Brick & Clay Record: Better Crushing

May 1, 2005
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A maintenance headache gave one brick manufacturer an opportunity to upgrade its crushing operations.

Summit Brick & Tile Co. manufactures a variety of different types of brick for architectural, commercial and residential markets.
Summit Brick & Tile Co., Pueblo, Colo., serves the architectural, commercial and residential markets with a variety of types, colors and styles of brick, ranging from split pavers to eight-four-sixteen hollow clay masonry Uniwall units. Clay for the company's products is obtained from 11 different clay pits or mines in Pueblo, Fremont and El Paso Counties, and includes shale, surface clay and fire clay. The red burning clay often contains embedded sandstone seams, and the white burning clay contains very hard flint fire clay. With approximately 40 tons of clay per hour moving through the plant's grinding room, equipment must be built to handle high impact levels with minimal maintenance requirements. Downtime is simply not an option.

Throughout most of the 1990s, the company transported its clay from onsite storage piles to a roll crusher. From there, the clay was fed by conveyor into a 125-hp J.C. Steele Incla grinder, where it was ground to a fine material by two 7-ton rollers. The material was then fed into three 5 x 8-ft Leahy vibrating screens and screened to about 10 mesh. Any material that was too coarse was returned back to the grinder for further processing. The system worked, but the roll crusher at the front end of the process required frequent repairs and maintenance.

Then, in 1999, one of the main shafts on the roll crusher broke. Summit Brick had two options-repair the roll crusher or buy a new machine.

Designing for Success

The company decided to seize the opportunity to upgrade its operations with the purchase of a new crusher from Stedman Machine Co., Aurora, Ind. "We looked into replacing the shaft on the roll crusher and discovered that it would cost about half as much as purchasing a new Grand SlamTM crusher from Stedman," says Matt Welte, plant engineer. "We knew that other brick companies had had success with that machine, and we'd heard enough good things about it that we were pretty comfortable with that selection." The company also sent clay samples to Stedman for testing, with favorable results.

One challenge Summit Brick faced in installing the new crusher was that it needed to be able to keep its grinding room in operation throughout the installation process. The company approached Ceric, Inc., in Golden, Colo., for help in designing around this challenge. The solution was to add three new conveyors-one to feed material into the new crusher, and two additional belts to move the material back through the rest of the grinding process.

By October 2000, the new crusher was up and running. But the company soon encountered another challenge-this time with the chute design on the machine. "We used a standard chute design, and we've had some trouble with it leaking on the intake side of the crusher. When we're crushing materials that contain a lot of rock, the rock pieces tend to get spit back out the top of the chute," explains Welte. "We've made some minor modifications to address that problem, and Stedman has recently given us another chute design that we're getting ready to implement. Any plant that is dealing with this type of installation should look at their product and try to design for their specific materials whenever possible."

The new crusher has allowed Summit Brick to reduce the amount of time spent grinding material needed for production, while also increasing its grinding throughput by about 5 tons per hour.

Improved Operations

After nearly five years in operation, the crusher has proven to be a good investment. According to Welte, the machine enabled Summit Brick to streamline its grinding process and minimize maintenance requirements. "With our old roll crusher, we had to send our clay through the crusher and then through the grinder before screening. Now the material goes through the screens after crushing, so we're actually seeing an increase in what we can screen out of our material before it goes through our grinder. This has allowed us to reduce the amount of time spent grinding material needed for production, while also increasing our grinding throughput by about 5 tons per hour," Welte explains. "The machine is also very low-maintenance, so our overall operating costs are much lower than they were with the roll crusher."

As demand for Summit Brick's products has grown, the crusher has also provided one other important benefit-flexibility. "Over the last several years, we've increased our production by about two or three million brick. We would undoubtedly be facing a bottleneck in our grinding room if we were still using our old crusher," notes Welte.

For more information about crushing equipment, contact Stedman Machine Co., 129 Franklin St., P.O. Box 299, Aurora, IN 47001; (800) 262-5401 or (812) 926-0038; fax (812) 926-3482; e-mail sales@Stedman-machine.com; or visit http://www.stedman-machine.com.

For more information about Summit Brick & Tile Co., visit http://www.summitbrick.com.

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