The first twin roll mineral sizers were jointly developed by the Pickard family-owned company Sheffield Gears and released in 1978.
The machines were originally built to sit between transfer points and make sure run-of-mine coal was transferred onto conveyors in a smaller size to prevent blockages and down time.
They are designed for softer, low-abrasive ore types such as coal but also are used in various Pilbara iron ore mines especially where mining has gone below the water table.
In these cases the raw output usually has a higher moisture content and contains a fair bit of clay. This can cause headaches for operators of primary gyratory and jaw cone crushers which are not really designed to handle wet sticky material.
While the Pickard family-developed technology is evident in all sizers on the market place, Sheffield Gears was sold in 1990.
The family moved on to set up the well-known sizer manufacturer Phoenix TRM,and Alan Pickard’s son Lee has now based himself at SSMAC in Shenshui, China, to manufacture and distribute TRM mineral sizers from that part of the world.
The Chinese firm imports the engineered componentry such as gearboxes and shafts from the Pickard family company in the United Kingdom, but manufactures and assembles the remaining equipment in China. This way, the Pickard family can retain the expertise of their engineering technology items in the UK but enjoy the benefits of Chinese fabrication and production economies.
After several years Lee Pickard is finally at the point of cracking the Chinese market, which hosts by far the largest coal industry in the world.
Content with competing for tenders from the likes of Shenhua Energy, which produces up to 20 million tonnes of coal a month,he recently flew to Perth to sign an exclusive distributorship deal with Minprovise. The distributorship agreement covers namelythe Southeast Asia region including Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
“From my point of view a lot of the marketing has been done because Minprovise have already got the customers that we need,” Pickard told Australia’s Mining Monthly.
Minprovise started off providing consultancy and servicing for cone and hard rock crushers in the Pilbara.
From 2005 it became a key supplier of EarthTechnica’s range of crushers to the mining region.
The addition of SSMAC’s range of mineral sizers bolsters Minprovise’s product offering in the processing field and is set to catch competitors off guard.
To ensure the sizers are built to world-class standards, all engineering design work is done by the Pickard family-owned company in Sheffield, UK. Key components such as gear boxes also are built there. However, the fabrication of the outer frames plus the assembly and bolting is done by SSMAC’s China facilities, which significantly reduces costs.
Apart from a lower price, the technology will set benchmarks for what is expected in Australia.
Pickard observed that the sizers already on the market were similar, and said engineers would look at the cost of maintenance and down time as points of difference.
He met with a few engineers during his Perth stopover and they liked the company’s patented Star Track Assembly and the easily replaceable solid tooth system.
The assembly system allows the replacement of any teeth segments on each roller individually, in situ and without taking the wholesizer apart.
Minprovise managing director Graham Townsend said other suppliers had weld-in types of segments on the rollers of their sizers, meaning service crews were forced to disassemble the whole machine if just one tooth was broken.
“That tooth arrangement is superior to any others currently in the market,” he said.
“And the actual ability to remove the major components without removing the associated components is superior as well.”
Removing the shafts or key couplings does not require removal of the gear boxes either.
Pickard said there had been no problems with the Star Track system in the past 15 years.
SSMAC builds sizers in a range of capacities, starting from 250 tonnes per hour while the biggest ones can exceed 15,000tph.
Townsend said they were used for reducing the size of overburden for easier conveying or for production roles.
In the case of coal, he said the sizers could bring 3m size material down to 300mm or smaller.
Aside from the coal and iron ore sectors, the sizers also are suitable for bauxite mining and even limestone quarrying operations.
Lead times for orders are expected to be less than four months, plus shipping, for a large-capacity sizer.
Minprovise mineral processing manager Peter Cook identified a market opportunity for sizers several months ago.
The main contact the company had with coal companies was in regards to its remote-operated DUGLESS 900 crawler unit. This handy little loader is becoming a popular choice for cleaning up conveyor spillage.
However, Cook was always being asked if the company supplied sizers as well.
China-based Pickard, on the other hand, was overwhelmed by overseas interest.
“I’m getting enquiries from Australia and Indonesia – I can’t do the justice this region requires,” he said.
With the new distributorship, Pickard is confident he can take on Australia and the remainder of Southeast Asia.
He said Minprovise was exactly what he was looking for and had the right people and customers.
The company also is family-owned, a unique quality in the mining equipment field which is becoming increasingly dominated by large multinational corporations.
Townsend said the decision to team up was made simply and without going through “the whole boardroom processes”.
Both Pickard and Townsend agreed the most important factor underpinning the deal was that Minprovise had the strength in site services to back up the product.
“That’s probably the biggest part of it,” Townsend said.
“You know there’s a lot of people who want to be the salesmen and don’t want to have the back end or the service side.
“For us to be involved with someone like Lee, who has got the history, the big machines, the pricing, and the easy arrangements – everything is quite special to us.”
While Minprovise has widened its business scope, Townsend said he was also looking to expand more into the consumable products line of business in the minerals processing field.
The company also is investing big into making the DUGLESS 900 intrinsically safe so it can head into underground coal mines.