Archive: Apr 2023

How Different Industries Use AirSweep for Bulk Material Processing

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a pile of raw material in a paper mill factory

AirSweep is a versatile flow aid that can be used in any industry that requires bulk material processing. It can activate the most challenging material, including sticky pastes, heavy pebbles and mined materials, or rock-hard clumps of powders.

How does AirSweep work?

AirSweep is one of the most cost-efficient ways to improve bulk material processing. Its powerful air pulses break up cohesive friction and sweep material back into the flow stream.

AirSweep has a higher pressure and power than fluidizers, and won’t damage the vessels like vibrators. It also consumes less energy than air cannons and air knockers and uses air more efficiently because of its controlled, sequential pulses. 

That’s why many companies trust AirSweep to improve their bulk material processing. Here are some ways they use the system, and how it helps them save money, time, and effort.

Get smooth, on-demand material flow

Slow material flow lowers productivity and can increase manpower hours. In some cases, the plant needs to shut down for manual cleaning, which wastes time and can cause safety hazards because of worker exposure to hazardous material.

A cement company in Southeast Asia needed a flow rate of 20 to 30 tons per hour. However, materials solidified because of plant humidity. Despite using vibrators and air knockers, workers still had to hammer the silos. Each hour of downtime cost them $12,000 per hour. With AirSweep, they were able to solve this problem in just four days.

Reduce material waste

A food manufacturer in the United States handles 6,000 pounds of ground flax and cocoa powder per hour. However, the oil and fat content caused materials to bridge over the discharge and stick to all interiors, all the way to the filter bags. They had to throw away up to 40 pounds of mixture a day and even had to pay to have it hauled away.

They tried other flow aids. Vibrators compacted the material until it was like concrete. Fluidizers failed, and workers still had to hammer the vessels every day. Only AirSweep worked, improving material flow by 90% and eliminating the costs of material waste.

Reduce cleaning and maintenance times

An infant formula manufacturer produces several formulations in the same processing and packaging lines.

They used a labor-intensive, multi-step process of flushing and manual cleaning. After they installed AirSweep, they cut cleaning time from 40 hours to 10 hours. They pulsed the units during and after the batch runs, which improved blend uniformity and removed residual powders.

Protect factory and worker safety

A cheese company had issues with whey protein concentrate (WPC), which has a very high moisture and fat content and was prone to bridging over the discharge. Unfortunately, this wasn’t just delaying production. The caked material had sparked a fire in one of their baghouses. Bridging had become an urgent safety concern.

They chose the AirSweep USDA-accepted model, which could slice through material blocks “just like an air knife”. The model was also designed for sanitary processes, which was critical for compliance with stricter industry regulations.

Best flow aid for bulk material processing

AirSweep is used in thousands of plants worldwide to achieve on-demand material flow. Our clients include S&P companies and SMEs. Contact us to learn more about how it can be used in your process.

How Does AirSweep Prevent Machine Downtime?

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safety workplace with yellow out of service tag

Machine downtime is one of the most common and expensive problems in industrial or manufacturing facilities. According to a Forbes report, companies experience 800 hours of downtime per year, or more than 15 hours a week.

That has a huge impact on revenue. For example, an automotive manufacturer loses about $22,000 for every minute of lost production time. A cement manufacturer loses $12,000 an hour. This doesn’t include the indirect costs incurred:

  • Additional labor and overtime
  • Wasted products or materials
  • Reduced capacity of vessels
  • Additional testing and quality control

Machine downtime can also lead to lost sales opportunities and tighter profit margins. According to the report After the Fall: Cost and Consequences of Unplanned Downtime: “The reverberation is felt across businesses as a whole.”

Causes of Machine Downtime

There are two kinds of machine downtime: planned downtime or the expected time required for routine cleaning and maintenance, and unplanned downtime caused by equipment failure, operator error, and poor material flow.

Equipment failure and operator error are relatively rare and can be avoided through regular inspection and proper training. However, poor material flow can happen every day.

Many bulk powders and solids are prone to bridging and ratholing, which obstructs vessel outlets until the flow slows down or stops completely. The machines must be shut down so workers can clear out the material blocks or scrape away residue on the walls.

This was exactly what happened in the Mexico plant of a regional manufacturer of asphalt products. “Over the weekend, when the plant was unstaffed, the asphalt materials would settle completely. When workers returned on Monday, they had to climb seven meters down into the dark silo, and clear thick layers of compacted material just to get the factory running again,” said the Sales Manager.

An electricity-generating plant faced similar issues with bituminous coal, a mining by-product used as a clean energy source. The material would plug in the chutes, forcing operators to shut down the process so workers could chip away at the caked-on material. This occurred 15 times during each 12-hour shift, taking 20 minutes each time.

Machine downtime from poor material flow was creating production losses and safety hazards. Fortunately, they found a simple, reliable solution: AirSweep pneumatic flow aids.

Reduce Machine Downtime With AirSweep

AirSweep has helped thousands of plants around the world eliminate bridging, ratholing, and other common causes of machine downtime.

Each nozzle emits a high-pressure, high-volume, 360-degree burst of compressed air to lift and sweep stalled material back into the flow stream – clearing the way for higher factory and material handling efficiency.

AirSweep works where other flow aids have failed. The asphalt manufacturer had tried electric vibrators and air cannons, but workers still had to hammer away at the material blocks. After installing AirSweep, they never encountered material blocks again.

“After four years, we finally have the right solution! We are very happy with the system.” They have saved time, energy, and money from maintenance costs and losses from machine downtime, and are looking to install units in their other plants.

The electricity generating plant reported similar success. AirSweep solved all plugging issues and used less energy than air cannons and other flow aids they had tried. With their higher productivity and lower energy costs, they have already gotten their full return on investment. “AirSweep paid for itself in just two weeks!” said Jeffrey Campbell, Plant Engineer.

Get the AirSweep solution

Contact us to find out more about how AirSweep can restore material flow, increase productivity, and prevent machine downtime.

4 Types of Material Handling Equipment that Improve Factory Efficiency

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grain elevator loading truck for transportation

Material handling equipment can help store, move, and process large volumes of material. It increases production speed and helps prevent some risks of manual processes: injury, human error, or exposure to chemicals and hazardous materials.

There are many types of material handling equipment, and some machines are even customized for particular processes. However, these can be divided into four general categories that serve a specific purpose in the production line.

Bulk material storage equipment

This is one of the most common types of material handling equipment and is used in even the smallest and simplest facilities. As the name implies, it is used to store raw materials before they are transported or used in production.

The most basic storage and handling equipment are drawers, racks, and stacking frames. Larger warehouses may use mezzanines or elevated floor systems that can hold more materials.

The best storage and handling equipment will maximize space, prevent damage to the materials, and make it easier for workers to safely and easily access what they need.

Bulk material handling equipment

This is a broad term for any type of material handling equipment used to move or process bulk powders or solids. Examples include:

  • Silos: This is a tower used for storing grains and other food products, coal, wood chips, sawdust, sand, metal waste, and more. Interestingly, this is one of the oldest types of material handling equipment—the first stone silos date back to 1700-1800 BC.
  • Hoppers: This cone-shaped vessel helps funnel material from one stage of production to the other. It is typically used for particulate matter or any material that can flow. However, many materials can become compact because of moisture content, or the size and shape of the particles.
  • Conveyor belts: This automatically transports materials over several feet, even through steep inclines.
  • Reclaimers: This has a rotating scoop that gathers loose material and places it on a conveyor belt.
  • Bucket elevators: This is used to vertically haul powder or free-flowing materials such as grains, sugar, limestone, etc.

Engineered Systems

This works with other types of material handling equipment to automate the storage and transportation of material. This includes Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS), Automated Conveyor Systems, Robotic Delivery Systems, and Automatic Guided Vehicles.

Material Flow Aids

One of the biggest challenges of bulk material handling is how to ensure reliable, first in/first out flow. Many bulk powders and solids can settle and become compact during storage. Others are prone to bridging and ratholing, which blocks the discharge outlet.

Material flow aids break up the material blocks and push material through the vessel. Types of material flow aids include:

  • Pneumatic flow aids that use air pulses (ex: AirSweep, fluidizers, air cannons)
  • Industrial vibrators that use mechanical agitation (ex: vibrators, air hammers)
  • Chemical flow aids that are mixed into the material to change its flow properties (ex: fumed silica, magnesium stearate)

Among all these types of material handling equipment, AirSweep has proven to deliver the best results at lower costs. Unlike other pneumatic flow aids, it can activate even sticky, heavy, and moist materials. It uses less energy and does less damage to vessels than vibrators, and does not compromise the product formula like chemical additives.

Discover the difference between AirSweep and other types of material handling equipment in this in-depth flow aid competitive analysis. You can also contact us to find out how AirSweep can help improve your productivity, product quality, and plant safety.

Where Can You Install an AirSweep?

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Material flowing from a hopper

AirSweep pneumatic flow aid systems are used in thousands of plants around the world. Aside from improving material flow, one of its biggest benefits is its simple and fast installation. You do not need special tools or skills to attach the nozzle, and you can use the system on any storage silos and hoppers, chutes, blenders, or any vessel of any size.

AirSweep can even be used in many vessels or environments where other flow aids simply won’t work. Here’s what you need to know about installing an AirSweep—and why it’s the easiest, most effective fix for material blocks.

AirSweep is easy to install

The AirSweep system consists of a nozzle that releases powerful bursts of pressured air. This is hooked up to an air supply through high-flow solenoid valves and an air receiver. An electronic sequence controller sets the duration and frequency of the pulses.

The nozzle is attached to the outside of the vessel. You just need to cut small holes to accommodate the nozzle tip, and then weld the couplings into place. Finally, insert the AirSweep nozzle to the desired depth and then tighten the lock nuts to hold it in place. It’s that simple!

The AirSweep can also be installed without any welding, using the outside of the mounting bracket. We recommend this option if you want to avoid modifying the vessel, or if you need to remove the nozzle often for frequent sanitation and cleaning.

Follow these simple steps on how to install the AirSweep without any welding or special tools:

AirSweep can be used on any vessel

Many flow aids like air cannons or vibrators are so bulky or generate so much metal fatigue that they cannot be used on small vessels or cramped locations. In contrast, AirSweep’s air pulses do not damage the vessels and have a sleek and compact design.

That is why AirSweep is the best flow aid for any vessel: storage silos and hoppers, gravity chutes, cyclones, blenders, pipes, conveyors, and more.

A plastic and chemical manufacturer found that it was the best flow aid for cyclone efficiency. They had frequent production delays because of the build-up of adipic acid. It would coat the upper discharge area, forming a cake-like crust. Bridging over the discharge would lead to complete blockage. The product-laden air would also fail to drop out and return to the baghouse. As a result, good product would get carried to the waste stream.

Vibrators, fluidizers, and other flow aids would not have been able to solve this problem. AirSweep engineers positioned AirSweep units strategically to prevent bridging at critical areas, leading to better flow and fewer operator interactions.

AirSweep can be used in hazardous environments

AirSweep has been fully tested and approved for use in hazardous and explosive environments. It has even received ATEX certification. ATEX (which stands for ATmosphères EXplosibles) is required for all products that are used in explosive environments in the European Union.

An explosive atmosphere can be caused by a variety of substances and chemicals in the air, such as flammable gases, mists or vapours, or fine organic dusts like grain flour or wood. This includes petrochemical industries, underground mining, and food production.

AirSweep can be used in sanitary process environments

Some industries, such as food and pharmaceuticals, must meet strict regulations on sanitary processes and equipment.

The USDA-accepted AirSweep has been developed specifically for this environment. The model incorporates sanitary design and fabrication principles to meet the guidelines set by the USDA. It has flanged connections for simple tool-less removal and easy assembly/disassembly with simple hand tools for inspection and cleaning. All parts are resistant to corrosive products and cleaning/sanitizing chemicals.

Get a custom installation proposal now

Each process, material, and vessel is unique. The AirSweep engineers will analyze your material flow problem, and recommend the best system for your needs—including the best AirSweep model, where to install it on your vessel, and what pulse frequency and sequence to follow.

Contact us if you have any questions about AirSweep and how it can be integrated into your process.