is because of their reliability and their high efficiency compared to other gearmotors on the market.
"The SPIROPLAN gearmotors, for example, are economical, robust right-angle gearmotors that feature incredible reliability, low operating noise and life-long lubrication.
"The gearmotors feature steel-on-steel gearing, special tooth meshing relationships and an aluminium housing ensuring they are very quiet in operation, wear-free and lightweight," Bellert said.
He explained that the particularly short design and the aluminium housing make for very compact and lightweight drive solutions, while the wear-free gearing and the life-long lubrication facilitate long periods of maintenance-free operation.
And as the oil fill is independent of the mounting position, Bellert said the SPIROPLAN gearmotors can be installed in any mounting position without altering the quantity of oil.
"Plus, identical hole spacing in the foot and face as well as the equal shaft height to both provides users with diverse mounting options," he added.
Bellert said the F Series gearmotors were also very popular in the mining industry due their high power density, high permitted overhung loads and a multi-stage gear unit for low output speeds.
"These two and three-stage, extra-slim parallel shaft helical gearmotors are very robust and are designed for heavy duty applications, high torque and 24/7 operation. They are the perfect solution when space is limited.
"The many different sizes and designs ensure that the gearmotors can be used in a wide variety of applications even under the most unfavourable conditions."
Bellert said the reason SEW-EURODRIVE motors and gearboxes are widely used by heavy industry is due to their efficiency, reliability and back up.
"All of our components are still manufactured in Germany, with the gearboxes and motors hand assembled here in Australia with excellent quality control.
"We understand how important it is for companies in all industries to have minimal downtime."
Bellert explained that every SEW-EURODRIVE motor and gearbox has a unique serial number which allows customers, via a smart phone app, to instantly download a wide range of information on the equipment including type and quantity of oil required, maintenance procedures, and spare parts list.
"Backed by our two assembly centres and four technical sales offices, we offer the Australian drive industry's largest distribution network and round-the-clock support program.
"Plus we hold a huge amount of stock in Australia; far more than any of our competitors," Bellert said.
In the last 12 years OreKinetics has worked closely with the titanium minerals industry and has supplied its proprietary technology to virtually every processing plant in the world.
Gates said the company has developed unique manufacturing and supply processes to allow rapid and on time delivery of large orders. "And we demand similar capacity from our suppliers, which SEW-EURODRIVE has the capacity to provide."
"Our machines performance and our delivery capability has seen us become the preferred supplier worldwide for our mineral separation technology. This year we have sold over 130 machines."
Gates says the advent of OreKinetics CoronaStat has enabled new titanium mineral provinces, particularly where finer minerals are present, to be developed and processed in a viable manner.
He explained that the UltraStat separators use a very different mineral charging mechanism to ionised field (Corona) separators.
"A strong static electric field is used to selectively induce charge onto the conductive mineral particles (Conductive Induction Charging)."
Gates said the mineral passes beneath a charged electrode that induces a polar opposite charge on the conductor particles; as a result these charged particles are electro statically attracted to the electrode and are drawn away from the grounded surface.
"A splitter located further in the separation zone separates the conductor particle and non-conductor particle trajectories dividing the feed into mainly non-conductor and conductor fractions.
"The UltraStat separator addresses the major limitations of plate separators with advancements in electrode design, improvements in electrode and plate geometry and the introduction of a patented automatic separation roll surface cleaning system," he said.
Gates explained that the company's CoronaStat machines utilise ionised field separator technology combined with a unique combination of three electrodes to achieve vast performance improvements over conventional HTR (High-Tension Roll) separators.
"Customarily, ionised field separators utilise a grounded roll that transports a feed material through a high voltage ionising field (corona) which charges the mineral particles by ion bombardment.
"Conducting particles lose their charge to the earthed roll and are thrown from the roll by centrifugal and gravitational forces.
"Non-conducting particles are pinned to the roll surface and are transported further through the separation zone before their charge either dissipates and they are thrown off or they are removed by mechanical means."
Gates said OreKinetics patented induction plate electrodes are designed to concurrently 'force' the charge decay of conducting particles as well as apply a holding force to charged non-conducting particles.
"Each electrode used in OreKinetics CoronaStat has a unique function which combined overcome the shortcomings of conventional ionised electrostatic separators," Gates explained.
Today, OreKinetics is continuing the development of its revolutionary machines along with the development of new flowsheet and process control concepts particularly with a focus on reduced capital costs and improved plant control specifically with respect to environmental influences.
As well as OreKinetics, Bellert said SEW-EURODRIVE works with many of its customers on their prototypes.
"When it comes to designing a new machine, we can work with them regarding recommendations on different motor power needs and speeds.
"Many manufacturers come to us for our expert advice on motor and drive technology.
"We work with a wide range of industries including the water treatment, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, mining and waste water industries," Bellert said.
As a world leader in drive technology and a pioneer in drive-based automation, SEW-EURODRIVE has established a reputation for quickly solving the most difficult power transmission and motion control challenges.