Bulk material handling in a nutshell

What is bulk material handling

Bulk material handling is a branch of engineering specializing in design of mechanical equipment for supply and transportation, processing or packaging of bulk ingredients. Bulk material handling is used in 70% of industrial processes -from agriculture and mining to manufacturing and construction.

What are bulk materials

Bulk materials are powdery, granular or cloddy ingredients which are produced, stored and delivered in bulk. They can be sold by weight, volume or size. Examples of bulk materials are minerals (coal, ores, shale, mica and lime), soil compounds (sand and gravel), handled ingredients (gypsum, cement, ash, plastic and chemicals), and agricultural output (rice, feed, flour and grain).

For a successful design of bulk material handling system, it is important to know the materials characteristics that will affect the materials behavior. These characteristics include for example the bulk density, particle size and shape distribution, cohesion, adhesion, angle of repose, flowability, moisture content, and corrosivity.

Types of bulk materials handling equipment

Bulk material handling equipment are produced specifically for their designed use case but most of the systems have common elements and features. The full handling system includes an unloading station, a conveying system, material storage equipment, batching equipment and filling/packaging station.

  • An unloading station is an entry place where bulk solid materials are discharged into the system. It can be a crane with a bucket which, truck or railcar unloading station, bag dumping station or other form of equipment.
  • A conveying mechanism can be a pneumatic conveyor, screw conveyor, bucket elevator, drag chain conveyor or a mix of them.
  • Storage system can be in a form of storage silo, stockpile, tank or hopper. There the materials are kept before, during and after the process.
  • Batching equipment is applied where there is a need to carefully dispense the bulk ingredients for further treatment or packaging.
  • A filling or packaging station is used when discharging processed material for packaging and dispatch for sale.

Which industries use bulk material handling

Bulk material handling is a fundamental part of every end-use industry related with dry bulk components. Food and beverage, consumer products manufacturing, chemical and pharmaceutical production, wood, paper and textile, agriculture, electronics mining, mineral and metal industries – all of them involve handling of bulk ingredients.


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