Mechanical Classifiers

Hitzrot, H. W.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 14
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
Introduction Mechanical classifiers consist of a settling tank with parallel sides and a sloping bottom equipped with a mechanism which continuously agitates the pulp and removes the settled solids. The functions served by mechanical classifiers include the following: (1) allow the particles larger than the desired size to settle in the tank and provide an overflow product with a minimum of oversize particles, (2) produce an overflow product of sufficiently high solids content to meet the requirements of the subsequent processing steps, (3) agitate the pulp and permit separation of the entrapped undersize particles so they can report in the overflow product, and (4) drain and remove the underflow solids from the settling pool. Various types of mechanisms have been used to agitate the pulp and remove the settled solids, which include: (I) endless belt and chain drags, (2) reciprocating rakes, (3) helical flights mounted on a rotating shaft which extends through the settling pool, (4) helical flights inside of a rotating drum which contains the classifier pool, (5) troughed conveyor belts forming the settling pool in the concave curve of the belt closely following the tail pulley, and (6) low-speed impellers agitating the underflow settled in the apex of cone-type mechanical classifiers.23 The principal use of mechanical classifiers has been in closed¬-circuit wet grinding; however, this application has been widely displaced over the past few decades by the hydrocyclone. The hydrocyclone installation, including its feed pump, offers lower capital costs and requires less floor space. Nominally it produces an overflow prod¬uct of higher solids content, compared with a mechanical classifier, for comparable classification size up to 400µm (35 mesh). However, these advantages of the hydrocyclone are being gained at the sacrifice of some of the advantages of the mechanical classifier. The mechanical classifier requires less power and has lower maintenance costs than the hydrocyclone and its feed pump. The underflow product from the mechanical classifier can have a higher solids content and contain less entrapped undersize particles than the comparable product from the hydrocyclone. Consequently, it is capable of operating at a higher classification efficiency. A reduced circulating load24, 25 results under these conditions in a closed-circuit grinding application. Other applications for mechanical classifiers include desliming, dewatering, and washing operations. Sand-slime separation may be achieved using one or more stages of mechanical classifiers. Typical applications would include washing and deslimining of concrete aggre¬gate or sand; glass sand; abrasives; oyster shells; phosphate rock; iron, nickel, and chromium ores; alumina; zeolites; solar salt; and precipitates from chemical processing. As an example for the latter, Bitzer26 recommended the use of mechanical classifiers for countercur¬rent cementation-in-pulp of copper from the leach liquor. Similarly, mechanical classifiers are used in uranium processing27 for separation of the barren sands from the pregnant leach solution. Depending on the particle size and the effectiveness of the sand¬slime separation, the sand product from mechanical classifiers may be drained to solids content approaching 84%. Thus, mechanical classifiers are frequently used as dewatering equipment for various applications, such as: 1) Make a product having suitable solids content for subsequent transport by belt conveyor. 2) Provide a drained product to reduce cost of drying. 3) Provide a drained, washed, heavy sand product for return to the circuit. 4) Recover fine values from dilute plant effluents from coal, sand, phosphate-rock, and iron-ore washing plants and from steel-mill flue¬dust scrubbers. 5) Drain residual reagents of a preceding process stage prior to conditioning with reagents of different characteristics, e.g., cationic¬anionic flotation of phosphate rock, iron ore, etc. Design and Operating Features The proper selection of mechanical classification equipment re¬quires that the properties of the solids and liquid are adequately de¬fined. The following descriptive information regarding the solids is desired: feed rate, chemical and physical composition, density, tem¬perature, size analysis, and desired separation size. For the liquid used, the following data would be needed: feed rate, density, viscosity, pH, and temperature. Settling Area. The pool area required to permit a particle larger than the separation size to settle depends on the density and shape of the particle and on the density and viscosity of the pulp within the classifier pool. These criteria of the solids and pulp determine the settling rate which, in turn, determines the settling area required. Determination of the settling rate by long-tube batch tests can be used to calculate the settling area. A theoretical approach for estimat¬ing the settling area requirements is discussed in Chapter 1, Classifica¬tion Theory. This procedure can be used when neither test data nor empirical data from similar operations are available. Data on settling-area requirements and settling rates have been compiled by the manufacturers of mechanical classifiers. The approxi¬mate settling area required for a particular separation size can be estimated by using the curve shown in Fig. 65. This curve applies for closed-circuit grinding applications. For dilute velocity classification in open circuit, desliming, the length of the overflow weir, W, multiplied by the weir's mean distance from the feed opening, E, is used as the design criterion, instead of the settling area, in sizing the classifier. The area requirements, W X E, for dilute velocity classification can be expressed in terms of volumetric flow, Q, and settling rate, Rs, as follows: W x E = Q/(18.06 Rs) where W and E are feet, Q is gallons per minute, and Rs is inches per second. Overflow Weir. The hydraulic head, and thus the velocity at which the overflow crests the overflow weir, is one of the factors controlling the particle size of classification. Consequently, the length of the overflow weir must be designed to provide the overflow velocity which allows the particles larger than the desired size of classification to settle in the working area of the pool. Obtaining the necessary
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