Thursday, 23 June 2011

Computational Modelling '11- Conference Diary

Computational Modelling '11 was held in Falmouth, UK, from June 21st to 22nd 2011. Below is my diary of events, which I hope will be supplemented by comments from delegates.

June 21st

I opened the conference this morning, thanking our sponsor DEM Solutions, and then introduced the delegates to Cornwall, this unique part of England.

This is the 3rd MEI Computational Modelling conference, the previous two being held in Cape Town, but the number of participants has always been roughly the same. Because of its highly specialised nature, this will always be a small, but highly focused event, attended by highly motivated specialists. This year we have 41 delegates, representing 12 countries: UK (11), Australia (8), Sweden (6 ), Brazil (4), South Africa (3), Chile and USA two each, and one each from Germany, France, Canada, Japan and Norway.

With Stephen Neethling of Imperial College
As my knowledge of computational modelling is virtually zero, we have been fortunate to have had the help of our consultant, Dr. Stephen Neethling, of Imperial College, UK, who introduced this morning's technical sessions. My lack of knowledge will be reflected in this diary, which will mainly be about people. I highlighted in this morning's opening that conferences are very much about people as well as papers, which is why our coffee and lunch breaks are longer than at many conferences.

Things have certainly moved on- when I was at Camborne School of Mines, almost 20 years ago, I dabbled in the ancient art of modelling. This was relatively simple empirical modelling, computers in those days limiting the extensive use of fundamental modelling of complex systems. As Stephen pointed out in his opening remarks, very complex systems can now be tackled directly, the complexity often presenting exciting challenges, which modern computers can accommodate. So the next few days should provide state of the art case studies, and I welcome comments from delegates to help compose an archival report on the event. Abstracts of all the papers can be viewed here.

Things have moved on in other ways too. It is not too long since presentations were made via 35mm and overhead slides, but today a first for us, when Stephen Neething presented his paper "Modelling multi-phase through packed beds and heaps using Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics" using 3-D animations! Maybe holograms in 2-years' time?

There were 11 presentations today, focusing mainly on DEM and CFD. Prof. Aibing Yu's strong team from the University of New South Wales presented 4 papers, and there were also 4 presentations from the Imperial College team, also here in force. There are also 12 posters, which will be displayed for the conference duration.
The University of New South Wales team: Dr. M. Wang, D. Y. Shen,
Prof. A. Yu, Dr. K. Chu and Dr. S. Kuang
The Imperial College team: G. Parameswaran, Dr. P. Brito-Parada,
Dr. G. Morris and Dr. S. Neethling

The coastal path walk, a feature of all Falmouth MEI confences, was a perfect way to unwind after such an intensive day, and also to get to know each other better. The weather, which has been inclement recently, was kind to us, and over half the delegates took part on the 5 mile walk, which ended with welcome local beer at the old Chain Locker pub overlooking one of the quays.

The coastal path above Swanpool Beach

The Pendennis Castle blockhouse overlooking the River Fal

Relaxing at the Chain Locker in old Falmouth
June 22nd

Another full day today with 12 presentations. One of these was given by Dr. John Favier, of DEM Solutions, who has sponsored this, and the previous two computational modelling conferences held in Cape Town. John asked the question "Is this the end of an era for empirical based modelling?" Designers and operators of bulk minerals handling and processing equipment, such as transport and feed conveyors, conveyor transfer points, crushers, screens and mills have traditionally had to rely on empirical methods and field experience for design and troubleshooting. Empirical methods limit the options for engineers to improve the performance of equipment relative to the properties of the bulk material, and variation in operating conditions. Process optimisation is very often difficult and laborious using such methods while over-dependence on the use of design rules constrains design innovation.

There are now alternatives based on computational modelling that offer a more powerful, and flexible toolkit for engineers to increase the performance and reliability of their equipment. John discussed some of the computational modelling technologies that are beginning to replace empirical methods as the default tools used by engineers designing and troubleshooting minerals handling and processing equipment. In particular, he looked at the requirements for deploying DEM simulation tools in the design and optimisation of bulk materials handling and comminution equipment and the benefits being realised by practitioners in the industry.

His talk was supplemented by some excellent presentations this morning on the role of DEM in a variety of unit operations, such as sorting and comminution.

DEM Solutions' EDEM is the world's leading DEM-based simulation software technology for optimising bulk materials handling and processing operations. The company was also represented at the conference by Senthil Arumugam, who is the sales manager for academic markets. The EDEM Academic Partner Program offers access to EDEM simulation technology with products designed for use in research and teaching. Of particular interest is EDEM Classroom, a fully functional version of EDEM Academic, tailored for student needs, and allowing them to learn the fundamentals of particle mechanics and gain hands-on experience with the software and methods used by industry to solve bulk materials handling and processing problems. EDEM Academic is currently being used in over 150 academic and research centres around the globe, including Chalmers University, Sweden, Lulea University, Sweden, the University of Exeter, UK, and Australia's University of Wollongong, all represented at the conference.

Senthil Arumugam (centre) of DEM Solutions with Prof. M. Evertsson, J. Quist,
G. Asbjornsson and R. Johansson of Chalmers University, Sweden

At the end of the afternoon session, which featured papers on the modelling of heap leaching, Stephen Neethling summarised the last two days, which has highlighted the rapid devlopments in computational modelling, and its application to mineral processing operations.

Amanda then announced that the next computational modelling conference will be held in 2 years' time, in Falmouth again. A future product of Computational Modelling '11 will be a special issue of Minerals Engineering, and I thank our consultant, Stephen Neething, for agreeing to act as advisor to this issue.


  1. Luis Cisternas25 June 2011 at 16:53

    This is my first participation in Computational Modelliing and enjoyed the conference. A possible topic to discuss is the possibility of expanding the conference topics to Systems Engineering (modeling, optimization, and process/equipment design, property modelling) with application in mineral engineering.

  2. This was my first participation in both conferences. It is interesting to see that a lot of simulation work is going on now in the field of mineral processing. Visit with the Barry on the walking tracks near beach side and also to old castle was fabulous.

  3. I am very grateful to all the participants. It was very nice to meet people who share the same passion for computational modelling in material processing, particularly since it is a very small group of researchers and industry professionals around the world.

    Special thanks to Dr. Barry Wills, the team, and DEM-solutions for organizing the conference. It was a success.


  4. Pablo Brito-Parada27 June 2011 at 18:40

    A great conference, very well organised and including a wide range of topics within modelling in mineral processing.

    I agree that the format of the breaks gives delegates the opportunity to discuss things in an informal environment, which I found quite useful.

    I'm looking forward to the next one.

  5. The Proceedings CD is now available at

  6. The conference was great and well planned. I appreciate the time in UK, Falmouth is a really nice place on the english countryside.

    This type of conference is a good way to find out and discuss the latest developments in the research area.


  7. the photos are now available at


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