A coupled FEM/DEM model for pipe conveyor systems: Analysis of the contact forces on belt

Q. J. Zheng, M. H. Xu, K.W. Chu, R.H. Pan, A. B. Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


The use of Pipe Belt Conveyor (PBC) has gained more and more popularity in bulk solids handling. Compared to the traditional trough conveyors, PBC can allow tighter curves and steeper gradients of conveyor routes and thus better suits the applications in difficult terrains. It has many unique mechanical characteristics which are not well understood yet. This paper proposes a coupled finite element model (FEM) and discrete element method (DEM) model to investigate the mechanics of a PBC system, with particular reference to the distribution of contact force in the pipe section. This FEM/DEM model considers comprehensively the formation of pipe from a flat belt and the microscopic structure of discrete particles under gravity, and thus can well describe the states of both conveyor belt and bulk solids. The predictions of the contact forces are shown to agree well with the previous experimental data under different conditions. Using this approach, the distribution of contact forces under different load conditions, i.e. zero gravity (ZG), empty pipe (VF 0%), volume fill of 40% (VF 40%) and 80% (VF 80%) are obtained and their dependencies on the rotation angle of pipe are investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)480-489
Number of pages10
JournalPowder Technology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Bulk solids handling
  • Pipe belt conveyor
  • Finite element method
  • Discrete element method
  • Contact force
  • Granular materials

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