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With Rocky DEM, Onyx Projects finds solutions for bucket wheel reclaimer blockages

Rocky helped to optimize bucket wheel reclaimers and significantly reduce equipment downtime

Bucket wheel reclaimers (BWRs) are a key piece of equipment in iron ore loading. Stoppages and delays in this part of a ship’s loading process can cause bottlenecks and slowdowns at ports around the world. 

As part of a program aimed at reducing delays and improving overall port availability, Onyx Projects was tasked with investigating a BWR that was experiencing yard belt drift, blockage and buildup resulting in unscheduled delays.

Several investigations over fifteen years had failed to find root causes or solutions to the problem. With Rocky DEM, Onyx applied root cause analysis techniques and used advanced DEM modeling to finally identify and resolve the BWR issues.

“The powerful processing power and extensive customization options of Rocky continue to improve. Of particular note is the enhanced calibration suite tools that Onyx has customized in collaboration with ESSS to improve the speed and accuracy of determining material parameters to simulate the flow properties of real world materials.”

Dr. Richard Elliott

Principal Mechanical Engineer - Onyx Projects

Onyx Projects needed to optimize bucket wheel reclaimers (BWR) in an iron ore loading equipment. A site-based data analysis suggested several root causes for the BWR belt drift, including transient machine conditions. Multiple simulations were needed to understand the problem.

Onyx engineers turned to Rocky DEM as an engineering solution. Rocky simulations included several components that helped provide Onyx with key insights. The tool analyzed every quadrant of the BWR’s operation and the sensitivity of the belt loading forces to slew within each quadrant. Previous steady-state simulations had been unable to demonstrate the underlying problems.

Rocky DEM’s complex simulations included several components that helped discover key insights for engineers to design an improved BWR transfer chute, which eliminated many of the root causes of the original belt drift problems, reducing unplanned downtime.


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