Heat Recovery Incinerator Design with MPDS4

“MPDS4 let me incorporate existing 2D drawings and use them as a basis for 3D building and equipment design. It meant I could add intelligence to the design, finding the optimal routes for pipes and ducts and checking for clashes in space. The walk-through visualisation made it so much easier to present the design to our Board, operators and engineering staff, and detailed drawings automatically generated from the model meant clear instructions for all the contractors routing the electrics, gas, ductwork, pipes and compressed air installations.”

– Tony Conroy, Head of Engineering, Graham & Brown

Graham & Brown, a family-led concern since 1946, recognised by CoolBrands® as one of Britain’s coolest brands, produces some of the world’s favourite wallpaper and wall decorations. At its headquarters in Blackburn, UK, industrial tradition and engineering expertise meet a passion for design and innovation. Recognition for the artists whose designs grace Graham & Brown’s machine-produced wallpapers goes hand in hand with a strong commitment to sustainability. With the latest equipment for improving waste recovery processes also came the deployment of the latest MPDS4 3D plant design software, cutting project costs through accurate planning of process integrations.

About Graham & Brown

Graham & Brown, started by friends Harold Graham and Henry Brown in 1946 as a wallpaper manufacturer, transforms the walls of the world with inspiring wall decorations. The company supplies a huge variety of wallpapers and wall art, conceived by creative artists and designers from around the globe, as well as complementary paints in evocative colours (“The colours that made Britain Great”).

A story of grit and glamour, Graham & Brown is part of the rich industrial tradition of Blackburn, once a famous centre for textile manufacturing. Today the company is run by the third generation of the Graham and Brown families, and has divisions in the United States, France, Holland, Russia, Canada, China, and Germany, employing 560 people globally. Graham & Brown produces 21,700,000 rolls of wall covering annually; sells 685,000 wall decorations; consumes 41,000 tonnes of material, and has annual turnover of £70 million.

The photograph above (taken during construction of the new incinerator plant) and the matching MPDS4 models of the complex piping systems illustrate the importance of clash detection, as pipes with and without falls have to be routed extremely close together.

Bespoke Engineering

Tony Conroy is the Head of Engineering at Graham & Brown’s wallpaper production facility, where externally sourced printing lines are augmented by bespoke machines. “We designed and manufactured our own wrapping machines in order to optimise our completely automated production process,” Tony explains.

Non-stop Production

Graham & Brown’s unique wallpapers start out as 6,500m reels of 1.1m wide paper. Depending on the design, the unwound paper passes a choice of 5 machines with up to 12 printing stations per machine. Each station adds colour and design, coating with ink or PVC. The paper is then heat treated in each set’s oven at up to 165˚C to “gel” the PVC. “The ovens are heated solely by the heat recovered from our incinerator’s combustion process,” Tony explains. After the ink/PVC application, the paper passes horizontally through a 24 metre long oven up to 205˚C, where high velocity nozzles are used to expand the product. The final product is automatically trimmed, wound into 10 metre rolls, wrapped, labelled and put into cartons, then conveyed over 200 metres to a robotic palletising plant.

Heat Recovery

“In 1985, Graham & Brown was the first in its industry to use a heat recovery incinerator to burn potentially harmful emissions from the vinyl coating lines, then re-use the heat for the production process,” explains Ian Brown, Director responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Tony adds, “The first incinerator was replaced by a more efficient model in 1996, when we also added extraction systems. Eight years ago, we added a second incinerator. All the ovens in our printing sets are heated by thermal oil. The incinerators burn the exhaust air from the printing process to create clean, hot air, which is then used to heat the oil. It’s a closed loop system, and today the incinerators supply around 70% of the total process heat we require.”

Graham & Brown pays homage to wallpaper, paint and art – the three ingredients at the heart of its brand – with this ad for its ‘Countessa’ design (Elixir collection)

Taking control of the plant design

In 2010, Graham & Brown commissioned a new state-of-the-art incinerator to replace the 1996 model, an 18-month project managed by Tony Conroy. “This £1.85 million investment included a new incinerator house, the design of complex piping and ductwork to connect to existing services, and a complex switch-over process to minimise production down-times,” he explains. “The initial layout of the plant and the surrounding building design had been done in AutoCAD® 2D, and the equipment order had been placed when CAD Schroer demonstrated the MPDS4 PLANT DESIGN software to me. We had a direct and urgent need to finish the design of the interconnecting services (pipes and extraction systems) which would link the new incinerator plant with the existing lines.”

The new incinerator, air-to-air heat exchanger and thermal oil heat exchanger is installed, soon to be joined by the 8-year-old one after it is moved. Both are modelled with CAD Schroer’s MPDS4 software.

The Transition to 3D

Tony needed to design the gas and thermal oil pipework and air ducts, to be constructed in a limited space under strict regulatory compliance. Well aware of the benefits of spatial design with interference checking, he was keen to model the facility in 3D, if this could be done quickly and without a huge software implementation burden. “My main concern: I didn’t want to get all those pipes installed and then find out they clash. If there’s a problem, time is money. And we have to follow strict ATEX and DESEAR¹ regulations,” Tony continues. With hazardous conditions where pipes for thermal oil (operating at 275˚C) are routed near 9 inch gas mains, the location of flanges is essential, for example. Every detail has to be taken into consideration in the design.

Fast Results

Within days of the first product demonstration, Graham & Brown acquired the MPDS4 COMPLETE package, which includes 2D to 3D building and conveyor design with the Factory Layout module, along with all traditional engineering disciplines with automatic clash detection (P&ID, 3D piping, steel, ducting and electrical), the Engineering Review 3D walkthrough module, the parametric 3D Component Designer and the MPDS4 Project Manager tool. The database-driven large-scale layout software is well known for low implementation costs. Within 2 days, Tony was using the software productively. “It took me about 3 ½ weeks (and I was familiarising myself with the system on the job) to model the entire incinerator house with 2 incinerators, their thermal oil and air to air heat exchangers, motors, pump sets, exhaust stacks, the 100 tonne concrete slab and the 32 10-metre piles drilled into the ground to support the structure, along with all the pipes and ducts linking the process to the machinery sets on the factory floor.”

Tackling Complexity to Minimise Downtimes

“A project like this was the ideal opportunity to make the transition to 3D, especially as MPDS4 let me incorporate existing 2D drawings and use them as a basis for 3D building and equipment design,” Tony says. “It meant I could add intelligence to the design, finding the optimal routes for pipes and ducts and checking for clashes in space. The walk-through visualisation made it so much easier to present the design to our Board, operators and engineering staff, and detailed drawings automatically generated from the model meant clear instructions for all the contractors routing the electrics, gas, ductwork, pipes and compressed air installations.”

Connecting and switching on the new incinerator wasn’t the end of the story. Graham & Brown needed to move its second incinerator into the new building without excessive down times, bringing the 1996 model online for a short while as a substitute. “Because of precise planning we managed a very quick turnaround, limiting the downtime on just three machines to four days,” Tony explains. The move of the 8-year-old incinerator involved cooling down the oil; breaking the line; detaching the thermal oil pipework; bringing in cranes to lift the ductwork; inserting new ductwork and diverting it to the new incinerator location; then finally reheating the oil, and safety and pressure testing before going live. “With the new design software this installation was much smoother, less error-prone and faster than the previous incinerator project, which merely relied on 2D plans created by the manufacturer.”

A view into the pit with storage vessel and down the length of the plant illustrates its complexity.

Serious about Sustainability

Graham & Brown is committed to further reducing its use of harmful components, and the emissions resulting from burning VOCs. The company deployed its engineering expertise to optimise the new incinerator, for example, creating the delicate balance in temperature which ensures that both CO and NOx emissions remain well below statutory requirements. “Over the past decades, we have drastically reduced VOC emissions by adopting the use of low VOC inks2,” says Ian Brown, who emphasises legacy and responsibility as the driving force behind his company’s CSR commitment. “We now offer a range of eco wallpapers produced using 100% water based inks with synthetic free resin binder, paper from sustainably managed forests, and compostable packaging3.”

Visualising the Future

With MPDS4, Tony is well armed to efficiently execute future projects, modelling existing production areas as the need arises. “This will allow me to make controlled, faster, less error-prone modifications to the factory, communicate visually with engineering staff, or cost scenarios where components need to be replaced. It will also allow me to create virtual factory walk-throughs to send to colleagues abroad, suppliers or customers.” he explains.

For Graham & Brown, where innovative engineering design meets creative home design, MPDS4 supplies the tools that allow decades of engineering expertise to be deployed productively immediately – helping a leading British manufacturer to grow sustainably for decades to come.

For more information about Graham & Brown, please visit www.grahambrown.com


  • ¹DSEAR and ATEX are abbreviations for The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) and Explosive Atmospheres Directives 99/92/EC (ATEX 137) and 94/9/EC (ATEX 100) which are enforced by the HSE and Local Authorities, Fire Brigades and Petroleum Licensing Authorities.
  • ² Low VOC inks use aromatic white spirit containing a maximum of 0.5% aromatic hydrocarbons, around 3% of the amount contained in standard white spirit.
  • ³ The result of a 2004 “eco-chic” initiative to design eco friendly wallpaper in collaboration Central St. Martin’s College, London