The Rotary Drum Precoat Filter

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Precoat Filter



The Rotary Drum Precoat Filter is used to polish solutions having traces of contaminating insolubles. To polish the solution the drum deck is precoated with a medium of a known permeability and particle size that retains the fines and produces a clear filtrate.

The following materials are used to form the precoat bed:

These materials when related to precoating are wrongly called filter-aids since they do not aid filtration but serve as a filter medium in an analogy to the filter cloth on a conventional drum filter.

The Precoat Filter is similar in appearance to a conventional Drum Filter but its construction is very different:

  • The scraper blade on conventional drum filters is stationary and serves mainly to deflect the cake while it is back-blown at the point of discharge. The scraper on a precoat filter, which is also called "Doctor Blade", moves slowly towards the drum and shaves-off the blinding layer of the contaminants together with a thin layer of the precoating material. This movement exposes continuously a fresh layer of the precoat surface so that when the drum submerges into the tank it is ready to polish the solution. The blade movement mechanism is equipped with a precision drive having an adjustable advance rate of 2-10 mm/hr. The selected rate is determined by the penetration of fines into the precoat bed which, in turn, depends on the permeability of the filter aid. Once the entire precoat is consumed the blade retracts at a fast rate so that the filter is ready for a new precoating cycle.

  • The cake discharges on conventional drum filters by blow-back hence a section of the main valve's bridge setting is allocated for this purpose. On precoat filters the entire drum deck is subjected to vacuum therefore there are two design options:

    • A conventional valve that is piped, including its blow-back section, to be open to vacuum during polishing. When the precoat is consumed its blow-back section is turned on to remove the remaining precoat heel over the doctor blade.

    • A valveless design in which there is no bridge setting and the sealing between the rotating drum and the stationary outlet is by circumferential "o" rings rather than by a face seal used on conventional valves.

  • The clearance between the drum deck and the agitator on conventional drum filters is sufficient to accommodate cakes of up to about 50 mm while on modern precoat filters higher clearances to allow the formation of 150 mm precoats are quite common.


A typical flow scheme of a Precoat Filter Station   The main components of a Precoat Filter
  • The Drum

The drum deck is divided into separately isolated compartments each subjected to vacuum while the drum is in rotation. The compartments are divided with grooved division strips along the drum face and around the circumference of the drum heads. The grids cover the entire drum surface and serve to support the filter cloth. The filter cloth itself is fastened to the drum by inserting special caulking ropes into the grooves.

Since the water flow during precoating is very high the grids are of special deep design and the internal pipes are larger in diameter than the conventional piping to reduce head loss.


  • The Conventional Valve Design

The conventional valve is basically similar to the Drum Filter valve shown on the right.

It has three connections and a bridge setting that separates between the cycle zones:

  • The bottom connection for the precoat bed formation during the precoating and polishing stages.

  • The upper connection for the precoat bed drying during precoating and polishing stages.

  • The one below the cake drying section is not used during the polishing stage and is turned on just to blow away the remaining precoat at the end of the polishing cycle.


  • The Valveless Design

The valveless filter is a relatively newcomer to the range of Precoat Filters and is based on the concept that no bridge setting is required since the drum face is under constant vacuum throughout the clarification cycle. This design is much cheaper than the conventional design since the internal piping is very simple as compared to the complex internal piping on conventional filters.

The procedure how to start the precoating stage on a conventional filter is described in detail in the section Precoating below.

To start the precoating on a valveless filter it is required  to build a thin layer of diatomite or perlite that will seal the drum's upper surface that is exposed to atmosphere. This will create a low vacuum on the entire drum surface and will start to formation of the precoat bed.


  • The Internal Piping

As may be seen on the picture to the right the internal piping on a valveless precoat drum runs straight from the drum face towards the center manifold that serves also as the drum's main shaft.

This, when compared to the conventional drum piping has several advantages:

  • Simple construction and easy access in case of leakages.

  • Large diameter piping that reduces head loss mainly during the precoating stage when high rates of water flow through the piping. 


  • The Agitator

An agitator keeps gently the precoat slurry in suspension during precoating and reciprocates between the drum face and tank bottom at 16 CPM.

  • The Doctor Blade

The surface of the precoat bed is very dense and the degree of polishing depends on the permeability of the various grades of the diatomite or perlite . The layer of the contaminating substances that is retained on the bed surface is always very thin so special doctor blades have been developed over the years with very slow moving blades.

The latest nano technologies introduced variable frequency motors that can reduce the rotation speed down to 0.4 Hz without losing torque. Such motors, generally 1 kW with VFD, when coupled with high accuracy gearboxes  move the doctor blade  at a speed of 1.8-18 mm/hr so the cutting edge "shaves off" a very thin layer of the contaminating substances and saves unnecessary consumption of diatomite. Once the precoat at the end of the cycle is consumed the blade retracts at a speed of 10-12 minutes and the filter is then ready for new precoating.

Due to the abrasiveness of the dense diatomite precoat the cutting edge of doctor blade is divided to short segments to allow the sharpening of worn segments. The segments are generally coated with a wear resistant stellite alloy.

To startup a valveless filter there is one major requirement:

To allow very fast drum speed that will pick up a thin layer of diatomite or perlite in the first minute of the precoating stage. Once a vacuum is created the speed can be reduced gradually to form a dense and compact precoat bed.


Selection Criteria

Precoat filters are generally used in the following cases:


Operational Sequence

The operation of a precoat filter is done in two stages:

The two stages are closely related since the efficient and economical performance of the filter in the polishing stage depends entirely on the selection of a suitable filter aid and the care taken during the precoating stage.



A 2-5% precoat slurry is prepared by feeding the selected filter aid to a tank filled with water and equipped with a low speed mixer, such as a sweep-arm agitator, that rotates at 30-50 rpm. The low speed is necessary in order to avoid the breakage of the fine skeletal or expanded rock structure.

A precoat cake, depending on its permeability, may contain about 50% moisture so it is sometime advisable to prepare the slurry with polished filtrate rather than with water. Two arguments exist in favor of the filtrate option:

When the alternative to water is preferred attention must be given to the specific gravity of the filtrate since difficulty may arise while attempting to wet and mix the light filter aid in a solution of say 52% CaBr2 having a specific gravity of 1.7. In such a case the solution of using a high speed mixer is not desirable since, as mentioned above, particle breakage may occur so using an eductor to enhance wetting is a better method .

There are some basic rules to observe during the precoating of the drum in order to ensure that the filter aid is evenly distributed and the formed bed is tight and crack free:



The insoluble contaminants, which are often slimy and gelatinous in nature, cause fast media blinding and soon reduce filtrate rate to a trickle. Hence, the operating principle of polishing is to avoid formation of a thick layer but rather form a very thin layer that is removed continuously by shaving it off.

This requires careful optimization since polishing is an expensive operation. The optimum conditions are:


All the points mentioned in the section related to conventional D:\Application Data\Downloads\valvless internal piping.jpg also apply to Precoat Filters but some additional requirements should be observed: