How Smart Machine Technologies overcame the challenges of manufacturing explosion doors that could withstand the hostile environment of a nickel mine.
PT Vale is the largest nickel mining company in Indonesia. They’re responsible for 25% of the country’s entire nickel output. Most of that gets exported to Japan and is used throughout many manufacturing processes worldwide.
Client: PT Vale Indonesia
Application: 80 replacement blast doors for a nickel mine furnace
Challenge: The new blast doors, along with their components, needed to withstand temperatures of up to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, high humidity, and offer superior corrosion resistance.
Solution: Custom design and fabrication of explosion doors, switches, gaskets, and panels
Results: Smart Machine Technologies was able to successfully build 80 explosion-relief doors for PT Vale’s unique specifications on time and on budget.
The Challenge: High Temperatures and Humidity
When PT Vale, a nickel mining company in Indonesia, needed to replace their 15-year-old explosion doors, they turned to Smart Machine Technologies (SMT). During the initial discovery phase of the project, SMT realized that they would have to completely redesign both the blast doors and associated components.
The new doors needed to withstand flue gases that can reach up to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. This required SMT to pay close attention to the composition of the stainless steel that they used. The switch that activates an alarm during an explosion event was another problem. Due to the high operating temperatures of the process as well as Indonesia’s high humidity and torrential rain, it required a unique and completely waterproof solution.
Adding to the challenge was the design of the mechanism that releases the doors when pressure builds up. It requires the usage of magnets, but they tend to rapidly degrade when exposed to high temperatures. SMT therefore needed to identify a supplier that could provide an extremely unique and expensive type of magnet to withstand the furnace’s extreme temperatures.
SMT quickly got to work tackling this monumental challenge.
Innovative Solutions for a Challenging Problem
When the doors were first manufactured, insufficient data was available on the gas composition for the flue gases present which led to some corrosion issues. The first task was to identify which type of stainless steel material was best suited for the environment.
PT Vale provided the gas composition charts, which showed a large amount of sulfuric acid contained within the flue gas. These high levels were a considerable concern, as sustained exposure will cause ordinary steel to rust prematurely.
Chromium is a metal that is highly resistant to corrosion and can withstand the high-temperature flues of a furnace. SMT created new doors using 316 L stainless steel, which contains far more chromium than the original doors built with 316 stainless steel. 316 L was well suited for use in place of the more expensive 310 because the amount of sulfuric acid in Indonesia’s ore is lower than in other parts of the world.
SMT then turned their attention to the various components of the blast doors, such as the limit switches, panels, and gaskets. They required waterproofing to withstand the hot and humid environment.
Since mining is a 24/7 operation, the customer also wanted to be alerted once one of the doors has opened. However, it’s challenging to find an off-the-shelf switch that is rated for operating at extreme temperatures. SMT came up with a custom design that included an enclosure, switch, and a proprietary way of activating the switch.
Results & Successes: On Time and On Budget
Working together, SMT and PT Vale quickly tackled the various challenges that building explosion-relief doors for this type of environment brought, such as using a unique type of stainless steel, limit switch, gasket, and frame.
In total, SMT built 80 custom explosion relief doors and their associated components. Manufacturing commenced in May of 2020, and the initial round of eight doors was air-freighted to Indonesia in September. The remainder of the order was completed in December of 2020.
PT Vale was happy with the doors from both a longevity and safety perspective.
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