Innovations to improve global industry to come from small-town Neponset

(Neponset IL)—There is something interesting—at least, for heavy industry–going on in the cornfields outside rural Neponset, Illinois.

In Neponset, a privately-held company is completing a new corporate research center focused on improving the handling of bulk materials in heavy industries, like coal-fired power generation, mining, sand & gravel and aggregate production, pulp and paper, and cement manufacturing.

Neponset—a sign outside town says Population 550—is the home of Martin Engineering, a leading global supplier of systems and services that make bulk materials handling cleaner, safer, and more productive.
Located in west central Illinois, Neponset is about two hours west of Chicago, one hour north of Peoria or one hour east of the Quad Cities. But that rural location will not keep Martin Engineering from taking giant steps toward improvements in bulk materials handling for basic industry.

The new Martin Engineering Center for Bulk Materials Handling Innovation holds the promise of improved productivity and profitability in these industrial operations where the clean, efficient handling of a bulk material is a key to the production process. The Center for Innovation—CFI, for short—is a $5 Million (US$) facility with the goals of improving bulk materials handling through collaboration, innovation, and education.

CFI is housed in a new 22,600 square foot (2,100 square meter) building at Martin Engineering’s world headquarters campus in Neponset. Part pure-science research laboratory, and part industrial product development center, CFI will collaborate with partners including corporations, industry associations, and universities for practical research to solve the common problems in the handling of bulk materials, problems that have plagued these industries for years.

These material handling problems include the release of fugitive material as dust and spillage, and hang-ups in material flow. These problems lead to added maintenance expenses and losses in productivity, resulting in reduced profitability for the heavy industrial operations.

The new CFI facility includes a full-time staff of 12, including scientists, engineers, and technicians, all dedicated to advancing the understanding of the behavior of bulk materials and the performance of materials handling systems.
CFI has both the scientific instruments and the full-scale materials handling equipment to test bulk materials and prototype components under simulated operating conditions. Included in CFI are laboratories for the analysis and testing of characteristics and performance of metals, polymers, and bulk materials; an environmental lab for accelerated aging; and a process simulation area that features full-scale material handling equipment including a full-scale recirculating three-belt conveyor system for testing both bulk materials and equipment prototypes.

Martin Engineering is the first in the industry to take this basic science first approach to improving the handling of bulk materials. Martin Engineering Chairman of the Board Edwin H. Peterson said, “The Center for Bulk Materials Handling Innovation represents a major commitment to the industries we serve. Our research partners will benefit from a better understanding of the characteristics of their bulk materials, and how they should be handled. This will lead to new technologies that make bulk materials handling cleaner, safer, and more productive”

The center will also offer education for industry personnel—management, engineering, operations, and maintenance staff—in how material handling systems work and how they can work better. CFI features dedicated training resources, including a state-of-the art, 44-seat training room and a video conference center. The facility also includes an observation deck where visitors can view material and equipment testing underway in the facility’s laboratories and on the recirculating conveyor system.

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