Tag Archives: Weba Chute Systems

STRONG LOCAL, GLOBAL DEMAND FOR ENGINEERED WEBA CHUTES

It has been another good year for transfer chute specialist Weba Chute Systems, and signs are that it will get even better.

While demand from the mining industry can be volatile, the company has developed a solid pipeline of projects – not only in southern Africa but also abroad. Mark Baller, CEO of Weba Chute Systems, is expecting 2024 to get busier, and believes that this trend will continue into 2025. 

“As customers recognise the value of custom-engineered transfer points in their mines and plants, we have seen demand grow in various regions,” says Baller. “There are good prospects in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo – where copper and cobalt mining is strengthening – and in platinum prospects in Zimbabwe, for instance.”

He notes that Weba Chute Systems has for many years been active in overseas markets, and is looking forward to fulfilling some large foreign projects. The company expects to supply a large package of about 50 chutes to a project in the US, and a gold mine expansion in Turkey will be supplied with up to eight custom engineered Weba chutes. 

“We continue to attract new customers who have heard about our specialised solutions, and who approach us with specific challenges they are trying to overcome,” he says. “We have had interesting engagements recently with companies operating in Jordan and Saudi Arabia – which promise to extend our reach beyond traditional markets.” 

Closer to home, Weba Chute Systems has continued to design and deliver substantial projects for Southern African customers. In South Africa, the company manufactured and installed 32 bespoke chutes for a steel plant. Through a leading EPCM company, it also supplied 10 large chutes to a platinum mine in Zimbabwe – to handle large run-of-mine material. 

“An expansion project at a local manganese producer has requested our services, so we have completed the engineering design for nine chutes and will soon begin the manufacturing process,” he says. “We have also been designing and delivering multiple chutes to three diamond mines in Botswana, and this will continue into next year.”

Baller highlights that the company has remained resilient to production disruptions such as loadshedding by the national utility in South Africa. As the owner of its design and manufacturing facility in Wadeville, south of Johannesburg, Weba Chute Systems has invested extensively in both renewable energy and backup power. This allows the facility to continue work uninterrupted, to meet customers’ deadline requirements without compromising quality. Its on-site solar power installation also assists in mitigating the rising cost of energy.

“By carefully managing our work environment and ensuring that all phases are fully resourced with the latest technology, Weba Chute Systems can deliver cost effective solutions that are tailored to each specific transfer point,” he explains. “For foreign contracts, we often have a cost advantage by conducting the design and manufacturing work in South Africa. At the same time, the value of our solutions is really measured by the extra production our customers achieve by optimising uptime through our high quality, engineered chutes.”

TRIBUTE TO WERNER BALLER – A VISIONARY AND PIONEER IN ENGINEERING (15/09/1940 – 15/12/2023)

Werner Baller, founder of Weba Chute Systems, passed away on 15 December 2023 leaving behind him a remarkable legacy. 

Werner, born in 1940 in Brotdhof, West Germany, embarked on a journey that not only changed his life but also revolutionised the bulk material handling industry across the world. With his National Diploma in Ceramic Engineering from Koblens / Rhein, Hoergrenshausen, Werner’s pursuit of excellence took him to South Africa in 1965, marking the beginning of a remarkable legacy.

The Rise of Weba Chute Systems

In 1983, Werner’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to acquire a small mining supply firm, M&J Engineering. His visionary approach transformed this company into Weba Chute Systems, a global leader in custom engineered chute systems for bulk material transfer. Werner’s innovative mindset resulted in the development of nine patented products, including the groundbreaking Weba Chute System, which revolutionised the industry with its unique ‘super tube’ or cascade design.

A Legacy Beyond Engineering

Werner was more than an entrepreneur and engineer; he was a beloved family man known for his passion, integrity and unconditional love. His legacy extends beyond his professional achievements, embodying the values of honesty and dedication in every aspect of his life.

Continuing the Legacy

Today, Weba Chute Systems, under the leadership of Werner’s son, Mark Baller, continues to be an industry leader, exemplifying the innovation and quality that Werner instilled. His induction into the International Mining Technology Hall of Fame in 2018 is a testament to his enduring impact on the industry.

A Tribute to a True Pioneer

Werner’s journey from a small German town to the pinnacle of engineering innovation is a story of determination, ingenuity and unwavering commitment. His contributions have left an indelible mark on the mining and engineering industries, and his legacy will continue to inspire future generations.

As we bid farewell to a remarkable man, we remember Werner Baller not only for his professional achievements but for the profound personal impact he had on those around him. His life’s work stands as a beacon of entrepreneurial spirit and engineering excellence.

Werner Baller (1940-2024), Founder of Weba Chute Systems, Innovator, Entrepreneur, Family Man.

WEBA CHUTE SYSTEMS HONOURED WITH SACEEC AWARD

Weba Chute Systems, a South African original equipment manufacturer specialising in custom-engineered chute systems, was honoured at the Exporter of the Year Awards hosted by the South African Capital Equipment Export Council (SACEEC) on 21 November 2023. This event recognised the significant contributions of industry players, highlighting 18 companies that exported over R8.4 billion to 67 countries last year.

The companies were evaluated based on several criteria, including marketing strategy, export turnover, local content, and participation in export promotion activities. The process involved strict confidentiality and expert judgment, including site visits to finalists’ premises.

Weba Chute Systems, celebrating its 40th year of operation in 2024, has established itself as a leader in transfer point design and manufacture, boasting over 5000 chutes successfully operating worldwide. The company’s focus on quality has been a cornerstone of its success, leading to its recognition as the Allied Services Exporter of the Year 2023 for companies with a turnover between R100 million and R150 million a year. 

Commenting on the significance of the award, Ted Cruickshank, Africa Business Development Manager, says that this accolade underlines Weba Chute Systems’ significant role in the industry and its contribution to South African exports. 

“The award acknowledges the continued demand worldwide for our custom engineered transfer point solutions. We have a solid pipeline of projects including platinum prospects in Zimbabwe and a busy copper landscape in the DRC, and just as importantly we are seeing exciting growth in a number of overseas markets,” he says. 

The company is looking forward to a major project in the US in 2024, where it expects to supply a large package of about 50 chutes. In Turkey, a gold mine expansion will take up to eight of its custom engineered chutes. Cruikshank says the company continues to be approached by new customers – recently in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan – who have transfer chute challenges and have seen or heard about the company’s specialised solutions. 

NORTHERN CAPE MINE SMOOTHS FLOW WITH WEBA CHUTES

Specialist transfer point company, Weba Chute Systems is working with a mine in the Northern Cape to improve material flow. The mine has ordered two custom engineered chutes from Weba Chute Systems, which are expected to improve efficiency at the transfer points. 

According to Weba Chute Systems’ Regional Manager for the Northern Cape, Arnold Archer, the contracts are for an apron feeder discharge chute and a jaw crusher feed chute. Archer says the company had previously supplied the mine with a SAG mill feed chute, and had collaborated successfully to improve performance within that application. 

With run-of-mine material at the mine including large lump sizes of 800 mm to 1,2 m, there is a high risk of blockages if the chutes are not purpose-designed, he argues. The high velocity of the material can also cause considerable damage to chutes as well as create excessive dust. 

To inform Weba Chute Systems’ designs, the company’s team uses technical questionnaires to help gather information from the customer on a range of variables. This includes factors like lump size indicators, belt speeds, feed rates, moisture content and material velocity. The application-specific data paves the way for a design that optimises flow and equipment life.

“On the apron feeder discharge chute, for instance, we designed a swing door that will absorb most of the impact of big lumps moving at high velocities,” he says. “This also helps to protect the wear plates on the jaw crusher.”

The aim of the design will be to assist the mine reduce the incidences of chute blockages, spillage and excess dust – making the process more streamlined and less labour intensive. He points out that the mine aims to achieve higher uptime through optimal chute performance. The reduction in spillage and dust also contributes to the mine’s high standards of health and safety. 

“Our philosophy is that every transfer point on a mine has its own specific challenges, so the chute for each transfer point will be different to the next one,” he says. “We work with customers to understand the detail of their material flow through these points, so that our design takes all the key factors into account.”

He notes that most mines will have the necessary data gathering systems in place to inform the correct chute design – as they have tachometers on their conveyors, blocked chute detectors and feed monitors. The issue is just that this information is not always systematically considered during chute design. 

“We are proud of the chutes we design and manufacture, and stay close to our customers to ensure that the chutes’ performance is up to expectation,” Archer explains. “Our staff is passionate about getting everything right, and being there to follow up where necessary.”

Among the improvements made on the SAG mill feed chute at the mine, for example, were changes to the liner composition and pattern. Rather than removing all the liner segments to reach the middle row, the pattern change now allows this row to be removed without loosening all the other liners, he says. 

Weba Chute Systems can also install its own chutes, but provides supervision and assistance where the mine arranges the installation itself, he concludes. 

OPTIMISING TRANSFER POINTS IN BROWNFIELDS PROJECTS

As mining companies embark on brownfields initiatives to meet rising market demand for battery and other minerals, the optimising of transfer points presents a valuable opportunity to deliver more output cost effectively.

Alwin Nienaber, Technical Director at Weba Chute Systems, says that when correctly used technology and experience provide a powerful combination when expanding production capacity. Technology can be leveraged to facilitate rapid and accurate scanning of the existing configuration of infrastructure into which the improved chutes are to be installed. Further, he says, the company brings a wealth of expertise to advise on valuable adjustments in the relationship between chutes and other equipment.

Alwin Nienaber, Technical Director at Weba Chute Systems.
Alwin Nienaber, Technical Director at Weba Chute Systems.

“Custom engineered chutes and transfer points have been shown to facilitate smoother flow of mined material, with greater reliability and uptime for a more streamlined and productive operation,” explains Nienaber. “The initial focus when providing transfer point solutions to a brownfields project is usually to take careful note of the physical layout so that chutes are designed with spatial constraints in mind.”

This can be most accurately and efficiently achieved using 3D laser scanning of the existing layout, to rapidly gather detailed measurements of large infrastructure on a customer’s site. Using this data, a precise 3D model can be generated on the basis of which the necessary chutes and componentry can be designed and manufactured.

“This aligns well with Weba Chute Systems’ considerable in-house expertise in chute design, as each chute we build is unique to the application it serves,” Nienaber says. “It is important to remember that every transfer point exists in a relationship to other equipment, such as a screen, crusher or conveyor belt.”

He highlights that an understanding of this relationship will underpin the productive application of transfer point design and installation. Indeed, while the 3D scanning and modelling technology provides a valuable starting point for design there is also scope for added improvements in the plant layout.

“On so many of the sites that we visit and assess, we can soon identify where changes in the relationship between the transfer points and other equipment can deliver better results,” says Nienaber. “While it is sometimes difficult – even costly – to implement some of these changes, the customer reaps many times the value in terms of uninterrupted volume flow, uptime and productivity.”

The first prize when installing transfer points, he emphasises, is always the optimal solution – which may mean reconsidering the position of the upstream and downstream equipment. In fact, this is always the starting point for Weba Chute Systems’ transfer point solutions: to achieve the most productive result for the customer.

“With our engineered design approach, we always consider the context of where our chutes are going to operate, and our decades of field experience allow us to advise the customer what will work best,” he says. “We might advise on how adjusting the position of a conveyor’s head pulley, for instance, would improve chute performance and overall plant efficiency.”

He notes that, while certain configuration changes might exceed budget constraints, the company’s intervention often allows for positive modifications to be made. A recent example of this was in a contract for a South African iron ore producer in the Northern Cape. Weba Chute Systems was asked to address the mine’s challenge where an existing competitor’s chute needed attention every two days  which was severely hampering production.

“We designed and installed the optimal customised chute, but also recommended some related adjustments,” he says. “The design was a split chute, and the plant needed to speed up its conveyor quite considerably – as well as lifting the head pulley slightly – to achieve the necessary results.”

The changes recommended had financial implications, so the customer required considerable certainty that the solution would be successful. To underpin its plan, Weba Chute Systems digitally modelled the proposed design and simulated its operation using software that visualised the movement of material through the chute.

“Used by our skilled designers, this powerful software delivers more than a pretty picture,” emphasises Nienaber. “The simulation presents in video format exactly how equipment will be positioned and how material will flow through the system.”

Fundamental to these kinds of solutions, of course, is a close collaboration with the customer, built on a high level of trust in the company’s past performance. Aligned to this is Weba Chute Systems’ commitment to see through any project it embarks upon, he says.

“Our customers know we never walk away from a project – and this is an important factor in brownfields projects where one is often working within existing constraints rather than a clean slate,” he argues. “We have confidence in our people and our designs, and remain accountable for any solution we provide until it performs to levels we have promised.”

Another important factor in many projects is the level of degradation of mined material, which the company prides itself on reducing through its scientific, streamlined approach to the dynamics of bulk materials handling.

“An example of where this was important was a steel plant in Turkey where we installed a number of our chutes,” he explains. “The customer required minimal ore degradation, and even monitors the ore passing through each chute to ensure fines generation is kept to a minimum.”

Weba Chute Systems was required to incorporate samplers in its installations in this plant, and these samplers generate the data to verify the chutes are performing to expectation. The company’s custom design allows greater control over the direction, flow and velocity of material, whose volume and characteristics are specific to each application.

ZIMPLATS SEES SIGNIFICANT DUST REDUCTION AND INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY WITH WEBA CHUTE SYSTEMS

Custom engineered chute systems have significantly reduced dust levels while increasing productivity at Zimplats. Over the last two decades, Weba Chute Systems has installed 99 of its tailormade transfer points in various applications across the mine and processing plants.

These bespoke installations span various applications including conveyor onto conveyor transfer chutes, apron feeder discharge chutes, mill feed chutes, conveyor onto bins transfer chutes, screen over and under size chutes, silo chutes, and transfer chutes at the crushing and screening stations.

Weba Chute Systems recently secured another contract to provide ten custom-engineered transfer chutes for the expansion of an underground crusher station at Zimplats.

Ted Cruikshank, Weba Chute Systems’ Project Manager, explains that these chutes will handle the transportation of run-of-mine material from the ore pass to the underground crusher and from the crusher to the outgoing conveyor. He says the engineering and construction of these chutes will ensure a fit-for-purpose robust solution with the height of the chutes ranging from two to six metres.

Sharing specifics, Cruikshank say that the chutes before the crusher are designed to manage large material up to 650 mm in size from a vibrating feeder, with a maximum tonnage of 1,100 tph. “Other chutes will transport the feeder’s undersize, less than 180mm in size, at 550 tph, while still others will be employed in conveyor-to-conveyor applications, feeding 1,500mm wide belts with up to 1,350 tph of material and a maximum lump size of 250mm.”

Weba Chute Systems’ unique chute design philosophy, based on the cascade system, extends the wear life of the chute through the strategic placement of dead boxes, creating a layer of ore for the moving material to flow over. Replaceable lips are incorporated on the dead boxes facilitating easy and quick swap out at the necessary intervals. Easily accessible inspection doors are also a feature which will ensure maintenance becomes an effortless process.

Cruikshank says that this design has proven particularly effective at Zimplats due to the abrasiveness of platinum ore, and the Weba chutes will continue to ensure the smooth, controlled flow of mined and crushed material, leading to less wear, damage and spillage on conveyor belts and a marked reduction in dust.

Weba Chute Systems’ innovative design has been particularly effective in reducing dust levels. Izak Potgieter, Systems Manager at Weba Chute Systems ,cites the example of the bunker discharge chutes.

“In this application considerable dust levels were created due to material of up to 500 mm in size moving through the conventional transfer point at a rate of 600 tph with no control of the material result in an uneven flow creating a lot of energy for dust particle to expand into the surrounding atmosphere.”

Following the replacement of the conventional transfer point with a custom engineered Weba chute dust levels were considerably reduced by about 40% and Potgieter explains that by controlling the velocity of the material it is not only possible to reduce dust generation but also to improve flow control reducing impact and wear which in turn minimises maintenance downtime.

Hilmax, Weba Chute Systems’ local agent in Zimbabwe, will oversee the chute installations and provide spare sets of wearing lip liners for each chute to ensure optimal uptime for Zimplats.

WEBA CHUTE SYSTEMS SECURES CONTRACT TO SUPPLY CHUTES TO SIBANYE-STILLWATER’S MARIKANA OPERATION

Weba Chutes Systems, a leading local manufacturer of custom engineered chute systems, has secured a contract to supply four chutes to Sibanye-Stillwater’s Marikana operation in South Africa. These systems will replace existing conventional chutes that have been underperforming and failing to meet the required standards set by Sibanye-Stillwater.

Render from the 3D scan data taken during the site survey showing the relationship between the current equipment on site.
Render from the 3D scan data taken during the site survey showing the relationship between the current equipment on site.

The four surge bin discharge chutes supplied by Weba Chute Systems will be responsible for feeding UG2 ore with a chrome content of 25% onto a vibrating feeder at the Marikana operation. The vibrating feeder operates at a peak capacity of 250 tons per hour, conveying fines with a maximum lump size of 90 mm and a bulk density of 3.8t/m³.

According to Dewald Tintinger, Technical Manager at Weba Chute Systems, the existing conventional chutes at the concentrator had been causing frequent blockages as well as exhibiting high wear, both of which was unacceptable. “As always when faced with such situations our objective is to custom engineer a chute system that will address these issues and consistently perform according to the required specifications in the long term,” he says. 

Showing an engineer in the process of designing a Weba transfer chute.
Showing an engineer in the process of designing a Weba transfer chute.

These Weba chutes will be manufactured from 6 mm 350 WA mild steel plate, and will incorporate Weba chute quick release lips for enhanced efficiency. 

Tintinger says that Weba chutes are renowned for their reliability and durability under the most demanding operational conditions with a typical lifespan of up to 10 years in the field. Many installations have, however, surpassed this lifespan, continuing to deliver optimal performance.

“We continue to receive worldwide recognition for the unique Weba chute concept which is based on the principle of material impacting on surfaces that already contain material, ensuring efficient material flow,” he says. “One of the key requirements in transfer chute design is guiding and controlling the material throughout the system and we achieve this by leveraging our cascade or “supertube” concept, which ensures material-to-material contact at all times. Our chutes are engineered to precisely control the direction, flow and velocity of conveyed material, considering factors such as belt width, belt speed, material sizes, shape and throughput.”

Weba transfer chutes being fabricated at Weba Chute Systems’ facility in Germiston.
Weba transfer chutes being fabricated at Weba Chute Systems’ facility in Germiston.

By creating this cascade effect, the generation of dust and fine particles during material transfer is significantly minimised leading to a marked reduction in unwanted dust and noise pollution with associated improvements in health and safety. 

Achieving the correct and appropriate chute design is crucial, and Tintinger emphasises that the company doesn’t just simply manufacture chutes. “We assess both current and historical data to fully understand the specific requirements and this enables us to identify the critical factors that need to be addressed for a specific application. 

“Weba Chute Systems has seen remarkable growth and this further solidifies our position as an international market leader in this field. This statement is also underpinned by the increasing number of retrofit projects we are currently undertaking which indicates that conventional chutes often fail to meet expectations,” he says. 

Tintinger attributes this to the prevailing belief that chutes are merely platework. Leveraging innovative technology, Weba Chutes Systems established the benchmark for custom engineered transfer points that address the inherent limitations of conventional chute design.

While Weba chutes have primarily been applied in the mining industry for the transfer of materials such as copper, gold, iron ore, diamonds, coal and platinum, the company has noted a growing demand from other sectors including aggregates and sand quarrying, power generation, steelmaking, cement production and food processing.

CHUTES ARE KEY LINKS IN PLANT OPERATIONS

When a new plant is being planned, considerable care needs to be taken in the design and placement of the transfer chutes, argues Mark Baller, managing director of Weba Chute Systems.   

“In our experience, there has been considerable disruption caused to plant operations by transfer chutes which are not optimally designed or properly located in the flowsheet,” says Baller. “This is a concern, as this disruption can cause financial loss that is not commensurate with the value of the equipment.”

Conveyor feeding material to a Weba cascade head chute.

He says the relatively low cost of a chute compared to the high value items like crushers and screens may be one reason why they are not taken as seriously as they should be. For example, the chute supplier is often engaged quite late in the plant design process. 

“The plant layout has then already been decided, and the chutes are just expected to be slotted in as and where the space is available,” he says. “We request our clients to talk to us earlier, so that we can give the necessary valuable input on where chutes would be best placed. It is costly and time consuming to try and adjust plant designs further down the line.”

Conveyor feeding material to a Weba cascade head chute.

It is even more costly to make changes after the plant is built and is then found to experience challenges at the transfer points. This may even require complex modifications such as moving the head pulley or changing structures and flows to allow for a different flow path. 

“Nonetheless, we have developed a reputation for success even in these difficult situations,” he says. “We helped an Australian iron ore mine which was having to shut its plant down every six weeks due to problems with its transfer chutes.”

The mine needed to extend its chute maintenance window from six to eight weeks, so Weba Chute Systems engineered a solution for their challenging ore – which was sticky when wet. This was achieved, with maintenance interval in fact being lengthened from six to 12 weeks. 

“Our improvements meant that the transfer chutes were lasting longer than the other equipment, and were no longer an obstacle in the mine’s strategy to reduce the number of shutdowns each year,” he says.