SPECIAL SECTION/BRICK & CLAY RECORD: Case Study: Maximized Impact

May 1, 2007
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Quick turnaround enabled Continental Brick to remove a bottleneck from its grinding operation without negatively affecting kiln output.

The Grand Slam has not broken down since its installation.


Continental Brick of Martinsburg, W.Va., has been successfully manufacturing face brick in the same location since 1917, using the same material from the Martinsville Shale Formation located within a mile of its plant. The company's product line includes face brick used in residential and commercial applications primarily in the Northern Virginia, Pennsylvania, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas.

Grinding to a Halt

Through the years, Continental has upgraded equipment based on capital equipment budget availability. "It has taken a lot of smart, hard-working people and their dedicated time and attention to make things-including some older workhorse equipment-operate efficiently," says Don Sult, Continental's vice president of operations.

A problem arose in early 2006 when Continental Brick's hammer mill crusher started to wear out after two decades of service. "It was just taking too much of our maintenance time and expense to keep our grinding operations running at needed productive levels (60 million standard brick equivalent annually)," says Sult.

The crusher had numerous replacement parts to manage and no automatic systems (e.g., automatic opening, etc.). It took the company hours to perform simple routine maintenance or repair because the cover needed to be unbolted and removed in order to gain access to the working mechanisms. On average, Continental's uptime availability was approximately 90% with the old hammer mill.

The new system was engineered, delivered and installed in less than a week.

A Fast Solution

Continental Brick contacted Innovative Processing Solutions for turnkey service. The first step was to determine the best replacement equipment, and then a solution was engineered to make it fit into the existing system.

After conducting material testing, Innovative engineers specified a Stedman Grand SlamTM model GS4860 impactor to replace the existing hammer mill. With a 150-180 tph capacity range, the Grand Slam reduces 12-in. shale to -6 mesh-all in a single machine (capable of reduction ratios of up to 30:1). The unit features a front opening housing for easy maintenance and inspection, and it provides reduced maintenance and operating costs. It is designed with an open discharge (no screen to plug) and interchangeable wear plates. A heater and air cannons help process wet/sticky materials.

"We're impressed with the ability of a single machine to handle our 12-in. material and give us the final output we need (-6 mesh)-and without needing to rework our system's circuit design," says Sult.

Retrofit engineering and installation of the Grand Slam to the existing frame was a big challenge. Modifications were made, including a feed chute design to fit the new stand and crusher for proper material feed into the crusher's inlet. With only five days to complete the installation before the shale inventory was depleted, Innovative personnel found cracks in the old frame. A new frame (10 x 15 x 10 ft) was quickly fabricated to replace it, and production schedules were met.

"Innovative really kept their promises, and that's critical to us. It would have cost us a lot of time and money to shut down these kilns," says Sult. "They engineered a solution in about a day, and delivered and installed the entire system in less than one week-saving us a four- to six-week shutdown and more money in lost production than I care to think about!"

The new crusher handles both large and fine rock in one unit.

A Positive Impact

The Stedman Grand Slam enabled Continental Brick to eliminate the bi-weekly maintenance and repair needed for the previous hammer mill. While the hammer mill needed a lot of time, maintenance and materials to keep it running, the Grand Slam has required less maintenance and is easier to maintain and inspect. "It just takes a lot less of our maintenance people's attention, which is a big advantage when you don't have a lot of excess people," says Sult.

Continental continues to crush both large and fine rock with just one machine. (Other plants may use primary and secondary crushers in order to crush various sizes.) The Stedman crusher also gives the company the ability to crush more material if it ever wanted to upgrade the system's capacity.

The Grand Slam crusher has not broken down since its installation. "I think it has run at 100% availability, and the hammer mill certainly would not have had that much up-time," Sult says. "We have a piece of equipment we can turn on, let run and not have to fool with-and that's a big advantage."

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