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Automated, online measurement of bulk material size distribution on conveyor using 3D profile imaging at Boliden Mines


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Author M J Thurley, D Degerfeldt, J Nyström, R Nordenskjöld and L Lindqvist


Rock breakage is a major component of all mining and mineral processing operations with the particle size distribution linked to productivity through the comminution chain. Optimisation and automatic control of comminution, material handling, and agglomeration processes is a complex task with large potential for gains in productivity, and energy efficiency. A key factor in realising these gains is the requirement for fully-automated online particle size distribution measurement to provide the necessary feedback and input for control. Moreover, to enable automatic control system it is necessary to provide a consistent, reliable size distribution measurement that avoids the significant errors resulting from under-sizing overlapped particles and over-sizing clusters of fine particles. Published literature and observation of commercial systems indicate a body of predominantly 2D photographic based particle size measurement systems that suffer from a number of significant errors except in the simplest case of a monolayer of particles under good illumination with limited colour variation in the material.

In order to overcome these limitations a university and industry collaboration developed three-dimensional particle measurement (3DPM) between 2006 and 2012, based on 3D surface profile measurement of the visible material on conveyor. 3DPM avoids particle delineation errors due to variation in material colour and shadows, detects overlapping versus non-overlapping particles, and identifies areas of fine particles as fines and not large rocks. 3DPM measures: the visible material and calculates its particle size distribution, bulk volume, detects boulders, and conveyor belt fill factor in an automated consistent manner. Furthermore, 3DPM’s advanced algorithms allow observation of particle variation that would otherwise be undetected without the capacity to identify visible areas-of-fines and overlapped particles. Boliden Mines has installed 3DPM at three operations for measurement between the stockpile silo and grinding mill, and measurement after the primary crusher. Fragmentation measurements across multiple years of measurement are presented with some observations of plant behaviour. In the future 3DPM results will be incorporated into automatic control strategies for plant optimisation. 3DPM is used across a wide range of material types and applications that also includes; limestone aggregate for quality control in manufacturing, agglomerates for closed-loop automatic control in chemical production, and measurement of coke for size-based blending feed control to the blast furnace in steel production.


Thurley, M J, Degerfeldt, D, Nyström, J, Nordenskjöld, R and Lindqvist, L, 2018. Automated, online measurement of bulk material size distribution on conveyor using 3D profile imaging at Boliden Mines, in Proceedings 14th AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference 2018, pp 641–652 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).