The free-style dome at Planta Cerrillos

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Chile is known worldwide for its wine production and its copper mining.  In several places in the country, these two activities coexist.  At the entrance of the Cerrillos Canyon in northern Chile lies the Coemin facility, a plant that processes raw copper ore from the Carola Mine. Located 30km southeast of Copiapó city, this area also hosts grape plantations and is home to families who work in the mine and vineyards.

The Challenge: A Dome on a Whimsical Plan

Dust from ore handling and crushing is obviously not desirable for the vineyards, so the plant had long used preventive measures such as foam sprays and fabric barriers to control emissions. As the plant grew, they decided to completly enclose their crushing operations. The task was a challenge, as the equipment and conveyors were not laid out with an enclosure in mind. The main area encompased more than 5000 m2, in a shape that was whimsically irregular after several expansions over the years. 

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Custom Solution Required

The initial concept consisted of two smaller domes and a huge arched vault for the facility's largest area. Local suppliers were consulted, but the spans for the big area were simply too large and complex. As a result, the project architect, Percy Diaz, contacted Geometrica for a proposal. The Geometrica team traveled to the site and met with the plant operators.

The large arched vault had its drawbacks. Bending stresses were very large.  It would have required increased truss depth and structural members that would have been too heavy.  Clearances for access and interior space would be compromised.  This vaulted shape meant that some of the existing equipment would have to be modified or have to remain uncovered. Equipment modifications were undesirable as they would require plant downtime.


A "Can-Do" Dome Supplier

Geometrica proposed a bold and very different solution, a Freedome®, Geometrica's trade name for a free-style dome.  The concept immediately inspired Percy Diaz to sketch a free-form plan. Geometrica considered the scope and scale of the new vision and confirmed that the Freedome could be built without increasing the budget.

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Geometrica was tasked to design a dome that would spring from this very irregular plan.  Existing equipment and buildings forced the shape:  crushers and sifter equipment had to be enclosed, while a hopper had to remain outside.  The supporting structure had to bridge existing buildings.  There was no way to fit a conventional circular dome on this site.  Diaz's plan was a bit like a heart – roughly three sided with rounded corners and a dimple in one of the sides.  Spans were 90m in the principal directions.

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Free Form and Functionality

The Freedome® was the ultimate solution. No equipment modifications were required. When the dome was approved for construction, all elements varied — meaning this project was truly a custom architectural achievement. Thanks to precision pre-fabrication, it was installed by local labor who had no problems following the simple procedures required to build it.

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Construction of the dome started on the foundation and progressed toward the apex, ring by ring.  No scaffolding, nor operating downtime were required, as the partially built dome supported its own weight plus that of the construction crews through the whole process.   Cladding consisted of rectangular corrugated metal sheets with with a polyester finish.

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The Freedome, plus the two smaller domes, now cover the plant's material handling and crushing equipment.  And the stunning Freedome® elevates the image of the facility to the world class standard of the plant's and the region's products. 

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Unique Solutions, Unlimited Possibilities

Geometrica designs domes and space frames for architectural, industrial and bulk storage applications. Through a global network of representatives, Geometrica has delivered structures in Chile and over 25 other countries. The question is, what can Geometrica design for you? Read more about Architectural, Industrial and Bulk Storage solutions for any terrain, application or climate.  Or fill out the inquiry form for more information.

Geometrica, Inc.