Fieldbus & Industrial Networking

Fully digital vertical roller mills

November 2023 Fieldbus & Industrial Networking

Vertical roller mills (VRMs) are found in mining and cement milling operations worldwide. They require complex technology for their operation. As a leader in this field, LOESCHE has proven software solutions for digitalisation that can optimise each piece of milling equipment for energy efficiency, and increase its availability and output, making the plant easy to operate. This frees up plant personnel to focus on other areas, while the mill runs fully autonomously.

Real-time optimiser for advanced process control

Part of the LOESCHE Group, aixprocess specialises in process technology modelling and simulation technologies in applications ranging from process design, CFD services, and computer-aided engineering to virtual reality, big data analysis, and real-time process optimisation.

One of these is aixProM, a digital solution for intelligent process monitoring, operational assistance and control. It is based on a proprietary software platform developed by process specialists and IT experts from aixprocess. It combines statistical algorithms and self-learning artificial intellligence with deterministic real-time physical modelling to continuously identify the most relevant process variables for specific process KPIs.

aixProM combines the expertise of aixprocess with the client’s experience to offer engineering solutions at different levels from online process reporting to soft sensor variable prediction, to operational assistance and closed loop operation.

This OEM-developed solution is vendor neutral, and can be fully integrated with any PLC currently available on the market.

System configuration

The aixProM MILL-Pilot module is responsible for the operation and set value adaptation of the milling system. The role of this software is to determine the optimum particle size distribution of the slag, raw meal, coal or cement, and the optimum mass flow for the current demand or load state. It operates on a server connected through the network and interfaced with the PCS/DCS system on the plant. All relevant process data records are collected, processed and written to a database, ready for analysis. This includes signals from acoustic sensors situated on the plant. Optimisation calculations are conducted on an ongoing basis and new set values are written into the PCS.

In addition to the extensive use of data from the PCS, vibration sensors are placed at sites showing significant vibration after initial measurement during setup. These are piezoelectric-ceramic sensors for industrial use and have a sampling rate of 10 kHz at 16 bit. Vibration sensors are reliable and are not disturbed by dust. The vibration analysis is based on the fact that load and grinding degree affect the vibrational characteristics, so any changes can be detected.

Set values controlled by the MILL-i Pilot system are the gas volume flow rate, the rotational speeds of the classifier, the working pressure of the rollers, and the start-stop signals if the mill operates out of the current load state. The main features of the MILL-i Pilot module are:

• Use of predictive control technology and neural network algorithms to predict the particle size distribution and Blaine of pulverised slag, raw cement, coal or clinker.

• Ability to couple with other modules in the aixProM system.

• Fast adaptation to changes in the quality and type of slag.

• Monitoring of the operating state of the mill in order to improve output.

Configuration of consoles and cabinets

The aixProM system configuration consists of modules for data acquisition and A/D conversion, an appropriate bus coupler, and a network switch. This transmits the Ethernet-based bus signal from the bus coupler to the fibre optic connection, then to the APC system. The required modules fit into a small switch cabinet of 600 x 600 x 300 mm. There is one extra switch cabinet containing the data acquisition system for the additional vibration sensors.

The server required for the APC system is installed into the tower housing and is set up in the control room. No further hardware for the connection to the vibration sensor system is required. The fibre optic cable sends the digital signals directly to the server. A computer console provides an HMI interface to the aixProM APC system and enables on-site operation of the server.

Huge savings and sustainability

The incorporation of artificial intelligence into your process should be seen as an additional resource and not as a threat to jobs. It serves as an automated trainer and operator that takes no breaks or leave. It is like having an experienced engineer controlling your plant 24/7, leaving you free for higher-level activities.

This technology has been tried and tested at several reference sites globally. Digitalisation of the VRM has proven itself in huge savings, and can contribute to a more environmentally sustainable future for your operation.


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