5 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Flow Aid

Question mark made of bulk materials

Poor material flow slows down production, compromises product quality and consistency, and can even create workplace safety hazards. That’s why many industries turn to flow aids to move material consistently and reliably.

Flow aids are bulk solid handling equipment that stimulate or improve the movement of material. They prevent bridging, ratholing, clogging, or material residue on vessel or pipe walls. Some flow aids like AirSweep can even be used to flush vessels clean between batch runs.

How do I choose the right flow aid for my process?

Before choosing a flow aid (or any bulk solids handling equipment for that matter) understand the characteristics of your bulk material – such as particle size, shape, density, moisture content, and flowability.

For example, fluidizers work for very light powders like flour but lack the volume and pressure to activate moist and heavy materials. Vibrators can also make some materials more compact.

A commercial bakery tried both types of flow aids to resolve the issue of flax bridging on the discharge and caking on vessel walls.

“The vibrators that came installed on the bottom of the hopper above the mixture practically turned the flax into concrete,” said the maintenance manager. “Then we installed fluidizers, which were terrible. We still had to use hammers and sticks, and spent an hour a day to clean and keep things flowing.”

Flax is a very moist, sticky material. Since vibration or agitation can make it settle, it needs a powerful pneumatic flow aid that releases enough pressure to move it through the vessel and even sweep the walls clean.

AirSweep was the only flow aid that fits the bill. It solved 90% of their material retention problems, reduced material waste, and saved time and manpower costs.

How much energy and plant air will it consume?

A flow aid may seem “cheaper” but actually cost more to run. For example, fluidizers run continuously, but AirSweep releases short pulses in sequence – which means it uses plant air and electricity more cost-efficiently.

Can it reduce worker intervention?

Your flow aid should be so effective that once you install it you can walk away and focus on other parts of the plant. If you still need to hammer vessels or do any other kind of manual cleaning, it’s time to look for a better alternative.

An asphalt plant in Mexico spent every Monday hammering silos, even if they had electric vibrators installed.

“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,” said the sales manager.

But when they traded the vibrators for AirSweep, workers put away the hammers for good. “After four years, we finally have the right solution! We are very happy with the system.”

Is it easy to clean and maintain?

All bulk solids handling equipment must be periodically cleaned and checked for sanitation and safety purposes.

AirSweep is designed for fast and easy maintenance. It can be removed from the vessel with simple tools. And since the nozzle shuts tightly closed after each pulse, there is no material feedback that can contaminate the rest of the system.

Will AirSweep work with my material and process?

AirSweep can activate almost any bulk powder or solid—dry, wet, sticky, moist, and more. Tell us about your material and the kind of problems you encounter, and our engineers can recommend the best model and set-up for your needs.

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