M350: Not just another cheap mill

By Kasia Patel
Published: Thursday, 15 December 2016

IIT has just launched a new low energy milling technology for a range of powder processing applications and the company has already seen interest from a number of industrial mineral segments. Kasia Patel, North American Editor, finds out more.

UK-based International Innovative Milling Technologies Ltd (IIT) has developed a new low energy milling technology, the M350 milling system, for a wide range of powder processing applications, expanding on its m-series of vertical roller mills.

The product is the culmination of a three year collaborate project headed by Procter and Gamble’s Technical Centre as part of the UK government’s Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI), with the aim of developing new technologies for advanced powder handling and processing applications. 

According to IIT, the mill provides a flexible solution for the size reduction needs of a range of bulk materials across the hardness scale up to 9.5 Mohs owing to its design, which accommodates an output capacity range of up to 4.5t/hr for single pass applications and 500Kg/hr for finer products requiring classification.

As such, the mill is suitable for mineral and industrial processing including glass, sodium bicarbonate, iron slag, sodium sulphate, limestone' zircon sand, silica sand, pet-coke, fly ash and different types of blast furnace slag.

"We already have interest in the new mill from companies involved in limestone and dolomite quarrying and also from producers of ultrafine powders, particularly in relation to relatively small volume product runs for niche applications," a spokesperson for the company told IM.

IIT has also seen interest from the fillers and extenders market, where the M350 allows some uses to look at the processing waste glass and fly ash for building applications.

The size and versatility of the mill make it ideal for smaller reserves and mobile exploitation solutions, an area in which the company has seen growth.

In terms of new applications, IIT noted potential in the perlite sector for mill-only and classified product applications, while there has also been some interest from customers for material pre-treatment before traditional jet-milling in hard minerals and abrasives applications.

The M350 Mill without its enclosure.  (Source: Innovative Milling Technologies)

Downturn driving economic solutions

The downturn in both mining and oil and gas has resulted in customers holding back on both greenfield investments and upgrades to new technology. However IIT told IM that it has benefited from growing market interest in better and more economic milling solutions. 

Companies in the minerals industry looking to new product development or to expand market share have expressed interest in the product.

"As an innovative new technology introduction in a fairly conservative market place we have attracted considerable attention," the company told IM.

However, IIT also said that while producers have looked to cheaper investments in the downturn, these have not always reaped the anticipated benefits.

"To some extent there has also been a rebound in the minerals processing industry from recent low cost market entry efforts that have not been regarded as successful – 'not just another cheap Chinese mill’ is how one of our customers welcome our product introduction," IIT told IM.

The biggest challenge for IIT is one that persists in the sector regardless of market sentiment – a conservative attitude in mineral processing has seen traditional technologies become firmly established and the company has had to overcome resistance to change when it comes to new technology.

"Our challenge will be to break down the barriers associated with new product and process evaluation," the company said. "These are now largely based on outmoded technology which doesn’t meet the modern day need to deliver economic market evaluation and development rapidly."

Smaller is better

A number of M350 design features mean that the size of milled product remain consistent and allow for the accurate control of particle size distribution. 

The mill’s design is based on a patented centrifugal grinding mechanism, utilising a special pivoting roller assembly and a static grinding ring to provide a highly energy efficient size reduction capability. 

The modular assembly of the M350 is designed for efficient strip-down, cleaning and maintenance and includes a variety of construction material options for different markets and applications.

According to the company, the design also minimises induced airflow through the mill, which reduces the ancillary equipment needs associated with similar mills, making the complete installation significantly smaller and better value.

As the company designs technology for tonnages for around 10-15 tph for high value products, batch production and R&D, it does not need to compete with larger established market players for high volume milling applications.

Instead, IIT told IM this small scale enables the company flexibility to adjust to customer requirements.

"We work closely with customers to bring a dynamic and creative approach to their projects," the company told IM. "This helps to ensure that effective solution options are provided early in the economic evaluation of new product development programmes and minerals processing projects."