Closed pneumatic conveyor system eliminates dust and downtime

While the screw-type mechanical conveyor has its place in industry, when it comes to handling dry materials that must be kept free of contaminants, and environments where dust-free conditions are important, these conveyors systems are often problematic.

09/17/2003


In addition to dust and contaminant exposure, screw-loading (or, augur) conveyors can induce a "shearing" effect on materials, especially powders, whereby they become partially compacted by the screw apparatus, resulting in materials that lack consistency. Screw conveyance of dry materials can also entail cumbersome labor, with attending safety concerns and product spillage.

In many cases the pneumatic conveyor system, which can be completely enclosed for many applications, is an ideal alternative to many screw conveyor systems. Today's microprocessor-controlled pneumatic conveyor systems can enable businesses to overcome contamination, dust and shearing problems, and offer sizable productivity gains. Applications for pneumatic conveying systems span the process industries, including nutrition and healthcare products, automotive products, chemicals, packaging - wherever the conveyance of dry materials can benefit throughput, agility, quality, safety and ergonomics.

In the case with Tropical Foods, Company, Inc., Clifton, SC, the main difficulties with its screw conveyor system were dust and problems associated with the motor that drove the conveyor. Also, the screw conveyor system was by no means optimized in terms of throughput; thus, productivity was not as high as it could be.

"Tropical Foods produces Tropiway Plantain and Cocoyam FUFU Flour, a traditional African food that is popular as a staple in the diets of many people around the world," explains Tropical Foods President Edward Ofori. "From a quality standpoint, it is very important that our products are contaminant free. From a production perspective, it is also important that we produce these products as efficiently as possible in a worker-friendly environment."

Producing Tropiway specialty flours entails the dumping of approximately 2,500 lbs. of various ingredients, in powder form, from bags into a mixer. After blending, the product is transported to a flour filling station where it is bagged and then put into boxes that go on store shelves.

The process is pretty straightforward," Ofori explains. "We were using a screw conveyor to transport the materials. However, this method always produced a great deal of dust from the powder ingredients. Plus, the motor driving the screw tended to leak oil after a couple of months of operation. This motor was located above the mixer, so we had to be very wary that the oil did not drop into the flour mixture, causing contamination that would be entirely unacceptable."

Ofori says that when the screw conveyor motor needed service, it would have to be removed and taken to a shop, which would cause a day or two of downtime. "The alternative was to buy and install a new motor, which we did on several occasions. But there was still a certain amount of downtime involved in replacement - not to mention the expense of motor repair or replacement."

Tropical Foods first considered changing to a closed pneumatic system when approached by John Reinke of Solid Design Southeast, Charlotte, NC. A supplier to the "process community" in the Carolinas for over 25 years, Solid Design Southeast is a distributor for VAC-U-MAX systems (Belleville, NJ), a major supplier of pneumatic conveyor systems.

After reviewing the Tropical Foods situation, Reinke suggested an automated, closed pneumatic system composed of VAC-U-MAX products, including a bag-dump station, vacuum pickup device, vacuum receiver, and control panel. The turnkey system would be driven by an electric vacuum pump and also include an inline check screen to filter and recover flour powder dust.

Ofori elected to go with the pneumatic system, which promised to eliminate all motor and dust problems, and dramatically improve productivity as well.

Installing the new system was relatively simple. Production was discontinued for about two days while an electrician installed the control panel and some new wiring for the new system. Otherwise, installation of the pneumatic system took one long day, says Ofori. He adds that Reinke assisted with the installation of the VAC-U-MAX equipment, ensuring that the entire system would be ready to operate the next morning.

Ofori says Tropical Foods productivity has increased a whopping 80 percent with the new system. Further, downtime has been nil since the system was installed.

For more information about VAC-U-MAX pneumatic material handling or industrial vacuum cleaning solutions, contact VAC-U-MAX by mail at 37 Rutgers Street, Belleville, NJ 07109; telephone (800) 822-8629 or (973) 759-4600; E-mail: info@vac-u-max.com ; or visit the web site: www.vac-u-max.com .





Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
July/Aug
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
August 2018
Choosing an automation controller, Lean manufacturing
September 2018
Effective process analytics; Four reasons why LTE networks are not IIoT ready

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me