What not to do when leading a materials handling project !

Here at GraviLoad we undertake a lot of bespoke projects with clients that are building large,  complex solutions of which we are a relatively small part.

What makes the good ones successful and the others that we learn from  :-

  1. Good specification and agreement with the client up front really cements the project objectives and gives you a real point to variance from.
  2. If you don’t know the material properties then make sure you understand them – if you don’t then insist on a sample and get it measured ! If the client wont do that then dont do the project !
  3. Do everything in 3D – if you cant do that then at least create the interfaces of your parts within a 3D environment. The final assembly will always be key in the overall system performance
  4. Communicate effectively – we use dropbox to share data at all points through the project to make sure we are aligned with the client and other teams who we might interface with.
  5. Make sure everything is signed off as correct before manufacture – thats when changes get expensive !
  6. Visualise everything if possible – pictures and videos really help and teams can easily understand them

Don’t do these and projects fail quickly and end up in disputes – not a great way to build relationships !

10 Top Tips for the Best Material Handling !

  • Does your system actively protect the environment by complying with legislation or voluntary standards?
  • Is dust generation creating explosive hazards or threatening the safety and welfare of your employees?
  • With capital costs increasing does your system deliver an optimised cost effective solution?
  • Running costs are increasing so it is important to minimise operating costs. Does your system minimise consumption of valuable resources such as electricity, water, chemicals and filters along with their maintenance and replacement liabilities?
  • Are you maximising business continuity by reducing the amount of downtime and increasing productivity?
  • Are you reducing process waste, lost material due to dust and maintaining the material integrity and therefore increasing your operational margins?  Commodities such as biomass pellets and coal lose their value considerably when damaged in transit.
  • Are you happy with the level of customer service you are receiving?
  • You should be concerned if your system does not demonstrate low velocity change, highly streamlined flow, low impact, very low changes in flow angles and gentle acceleration throughout.
  • You should also be concerned if your installation does not work at low flow rates by going into free-fall or at high volume flow rates when it becomes choked.  This indicates poor equipment selection and set-up which can cause premature wear to the system and damage to the material being handled.
  • If you have any problem with your bulk material handling system then GraviLoad Systems can work with you using their in-house discrete element modelling and 3-D design to overcome all of the above.

No Rail Roading or Argy-Bargy with GraviLoad !!!

Transporting dry bulk by rail and by barge may not be seen as glamorous or large-scale as ship transportation, however the challenges are exactly the same.

  • Protecting the Environment through compliance with legislation and voluntary requirements
  • Management of Risk due to dust generation, lost material build up, explosive hazards and safety and welfare of employees
  • Capital costs are increasing and therefore cost effective solutions are required that are optimized with higher capacity
  • Running costs are increasing and therefore it is important to minimize energy consumption, minimize consumption of valuable resources (such as water and chemicals, sometimes used in dust suppression), reduce maintenance liabilities and replacement costs
  • Reduce the amount of downtime to increase productivity and help business continuity.
  • Increase operational margins by reducing process waste and maintaining value. Commodities such as biomass pellets and coal lose value if damaged in transit.
  • Provide high quality Customer services at all levels

GraviLoad’s proucts  deal with these dry bulk-handling challenges by responding to customer enquiries worldwide on how to minimize dust and damage to materials being handled. There is recognition that current solutions have limitations in terms of performance, capacity and longevity and LoadFast deliver innovative products to address these issues.

We take specific Customer requirements and designs, evaluates and manufactures:

  • Telescopic free-fall chutes
  • Telescopic controlled flow spoon chutes
  • Controlled flow transfer points
  • Fixed vertical controlled flow elements
  • Inclined controlled flow elements – Slalom Chute

Applications include rail, barge, wagon, silo, hopper and ship loading.

Although the patent has expired on the Cleveland Cascade chute and other companies are now building their versions, GraviLoad looked at controlled flow chutes from first principles and developed a product that achieves smooth material transition, through:-

  • Low velocity change.
  • Highly streamlined flow.
  • Low Impact.
  • Very Low changes in flow angles.
  • Gentle Acceleration throughout.

The products are fully designed using 3D Computer Aided Design and fully integrated within the overall design of the system. A key feature is in-house discrete element modelling (DEM) where full-size video and statistical data of the chute’s performance are provided prior to manufacturing as part of the Client sign off process.

GraviLoad does not believe in a “one-size-fits-all” approach and manufactures the chutes and transfer points in materials that deal with the range of properties of the materials being handled. Criteria such as abrasion, chemical reaction, temperature, marine environment, initial capital cost, life-cycle cost and fragility of dry cargo are all considered before selecting mild steel, Weldox, Stainless Steel or High Density Poly Ethylene and where necessary liners to suit, including ceramic. 

GraviLoad collaborates with a wide range of ship loader manufacturers, end users, designers, contractors, silo loaders and engineering companies and receives enquiries from companies right across Europe, North and South America, Middle East, Asia and Australia with the projects equally spread worldwide.

The major challenge for GraviLoad is convincing an industry that is reluctant to adopt new innovative solutions and competition comes from manufacturers in Europe, America and Australasia with their lightweight free fall chute and cascade type chutes known for their limitations, including :-

  • Not working at low flow rates where they become a free-fall chute leading to damage and dust
  • Not working at high flow rates where they become choked
  • Limited in material selection because of their design, leading to premature wear
  • Being sensitive to material properties requiring specialist set up on installation

GraviLoad stays competitive in the market through constant innovation and product development in line with Customer requirements through problem solving, a quality product, fast-response customer service and value for money. GraviLoad is currently refining the chute geometry to reduce even further the damage to the material being handled and also to minimize the wear on the chute material.

Listening to customers raised the issue of controlling flow on an incline and LoadFast developed the Slalom chute after remodeling the performance of other designs that suffered from excessive acceleration.

Recent contracts illustrate the diversity of applications and locations LoadFast operates.

  • Telescopic controlled flow chutes for truck loading Cement Clinker in Colombia
  • Biomass pellet telescopic truck loader for a UK power station
  • Coal silo chute for a South Korean power station.

To assist customers and engineers with design or operational issues “LoadFast Solutions” has been set up to provide consultancy services that can undertake site assessment, design analysis, fault analysis, Discrete Element Modeling (DEM) and 3D design to overcome problems in a cost effective way. Many DEM houses charge considerable amounts of money just to model systems and then do not provide solutions. LoadFast Solutions uses its own in-house DEM to model and redesign accordingly and this service is available to anyone.

Novel Low Dust Chutes

Vertical loading of bulk materials including cement products creates challenges for designers, manufacturers and operators of this equipment with regard to damage and dust. Damage to materials can result in poor process efficiency, and dust creation is both a health and safety and a legislative issue.

Typical vertical loading of materials is by shrouded free fall chutes with extraction, or by Cascade designs. However none of these solutions address the fundamental issues of material flow to avoid dust and damage.

The GraviLoad team have undertaken a complete review of the whole process. Typically the following problems are seen in Cascade systems :-

  • They are limited in mass flow rate due to choking
  • They behave as a free fall chute at low mass flow rates increasing dust, damage and edge wear
  • Mass flow rates are limited by cone shipping size
  • Material has to be forced from horizontal rectangular section on belt to vertical circular cross section, leading to
  • Very high velocity change
  • High dust generation at top of chute
  • They encourage high velocity change at every cascade point increasing dust generation

The GraviLoad controlled flow chute uses spoon based elements and carefully designed geometry to address these fundamental limitations. Fig 1 shows a series of spoon based elements in a stack. These allow the material to flow cleanly from surface to surface, yet can stack telescopically to create a loading chute.

Furthermore the head chute is spoon based creating a smooth, controlled flow transition from belt to first chute element over a range of conveyor angles making tilting head chute systems more efficient and dust free.

Chute stack

Figure 1

Measured Results

The GraviLoad team have undertaken extensive design and test work to establish the correct geometry, and have worked with a University research team in bulk material handling to validate its models.

All our units are designed to meet the customer’s specifications and are designed in 3D solids, Finite Element Analysis tested and then modelled in our own Discrete Element Modelling ( DEM ) system to ensure that we get a “right first time” result. Fig 2 and Fig 3 show a head chute flow model and a spoon element tested in DEM.

LFS DEM Head Chute

Figure 2

LFS DEM Chute stack

Figure 3

In order to fundamentally test the performance of both systems a Cascade and GraviLoad chute of similar outlet cross section were designed and then subjected to DEM testing. Fig 4 shows the parameters that were to be analysed. :-

Table of requirements

Figure 4


Fig 5 shows the velocity distribution comparison between the GraviLoad controlled flow chute and the conventional cascade chute at the same mass flow rate. The GraviLoad chute ( orange ) shows a highly controlled, stable flow with 2/3rds less slow moving particles and excellent high speed control compared to the Cascade chute ( green )

Particle velocity distribution comparisonFigure 5

In summary Fig 6 shows that the GraviLoad chute achieves almost double the control of particle speed in the 1-2.5 m/s range and a 20 % mean weighted lower through the chute. Therefore dust generation will be minimised in the GraviLoad chute

Particle velocity distribution summaryFigure 6

Fig 7 shows the cascade chute at various mass flow rates. This clearly demonstrates the erratic nature of the velocity changes in the chute. At high mass flow rates the number of particles at low velocities increases showing the start of “choking” due to stationary flow. At low mass flow rates the higher velocities start to dominate indicating that the chute starts to behave as a free fall chute. Therefore as the flow rates change particularly at startup / shut down there is a large variation in velocities leading to an increase of dust and damage.

Cascade mass flow rateFigure 7

Fig 8 shows the same change in mass flow rate for the GraviLoad Chute. A highly controlled flow is achieved across the range indicating much improved dust / damage control.

Graviload mass flow rate

Figure 8

Fig 9 and 10 show this mass flow rate issue within the DEM model outputs.  Fig 9 shows the cascade chute as it starts to build up stationary material at high flow rates leading to choking and increased dust generation. Fig 10 shows the GraviLoad chute at the same flow rates – the flow remains controlled decreasing dust generation.

LFS DEM Cascade chute

Figure 9

LFS DEM Cascade chute

Figure 10

Fig 11 shows the summary of the development work. It can be clearly seen that the GraviLoad spoon system outperforms cascade chutes in all aspects of particle velocity control and therefore minimises damage and dust generation.

Summary table

Figure 11

 Design Issues

Whilst the GraviLoad system requires optimised geometry, it can be seen it is highly tolerant to mass flow rate changes. Other studies have been undertaken to also show that it is tolerant to frictional and other particle changes.

For optimum performance from a conveyor based input the following design issues should be considered :-

  1. Exit from the belt into the head chute and first chute element should be by a spoon based surface.
  2. The head chute can tilt for ship loader applications and the conveyor exit can be designed to allow optimised flow at different conveyor angles.
  3. Geometry should be arranged to minimise the velocity change from top to the bottom of the chute to reduce dust
  4. The outlet of the chute must be carefully designed preferably using more spoon surfaces to control the exit velocity and again minimise dust.

This is why all our chutes are designed to the customer’s specification and individually optimised for the application.

Material Choices

GraviLoad is working with a number of different materials and processes to reduce overall costs of chute systems. These are carefully matched to the material, environmental and life requirements.

Our fundamental approach is to avoid lining materials that are expensive initially, compromise the flowing surface, and are difficult to maintain over their life

Of particular interest in the cement industry is our Rotomould design of the spoon elements. This allows us more flexibility in the shape of the element, and can vary material thicknesses to suit wear requirements. Parts are created in a low pressure rotating mould from materials such as High Density Polyethylene ( HDPE ) and can have steel inserts added to improve wear performance.

We also fabricate from SSAB Hardox / Weldox materials to achieve high strength, low wear, low weight elements for particular applications.

Other applications of GraviLoad technology

The fundamental design of the geometry lends itself to other uses in material handling with applications in the cement industry. This is particularly the case in belt to belt transfer. Fig 12 below shows an inline belt to belt transfer. In this case material flow is ejected from the upper belt onto a spoon surface at a matched velocity. Other spoon faces may be used to match the height from inlet to outlet

Straight belt to belt transfer point

Fig 13 below shows the same spoon based approach to right angle belts

Right angle belt to belt transfer point

Ongoing development

The GraviLoad team have developed practical models using its own in house 3D print modelling capability. This allows scale models of particular applications to be physically tested to add more confidence to our “right first time” approach.

University research has been extended to larger scale models to continue to improve the capability of our technology.


The GraviLoad range of controlled flow chutes fundamentally addresses the limitations of conventional cascade chutes.

  1. They provide highly controlled flow over wide mass flow rates and different material properties generating less dust and damage
  2. We can offer the best material compromise for the bulk solid being used
  3. They are designed to exact application requirements
  4. They are fully designed and tested using FEA and DEM before manufacture
  5. Their performance has been externally validated
  6. Our integrated design offers low cost and high performance

Innovate or Die !!!

Aerospace, automotive and communications technology companies have all evolved and innovated to maintain market share. LoadFast Systems are experts in hoist and crane technology with international success and looked to apply that technology to diversify into new sectors. Research into the bulk material handling sector revealed one provider hiding behind a patent and technology that has not evolved for over twenty years and since the patent has expired other companies are now copying that technology to grow their market share.

GraviLoad does not function with a “me too” mentality and spoke to many customers of the incumbent provider and from first principles developed the ideal set of characteristics for the perfect chute.

The GraviLoad team now design and manufacture purpose designed ship-loading chutes for integration in Port facilities and provides a full design, analysis and manufacturing service for clients worldwide.

GraviLoad produce a range of chute systems from traditional free-fall systems through to the innovative and unique, patent applied for, telescopic controlled flow spoon chute. Incorporation of these chutes in ship-loaders significantly reduces the dust and damage to the materials being handled, when compared to conventional cascade chutes.

Designed from fundamentals, LoadFast achieve :-

  1. Design and manufacture to the client’s requirements.
  2. True “plug and play”, with no on-site tuning required.
  3. Wide tolerance to variations in flow rates and material properties.
  4. Significantly lower lifetime cost.
  5. Wear properties optimised by the use of a wide range of materials and coatings

The products are fully designed using 3D Computer Aided Design and fully integrated within the overall design of the ship-loading system. A key feature is our own in-house discrete element modelling (DEM) where we provide full-size video and statistical data of the chute’s performance prior to manufacturing as part of the Client sign off process.

GraviLoad also designs and manufactures all of the electronics and control systems to suit any application.

The chutes can be optimised for flow and wear life for a range of commodities from animal feeds through to cement clinker and as each chute is designed to suit the specific application, GraviLoad can apply the right compromises throughout the design process. All products are manufactured from a range of materials including specialist high-strength / low-weight Hardox steel, stainless steel (if budget permits), through to high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and the provision of ceramic liners for high-abrasion situations.

Being purpose designed does not mean higher price as the chutes are optimised to suit the specific customer requirement and optimisation does not mean that the chute only performs within tight parameters. GraviLoad product development has optimised the velocity distribution over a wide range of flow rates, compared to the significant changes that are seen in a cascade chute that can result in either choking or free-fall.

Our major competitors are an industry that is reluctant to adopt innovative solutions and the companies that manufacture conventional cascade chutes. Chutes that were developed over 20 years ago and have not moved on significantly and are known for their defects, such as :-

  1. Not working at low flow rates where they become a freefall chute leading to damage and dust
  2. Not working at high flow rates where they become choked
  3. Limited in material selection because of their design, leading to premature wear
  4. Being sensitive to material properties requiring specialist set up on installation

GraviLoad creates competitive solutions by using material flow fundamentals and modelling to create the optimum flow and are innovating further with the inclusion of different flow shapes that are specifically optimised to reduce wear as well as lower dust and damage.

Our innovative design, technology and competitive pricing have attracted the attention of the majority of ship loader manufacturers and demand is growing.

Recently LoadFast delivered controlled flow spoon chutes for a Cement Clinker application in Colombia. These were designed in 3-D from standard components in 4 weeks and then were extensively modelled in DEM and carefully optimised for flow. Manufacturing the chute assemblies was achieved in a further 4 weeks to a tight client schedule. Full documentation and certification was supplied as standard.

GraviLoad is a Scottish based company. It has a high level of internal engineering expertise and manufactures in quality assured facilities in Europe. Working with expert partners such as SSAB and Glasgow Caledonian University, GraviLoad constantly pushes the boundaries of reducing dust and wear, and to provide the best products. Our technology can also be applied to land based systems such as silos and transfer points.

Another Innovation award for the GraviLoad process !!!

We have been awarded another Innovation Award for its novel low dust chute designs.

Our unique integrated design process really impressed the team at IMechE and the award was given in recognition of this


IMechE Bulk Materials Handling Award for Innovation goes to Graviload

LoadFast systems wins the IMechE Bulk Materials Handling Award for Innovation for their product the Graviload. They have integrated several key aspects into this product, including solids handling, material properties, FEA, DEM, controlling velocity and tackling dust generation. reference 



The award follows on from our initial Innovation Award in 2014 where the team one against competition in Scotland .


If you know of a company that deserves to be entered for the IMechE awards process you can find their on line link here

Are you a Smart Customer Making the Solution Fit the Problem !!!

GraviLoad designs and manufactures highly cost effective bulk material handling solutions to problems all over the world and it never ceases to amaze us that compromise solutions are being forced upon end users.

Responding to a recent project it was clear that rather than using a single chute that could handle the flow from zero to 1,200 tonnes per hour, two chutes were specified from zero to 600 tonnes per hour and 600 to 1,200 tonnes per hour. Clearly this was at least double the cost, double the complexity and would result in operational inefficiencies whilst the chutes are brought out of storage and swapped over. Not a satisfactory situation.


End users have been convinced for too long that the only way is based on the technical limitations of certain products and there seems to be a three size fits all mentality rather than making the solution fit the problem.

Innovative GraviLoad Controlled Flow Spoon chutes provide a flexible performance across a wide range of flow rates without suffering from free-fall at low flow rates leading to damage and dust, choking at high flow rates, premature wear and breakage due to the construction and the design or being sensitive to the properties of the material being handled requiring specialist set up at installation.


Enlightened customers are moving away from the three size fits all approach and embracing GraviLoad chutes and transfer points designed with a geometry and constructed in materials that cope with the range of properties and flow rates of materials being handled. Abrasion, chemical properties, temperature, marine environment, initial capital cost, life-cycle cost and the fragility of dry cargo are all considered before selecting from mild steel, Weldox, Stainless Steel or High Density Poly Ethylene and where necessary liners to suit, including ceramic.

Join the enlightened ones and talk to GraviLoad about making the solution fit your problem.