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USDA-Accepted AirSweep: The “Cleaner” Flow Aid

Author Archives: Control Concepts USA

  1. USDA-Accepted AirSweep: The “Cleaner” Flow Aid

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    Man inspecting material flow

    Several industries need to use sanitary processes to comply with safety standards. This includes food and beverage, biotech and pharmaceutical, personal care, and cosmetics.

    The USDA and FDA requires these industries to use hygienically designed equipment. According to Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operations (IMPO) magazine, this means they are:

    • Cleanable and hygienically compatible with other plant systems
    • Made of materials compatible with cleaning solutions
    • Accessible for maintenance, cleaning, and inspection
    • Free of recesses, corrosion, or areas that could collect product or liquid
    • Able to facilitate validation and other sanitary protocols

    Best flow aid for sanitary processes

    The USDA- Accepted AirSweep is a powerful material flow aid especially designed for sanitary applications. It releases powerful air pulses that break material blocks, bridging, and ratholing. The unique sweeping action can even result in the vessel being flushed completely clean. Watch how it works:

    Prevents spoilage and cross-contamination

    Since AirSweep prevents stagnant material, plants avoid two of the biggest problems of sanitary manufacturing: spoilage and cross-contamination.

    In fact, one of the world’s largest infant formula manufacturers uses the AirSweep USDA 135 and Straight Shooter models to break material blocks during production, and then clean the vessels between batch runs of regular and lactose-free formulas.

    Works on all materials

    The powerful air pulses can work on any material, including the sticky liquids or hygroscopic powders that are often used to make food, beverages, medicines, and cosmetics.

    Many AirSweep customers used other flow aids like vibrators, fluidizers, and bin aerators, but still had to hammer the vessel to clear out material blocks. A US chocolate manufacturer said workers who scraped the vessel often bathed in big spills of cocoa powder. “They looked like giant cocoa puffs.”

    AirSweep solved the problem. “It has a stronger air pulse than the bin aerators or fluidizers we previously installed. The air moves the powder down in a very large column so powder doesn’t stick to the walls,” said the coatings manager, Bob Wieland.

    Airtight, minimal contact design

    Only the nozzle tip has direct contact with the material. For each pulse, it opens for just 1/8” for ¼ seconds before snapping shut—for zero material feedback. The airtight design also guards against material retention and bacterial growth.

    Easy to remove and clean

    The AirSweep USDA-accepted models have flanged connections for quick installation or removal from mounting. It can be removed and disassembled with simple hand tools.

    Can be used with corrosive cleaning materials

    The stainless steel finish does not corrode or rust and can be safely cleaned with even the most potent disinfectants and chemicals.

    Solve material blocks and meet safety standards. Contact us to find out more about AirSweep USDA-accepted models.

  2. AirSweep Material Activation: More Powerful Than a Dozen Fluidizers – and Here’s Why

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    AirSweep VA-06 TRI-TRI Unit

    An aviation company that deices planes and runways uses pellets that are made of salt, binder, and other additives. Unfortunately, these materials are hygroscopic and have a tendency to clump and harden. The maintenance supervisor considered many different flow aids, but once he saw its description of “gentle vibration” he knew it wouldn’t work. “We needed something more…violent,” he said. He needed AirSweep.

    When he saw an AirSweep video, he knew it was the solution they were looking for. The powerful air pulses could cut through moist and sticky materials like liquid cheese, heavy solids like gravel, and hygroscopic powders like cornstarch and titanium dioxide.

    AirSweep Material Activation – More material moved per pulse

    One AirSweep unit can activate more material than a dozen fluidizers. You can see this for yourself in this video that compares the two flow aids’ activation radius:

    The smallest AirSweep, or model VA-06, activates a 1 to 2 foot radius, or about 300 to 600 millimeters. The AirSweep VA-12 activates a radius of about 3 to 4 feet, about 0.9 to 1.2 meters. The AirSweep VA-51 puts out a little more volume, so it activates a radius of up to 4 feet, or 1.2 meters, often even with denser products.

    The role of pressure and volume

    AirSweep harnesses air pressure and volume so each pulse can break material blocks and sweep them back into the flow stream. That’s why the system needs to have large pipes, headers, and receivers to run effectively.

    Paul the AirSweep guy explains how this works, using the analogy of a garden hose and a fire hose.

    AirSweeep is Powerful but energy efficient

    Though AirSweep pulses require more plant CFM, it actually uses less energy and plant air than other flow aids.
    AirSweep units are pulsed and run in a sequence, so even if you have 10 units on a vessel, they only pulse one at a time. It is more efficient than vibrators or fluidizers, which run continuously.

    The AirSweep also uses less energy than air cannons and actually activates more material. One of the world’s largest cement companies had issues with clinker sticking to vessels and chutes. They tried using two AIRCHOC air cannons, but workers still had to use a bar to break the material.

    AirSweep was an effective, fast, and simple solution. They were able to install it themselves in less than a day, and they never had to worry about clinker again. They even ordered 13 additional units for their various factories. “AirSweep works perfectly.”

    Contact us to find out more about the AirSweep system, and how to set up one in your plant.

  3. 3 Safety Hazards Caused by Bridging, Ratholing, and Poor Material Flow

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    Engineer climbing ladder to solve material flow

    Poor material flow doesn’t just affect productivity. It may lead to injury and hazardous plant environments, and compromise product safety.

    Using an efficient flow aid, like AirSweep, can help protect the safety of your workers and your customers, and ensures that your company complies with industry regulations.

    Fire hazards

    A cheese company uses whey protein concentrate (WPC), which contains high moisture and fat and is prone to bridging over the discharge outlets. They had fluidizers and vibrators, but these still left a lot of caked material in the vessel.

    Then one day, the caked material sparked a fire in one of their baghouses. Whey protein is classified as a combustible powder, and high concentrations can create a flammable environment.

    While the fire was contained, bridging had become an urgent safety concern. They installed AirSweep, which cut through the sticky material and swept vessels completely clean. It now uses AirSweep in all its factories in the United States—to improve productivity and plant safety.

    Many materials used in the food industry are classified as combustible: egg whites, powdered milk, cornstarch, sugar, flour, grain, potato, rice, etc. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, “The build-up of even a very small amount of dust can cause serious damage.”

    The AirSweep USDA-accepted model can prevent material build-up and meets the sanitary requirements of the food industry.

    Worker injury

    Many plants resort to manual cleaning to clear stubborn material blocks. Workers have to hammer the vessel walls or climb into them to break up the blocks.

    This process is tedious and exposes workers to several possible risks. Many powders and bulk solids can cause skin irritations or respiratory problems if they are directly handled or inhaled. Hammering and climbing into vessels can lead to falls and shoulder and back injuries.

    Worker safety laws require companies to prevent worker injury and avoid giving tasks that the worker has not specifically been trained to do. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards include:

    • Prevent exposure to harmful levels of substances
    • Prevent exposure to loud noises that can damage hearing
    • Ensure the safety of workers climbing into enclosures such as bins
    • OSHA fines can reach up to $14,502 per violation. So, manual cleaning is neither an easy nor a cheap solution for material blocks.

    Product spoilage and contamination

    Ideally, materials in a vessel will have a first in/first out flow. This prevents spoilage and protects batch uniformity—and in some industries, like food and pharmaceuticals, this is critical for the consumer’s safety. Even cement can be unstable if the batch deviates from the correct proportions of materials.

    AirSweep is used in those industries to achieve on-demand, first in/first out flow:

    AirSweep can help you improve productivity and safety. Contact us to find out more about how AirSweep works, or ask for a customized proposal.

  4. The Cost and Efficiency of Using Pressurized Air to Break Material Blocks

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    Close up of pressure meter of a pressurized air tank

    Pneumatic flow aids use pressurized air to stimulate material flow. Fluidizers and air pads use a combination of aeration and gentle vibration and are typically used for fine powders. However, low-pressure air can’t activate heavy materials or break bridging, arching, and ratholing.

    AirSweep releases high-pressure air pulses and is proven effective for problematic materials. One unit can activate more material than dozens of fluidizers, and flush the vessel completely clean.

    The AirSweep system just needs to be hooked up to a good air supply that provides enough pressure and volume to power up each pulse. Here are some frequently asked questions about AirSweep and the cost and efficiency of using pressurized air to solve material blocks.

    Why do I need high-pressure air to solve material blocks?

    Bridging, arching, and ratholing are caused either by a material’s high cohesive strength, or particles that interlock and are then further packed together by downward pressure.

    The high-pressure air pulses create a shockwave that breaks up the material blocks and sweep up the stalled material out of the vessel. This can’t be achieved by gentle aeration.

    How does AirSweep compare to air cannons and air knockers?

    Air cannons and air knockers also use high-pressure air in higher volumes. However, these require more plant air and energy, and the strong recoil can cause metal fatigue.

    Furthermore, using bigger blasts of air doesn’t necessarily improve material flow. The peak force lasts only 1/1000th of a second – subsequent discharge is wasted energy. The air also tends to “channel” through holes in the material, greatly diminishing effectiveness.

    AirSweep releases short, controlled pulses exactly where and when you need it, so you never use more plant air or energy than you have to. You can control the position of each nozzle, the duration between each pulse, and the sequence. You can also choose between the classic AirSweep which releases pulses in 360 degrees or the Straight Shooter model which releases a vertical column of air.

    What kind of plant air can be used?

    The AirSweep can pass any inert medium that can be pressurized. Some plants have even used nitrogen with AirSweep to help purge oxygen from the vessel to reduce explosion or fire hazards.

    Is it expensive to use high-pressure compressed air?

    AirSweep is very cost-efficient. Unlike fluidizers and air pads which run continuously, the nozzles release air pulses in sequence. So even if you have several units on a vessel, they only pulse one at a time. AirSweep also uses less plant air and electricity than air cannons and air knockers.

    Can damp air damage the AirSweep?

    Damp air will not damage the unit itself, but it can introduce moisture into the material and cause it to cake or gum up. That is why we recommend treating the air before it goes into the system.

    Can AirSweep cause air pressure build-up?

    Pressure build-up is not an issue because the AirSweep system is not run until the vessel is actively discharging.

    The AirSweep design also allows you to customize the flow. For example, if the material has a tendency to overflow, air pressure can be lowered to lessen the volume or area of influence, or the pulse frequency and sequence can be changed. You can also get a smaller AirSweep unit with a smaller sweep diameter.

    Will the air pulses cause segregation and demixing?

    As long as the AirSweep is tied into the discharge cycle, there will be no segregation. In fact, AirSweep is often used to maintain blend uniformity.

    An infant formula company uses AirSweep at the start of the packaging lines—where base powders with vitamins and other compounds are mixed—down to their receiving hoppers and sifters. The air pulses ensure continuous material flow, so the product remains consistent from start to finish.

    Can AirSweep units on different vessels share systems like an air receiver?

    If two vessels are used simultaneously, it depends on whether the compressed air supply can handle the load. If these are used simultaneously and are in close proximity, then they can be connected to the same air receiver, filter, and regulator.

    Do you have questions about AirSweep and pneumatic flow aids that weren’t covered by this article? Contact us and we’ll be happy to give you information or customize a proposal.

  5. Solve Cement Flow Issues with AirSweep

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    Cement on conveyer using AirSweep

    Cement is an important building material with the global demand expected to reach 4.73 billion tons by 2025. However, many cement plants struggle to keep up with production because of bulk solid flow problems. Materials like limestone, slag, bauxite, gypsum, and clay are prone to bridging, ratholing, and flooding. Moisture—especially in Asia and other humid environments—can also harden materials during storage.

    Plant operators often resort to makeshift solutions like hammering the vessel. However, this seemingly “cheap fix” is slow and has hidden costs: slow productivity, safety risks, and damage to the vessels. Flow aids can help clear out material blocks and improve production, but it is necessary to find one that is effective for cement materials.

    4 Factors When Selecting a Flow Aid for the Cement Industry

    • Material activation. The flow aid must be able to handle heavy materials and large volumes. Some flow aids like fluidizers, which use a combination of gentle air pulses and vibration, are only effective for light powders that respond to light aeration.
    • Energy consumption. Air cannons and air knockers have more power than fluidizers, but also require a lot of energy and plant air. Vibrators can also be expensive to operate because they run continuously. This is a big factor for countries that have high electricity prices, particularly in Asia and Europe.
    • Reliability. Ideally, flow aids provide on-demand, first-in / first-out flow. Stagnant material left in the vessel can compromise product consistency and safety. For example, some additives like magnesium oxide can add strength but must be used in precise quantities so the product remains stable.
    • Maintenance time and cost. Part of productivity includes shortening maintenance and cleaning times. Flow aids that are installed outside of the vessel, and can easily be removed even when they are located higher up in the silo or hopper, can significantly simplify routine maintenance.

    AirSweep is One of the Most Trusted Flow Aids in the Cement Industry

    AirSweep is a pneumatic flow aid that releases high-pressure, high-volume, 360-degree bursts of compressed air, which lifts stalled material back into the flow stream. It is used by cement companies around the world, such as Heidelberg Cement, Republic Cement, Cemex, Mississippi Lime, Carmeuse, and more.

    AirSweep is proven effective for cement materials such as:

    • Aluminum
    • Bentonite
    • Coal
    • Copper
    • Diatomaceous earth
    • Gypsum
    • Iron ore
    • Limestone
    • Magnetite
    • Phosphate
    • Shale
    • Soda Ash

    This material flow test demonstrates AirSweep’s effectivity for gypsum pebbles, which are used in the cement industry as a hardening retarder.

    AirSweep Increases Cement Production by 60% Overnight

    A Pennsylvania concrete company with six ready-mix plants was experiencing problems with fly ash bridging in bins, halting production.

    After the AirSweep units were installed, fly ash moved freely from the bin to the ready-mix truck. “Production went from zero percent to 100 percent overnight after installing the AirSweep units,” stated the quality control technical service manager at the plant. The plant increased production by 60 percent.

    AirSweep Works Better Than Industrial Vibrators for Cement Materials

    An Asian cement company needed a flow rate of 30 tons per hour, but humidity caused shale to clog the silos. They lost $12,000 per hour of downtime. They tried numerous flow aids, such as vibrators, but workers still had to hammer the vessels to clear out all the material. This happened so frequently that they developed a formula for the cost of downtime on their monthly reports.

    Vibrators and air knockers didn’t work. Only AirSweep produced reliable flow – and even used half as much energy as other flow aids.

    AirSweep Proves More Powerful Than Air Cannons and Air Knockers

    Heidelberg Cement, one of the largest building materials companies in the world, previously used air cannons to clear cement clinker from vessel walls and pipes. “We were using a bar to [break] the material in the tube.”

    They replaced air cannons with AirSweep. “They worked perfectly.” Heidelberg Cement was so happy with the results that in the last year, they ordered 13 additional units for their various factories. “This is only the beginning of the project.”

    AirSweep Meets All the Criteria for a Cement Flow Aid

    • Material activation. AirSweep’s powerful air pulses are able to lift all material back into the flow stream. You don’t need to have workers hammer or climb into the vessel with pick axes and other tools to clear out blocks and residue.
    • Energy consumption. AirSweep uses less energy and plant air than other flow aids. It also uses controlled pulses which are released in sequence, instead of running continuously.
    • Reliability. AirSweep promotes on-demand, first-in / first-out flow. It even flushes the walls clean, ensuring product consistency and integrity.
    • Maintenance time and cost. AirSweep units are installed outside of the vessel, and can easily be removed with simple tools for routine maintenance and cleaning.

    For more information on AirSweep in the cement industry, visit this page or contact us.

  6. AirSweep Cuts Back on Cleaning Time

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    If you are looking to cut back on cleaning time then you need AirSweep.

    When you are cleaning your vessels, do you need to manually clean them, or flush them with flour or other materials?

    We have a better way to clean your vessels and save you time and money. 

    An infant formula company produces several varieties and milk formulations in the same processing and packaging lines. They used AirSweep during production to prevent segregation, and after production to flush the vessels completely clean – this cut their cleanup time by 75%!

    AirSweep cuts back on cleaning time quote

    Are you curious about how AirSweep can help your process? Contact us and we’ll be happy to customize a proposal for you.

  7. The Hidden Cost of Ineffective Material Flow Aids

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    man with corn in his hand experiencing the hidden cost of bad flow aids

    Flow aids can resolve bridging, arching, and other material blocks, but many give limited results and come with hidden costs. So instead of solving the problem, they can even create new ones—and hinder productivity and revenue.

    Hammers and Manual Cleaning

    Hammers are the cheapest flow aid you can possibly find… or so you think. While you can get a hammer for less than $20, you’re actually paying for manpower hours and the downtime while workers clear out the clogged material from the vessel.

    That can be very expensive. One of the biggest cement companies in Southeast Asia calculated that they lost $12,000 per hour of downtime. In North America, this downtime is more like $25,000 an hour.

    Hammering can also damage machines, and it creates the risk of worker injury. It’s also very inefficient: material can still cling to vessel walls compromising product consistency and even leading to spoilage.

    Fluidizers

    Fluidizers are sometimes the default flow aid because they have already been pre-fitted into the vessel. The rubber disks are connected to air piping and use a combination of gentle vibration and aeration to activate the material.

    While the fluidizers work for very light powders like flour, they can’t activate heavy, damp, or sticky materials. They have a small effective radius, so you may need to install several units. Since the disks run continuously, energy consumption is also high.

    Fluidizers that are installed inside the vessel can also degrade, and material can be trapped inside the disks. This is a risk for sanitary processes and it creates cleaning and maintenance challenges.

    Industrial Vibrators

    Vibrators, as the name implies, vibrate the material to shake it free from the vessel wall and collapse any bridging and blocks.

    However, many materials can actually become more compact when it is shaken. In fact, vibrators are sometimes used to compress materials before they are stored or transported. That’s effective in a warehouse, but not in a silo or hopper where you want materials to move.

    Even for materials to respond to vibration, this flow aid can still be problematic. It can cause metal fatigue and eventually lead to vessel damage. It uses a lot of air and energy to operate. It does not completely flush material that clings to walls or pipes, so you will still need to do periodic shutdowns for cleaning.

    Air Cannons

    This flow aid blasts air through material blocks. While powerful, it is not always effective. Air can channel through the holes and diminish its effect. It requires a large amount of plant air and energy to operate, and will still leave a lot of material on the vessel that needs to be manually cleaned.

    The large units are also difficult to install in small vessels, and the metal recoil contributes to vessel wear and tear. Flying material can also enter the nozzle and solenoid valve, so the system is prone to damage and maintenance issues.

    How to Find the Most Efficient Flow Aid

    When selecting a flow aid, don’t just look at the initial cost of installation. Look at the hidden costs—downtime and manual labor, consumption of energy and plant air, cleaning and maintenance, and even the financial and legal impact of a worker injury.

    To avoid these costs, select a flow aid based on these factors:

    • Speed and efficiency. How fast will your material flow? Will it shorten your production time? Can the flow aid remove all stagnant material, or will you still need to hammer or manually clean your vessels?
    • Operating costs. How much energy does it consume during operation? Does it use energy efficiently, i.e. will the units run continuously or in short, specific durations? What is the cost of cleaning and maintaining the flow aid itself, and how does it impact the maintenance of the vessel in which it is installed?
    • Hygiene and safety. Consider risks to your product quality (like material contamination and spoilage) and risks to your people (worker injuries during manual cleaning, etc.).

    Companies Choose AirSweep as the Most Cost-Effective Flow Aid

    Many plants that used fluidizers, vibrators, and other flow aids eventually switched to AirSweep because they got better results. It improved productivity, product quality, and had lower energy and maintenance costs.

    You can read about 7 companies that switched from vibrators to AirSweep or see how AirSweep’s features compare to the other flow aids in the market.

    If you have any other questions about AirSweep or need more information about how it can work on your process, contact us for a personal consultation or customized proposal.

  8. DAZIC Zero Speed Switches Prevents Tons of Problems

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    What would happen if your conveyor system suddenly malfunctioned, and dumped all of your material on the ground? How long would it take you to clean it up?

    A cement manufacturer whose feeder loads up to 250 tons of gravel per hour knows that if a machine fails, any delay in response time means hours of backbreaking cleanup. Even just a 10-minute delay could result in 30 hours of downtime.

    DAZIC Zero Speed Switches can help prevent material pileup and detect machine failure saving you time and money.

    DAZIC Barnes Concrete case study infographic

     

    The cement manufacturer used DAZIC to prevent tons of problems.  Their DAZIC solution costs less than $1,000 and hasn’t failed them once in the last decade. Read their story – and reach out to us if you’d like to have one installed in your plant.

  9. Meet Safety Regulations with DAZIC Zero Speed Switches

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    Man in orange coverall with a thumbs up

    What could happen if one of your equipment malfunctions, and tons of material spill before you’re able to shut it off?

    The obvious problem would be the loss of production. You could spend hours, if not days, cleaning up the mess. You may even have to pull workers from other parts of the plant to get the job done faster or hire other people.

    But the biggest and most expensive risk that you make is a violation of safety regulations.

    • Can a worker be injured if he is buried under the material, or exposed to it?
    • Does the material have hazardous properties? (Ex. can cause fires, chemical burns, health problems, etc.)
    • Is the worker trained to personally handle and move the material? Does he know the proper safety precautions, and has he been given the proper safety equipment and gear?
    • Is this part of his job description? Any task assigned to a worker outside of what he is trained to do increases the risk of injury.

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has different levels of safety violations. However, the most serious violation is “When a business owner or manager knows there is a hazard that can result in injury or death and does nothing to resolve it.” Fines can reach up to $14,502 for each one, and willful or repeated violations can get stiffer penalties up to $145,207.

    Use DAZIC Zero Speed Switches to Meet Safety Regulations

    A DAZIC Zero Speed Switch can help prevent material pileups and detect machine failure. Just like fire alarms, they are cheap, easy to install, and can quickly alert you of a problem.

    Speed switches are attached to any equipment that has rotating shafts. The sensors can detect if the rotations per minute (RPM) do not match the speed trip-points that you have set – either it is moving too fast, too slow, or stopped completely. It triggers an alarm and shuts it down.

    Several plants around the world have installed DAZIC Zero Speed Switches to prevent worker injury and meet strict industry safety protocols.

    Flammable signs

    Flammable Environments

    Some fine powders can form explosive mixtures when released into the air, which can lead to flash fires. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has classified these materials as combustible dusts.

    Under OSHA regulations, companies that use these materials must have dust control measures that prevent the accumulation of the dust during daily operations, and an emergency action plan in case the dust collects or is accidentally dispersed.

    One of the world’s largest rubber tire manufacturers uses carbon black—classified as a combustible dust—to improve durability and performance. They installed DAZIC Zero Speed Switches to prevent any material spills and meet OSHA safety standards.

    Physical Injury

    Some industries—like cement, mining, or minerals processing—work with very heavy bulk solids. If any of the equipment fails, workers would have to clear the material before production can resume. However, contact with any material outside of normal operations can have its own risks.

    The type and level of hazards depend on the material properties and the process. However, scenarios can include:

    • Physical injury from lifting heavy material, or being hit by debris
    • Respiratory problems from inhalation of dust and fine powders
    • Skin irritation, ranging from rashes to chemical burns

    Knowing these risks, a ready-mix concrete manufacturer installed DAZIC Zero Speed Switches to prevent material pile-up. They have 12 mixers, with feeders that load up to 250 tons of gravel an hour.

    While they are a local business with limited budgets, the DAZIC Zero Speed Switches were an inexpensive investment that has prevented workplace accidents and very expensive regulatory fines. “It’s really a safety issue,” said plant supervisor Joe Kruzewski. “It would be a train wreck [to be] buried with that amount of gravel.”

    The DAZIC Zero Speed Switches are also very durable. The oldest one is 18 years old, and it is still working.

    More Information

    To learn more about how DAZIC works watch this video. Are you looking to meet safety regulations in your plant? Contact us and meet your safety regulations with DAZIC.

  10. AirSweep in the Mined Materials Industry

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    AirSweep is used in the mined materials industry. Nearly all manufacturing processes use mineral commodities. The smartphone you use every day (including its display and circuits) is made from at least 14 different mined materials.

    Unfortunately, mineral commodities are notoriously difficult to handle. They bridge, arch, and interlock. These material blocks can be as stubborn as a rock—literally.

    But AirSweep has solved this problem every single time. See it for yourself with the case studies and flow tests on our mined materials industry page. We work better than vibrators, bin activators, and air cannons on heavy materials. If that isn’t enough, AirSweep costs less to operate too!

    What’s your toughest, most problematic flow problem? Contact us and we’ll find a way to fix it.

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