A PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY SOLVES THEIR BIGGEST HEADACHE WITH AIRSWEEP
Material flow can be a headache—especially for pharmaceuticals. To manufacture tablets, powder ingredients are mixed in a blender and then discharged into a bin or a hopper, from where they are fed to the tablet press. Unfortunately, many fine powders are prone to bridging, arching, and segregation. This was the problem that plagued a global, multi-billion pharmaceutical company, and AirSweep proved to be the perfect prescription.
During the production of acetaminophen, an over-the-counter drug, multiple powder ingredients would bridge in the hoppers. This not only slowed down production, but if the arch or bridge suddenly breaks, the overflooding can affect downstream processes, and be hard to clean up.
Erratic flow also compromises product consistency and quality. This can lead to the rejection of batches worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and poses a risk to the pharmaceutical’s reputation and the safety of its products.
The company asked the AirSweep team to do a material flow test and found that the powders responded very well to the AirSweep system. Installation took less than 48 hours.
With the AirSweep in place, the pharmaceutical company was able to achieve on-demand, reliable material flow in their acetaminophen production.
“With acetaminophen being for human consumption, we cannot have non-uniform batches due to inconsistent material flow. It was costing us thousands to discard those batches. After installing AirSweep, it was a success and we immediately added AirSweep to another one of our process lines” – Project Director, Corporate Engineering.
Global tire manufacturer installs DAZIC to meet plant safety standards
Carbon black is used in the production of rubber tires to improve durability and performance. However, OSHA classifies it as a combustible dust, and requires companies to prevent it from accumulating.
One of the world’s largest tire manufacturers uses DAZIC® zero speed switches to meet plant safety standards.
If equipment malfunctions and causes a carbon black spill, it creates a dangerous plant environment. Finely dispersed particles can form explosive mixtures in the air and cause flash fires. It also causes coughing, breathing problems, and skin or eye irritations.
Since carbon black doesn’t dissolve in water and solvents, clean-up is long and difficult. This prolongs worker exposure, and stalls production for days.
The tire manufacturer installed DAZIC zero speed switches to signal the operator if equipment stops or runs too fast—preventing material flooding and spills.
With DAZIC in place, there have been no incidents of material pile-up. It was a reliable and affordable solution—and thanks to the DAZIC customer service, was very simple to implement. “They have been very responsive to the process needs of our factory.”
AirSweep® helped a tire manufacturer achieve faster flow at lower energy cost
One of the world’s largest tire manufacturers had hit a roadblock in production, because of the poor flow characteristics of one of its most important materials.
Carbon black is used in the production of rubber tires to improve durability and performance. It conducts heat away from the tread and belt area, and can reduce rolling resistance.
However, carbon black is a very challenging material to handle. It cakes and packs easily, and leaves deposits on every surface it touches.
The manufacturer faced two problems that were costing them time and money.
First, carbon black bridged above the discharge. This stalled the weighed batch of material and caused frequent process delays.
Second, it coated the interior of the vessel and compromised batch uniformity. Several batches that proved off-spec during quality testing had to be thrown out.
The manufacturer initially tried fluidizers, but these were ineffective and expensive to operate. They wanted a flow aid that created on-demand flow, but used plant air and energy more efficiently.
AirSweep proved to be the most reliable, cost-effective solution for a problematic material like carbon black.
Two AirSweep VA-12 units were installed on the weigh hopper. This size is ideal for medium to large vessels when it’s important to limit the volume of air introduced into the system—either to avoid over-aeration of the product, or when plant air is limited or costly.
The AirSweep system could be set up to release pulses in a specific time and sequence. It used less compressed gas than fluidizers, which would run continuously. The pulses could also be positioned at problem spots to prevent bridging and flush away residue.
The AirSweep system ensured smooth, continuous flow of the carbon black material. The plant achieved higher production and batch uniformity, and saved a lot of money because of lower energy consumption and product waste.
Because of AirSweep’s proven success, the tire manufacturer has installed additional units in other parts of the plant. The system is now being used in several of their facilities in the United States and Canada.
“The fluidizers were really ineffective,” said the manufacturer’s engineering technology specialist. “Airsweep has provided us with reliable flow and reliable batch uniformity.”
The manufacturer has also been very happy with the service of the Control Concepts team. “They have been very responsive to the process needs of our factory.”
Vibrators couldn’t handle carbon black, but AirSweep achieves on-demand flow in less than a week
A global manufacturer of carbon black additives supplies over 2 million tons to leading companies in the paint, plastic, tire, rubber, and ink industries every year.
Carbon black’s flow properties make it particularly difficult to handle. It has a tendency to fluidize, and form deposits along the conveyor lines and storage vessels. Since it does not dissolve in water and solvents, cleaning can be time-consuming and expensive.
Carbon black also has a tendency to cake and pack while unloading, and bridge or rathole in the hoppers. For this manufacturer, bridging over the silo discharge would cause long and frequent process delays. The entire process would shut down because the rest of the machines were starved of raw materials.
After finding out that vibrators were ineffective, the manufacturer switched to AirSweep—and saw immediate results.
Three AirSweep VA-51 units were installed on a weigh hopper. The air pulses easily activated the material for reliable, on-demand flow.
And it was quick – installation took less than 48 hours.
AirSweep has proven to be so reliable, that the company had the AirSweep system retrofitted to several other process hoppers at the facility.
“I’m extremely happy at the responsiveness of Control Concepts and the local distributor they brought in to work with us,” said the lead process engineer. “Their helpfulness got our project off the ground in less than a week.”
AirSweep® can be installed in cyclones to prevent material build-up and frequent cleanouts
A plastic and chemical manufacturer had frequent production delays because of the build-up of adipic acid in their cyclone.
Adipic acid’s flow properties and moisture content caused frequent shutdowns and cleanouts. 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.
AirSweep is used in many processes that use adipic acid, and our experience allows us to give fast and precise solutions.
AirSweep engineers assessed the vessel and positioned six AirSweep VA-06 units in critical areas of the cyclone.
The AirSweep prevented bridging and cleaned critical interior surfaces, resulting in more efficient operations and fewer operator interactions. “The AirSweep was a success! We are already looking at retrofitting more units into a silo with the same material.”
R.M. Palmer, a candy manufacturer in Reading, Pennsylvania, produces specialty holiday confections for US and international distribution. Some creations include novelties such as chocolate pumpkins, Easter bunnies, and Santas. The privately-owned company has been making confections for 50 years.
To make chocolate, cocoa powder is poured from 50-pound bags into a bag dump station with an integral dust collector. The powder is gravity-fed to a large storage hopper. From there, it moves to a smaller intermediate hopper that discharges into a rotary airlock, then is pneumatically conveyed to a weigh batching area.
Their cocoa powder is very fine and has a 12% oil content. It would pack, bridge and rathole in the intermediate hopper. Workers had to do manual cleaning every 3 or 4 days.
“It wasn’t a pretty sight,” said coatings manager Bob Wieland. After striking the hopper with a large mallet to loosen the powder, operators would open an access door.
“We had to reach through the door and scrape down the hopper walls with a plastic scraper,” Wieland said. “If you weren’t careful as you reached the door, the powder could fall on you and turn you into a giant cocoa puff! We had some pretty big spills in the past.”
Wieland saw an advertisement for a bin discharge system that injects air pulses between the material and vessel wall to lift and sweep material off slopping surfaces. Wieland was wary of all bin discharge system claims by then, but he liked AirSweep’s trial period and guarantee.
“A lot of manufacturers say their product will work but they don’t back it up,” Wieland said. “I told the rep that I’d used three other units with no luck, and he guaranteed the system would work or I wouldn’t have to pay for it. Their trial period allowed 30 days to install the bin discharger and 30 more to use it. I couldn’t go wrong.”
Two AirSweep VA-06 food-grade units were installed 180 degrees apart, 1.5 feet above the hopper outlet. Special couplings mounted the units to the hopper’s curved surface. A CB04-4 programmable sequence timer with NEMA 4 enclosure triggered alternating ¼-second air pulses every 20 seconds.
This solved the mounting problem and all 24 VA-06 units were attached. Holes were drilled into the refractory, then mounted with rings on top of the incoming duct.
The plant went from downtime every 3 or 4 days to “no breakdowns, replacements, or any problems whatsoever.” They were even able to add two production shifts per month, increasing output.
“AirSweep works,” Wieland said. “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.”
AirSweep was also more convenient and cost-efficient than other flowaids. “It’s very quiet; you hardly hear it run. The sequence times saves plant air. The system installed very easily and is built very simply.”
AirSweep runs three shifts per day, 7 days per week. Through increasing productivity and lower energy and maintenance costs, they were able to recover the system’s cost after just two months of operation.
In Chile, Albemarle Ltd. is the second leading converter of lithium brine into lithium chloride and lithium carbonate. The production process begins with the treatment of natural brine that is obtained by pumping from the core of the Salar de Atacama and is available in open air pools, which are subjected to the intense solar energy of the Atacama Desert.
The natural brine used by Albemarle for its process contains a lithium concentration close to 0.2%. Due to evaporation produced by the sun, the brine becomes more concentrated and moves between different pools until reaching a 6% lithium content.
The concentrated brine is transported in tank trucks to the La Negra Chemical Plant in Antofagasta. Here, the brine extracted from the Salar de Atacama is subjected to a series of purification and chemical processes to produce products such as Lithium Carbonate-Battery Grade which is used in electronic devices, electric cars, and safety equipment, among others.
Poor flowability of processed lithium carbonate through drop chutes and a discharge pipe was an ongoing problem for the Albemarle La Negra Plant due to the product’s high moisture content. While maintaining a powder/talc consistency, the moisture content of lithium carbonate is 10-25%, with a density of 35-100 lbs/ft3 (561-1601 kg/m3).
Lithium Brine Beds – Salar de Atacama Region in Chile Hammers were being used to loosen processed materials that were stuck in the drop chutes. The chutes measure 10″ (25.4 cm) in diameter with stainless steel walls lined with PTFE (Teflon). From the drop chute/discharge pipe system, bins were filled using a screw feeder, which discharged to various silos.
Initially, twenty-four (24) Model VA-06 stainless steel AirSweep units were proposed for this project. Upon closer scrutiny, the typical welding and bolting installation methods of the VA-06 standard mounting coupling could not be used due to the PTFE-coated interior walls of the drop chute. Control Concepts recommended the AirSweep Outside-In Mounting Coupling, which allows AirSweep units to be attached to vessels without welding or bolting.
This solved the mounting problem and all 24 VA-06 units were attached. Holes were drilled into the refractory, then mounted with rings on top of the incoming duct.
Michelle Williams, Senior Project Manager of the Albemarle La Negra plant, reported their material filling time goal of 1.65 metric tons per hour was achieved due to the AirSweep system eliminating the material plugging and poor flow.
Additionally, the operators could finally “Drop The Hammers!” After successful initial trials, two more projects have been purchased and installed, with new applications being considered.
An aviation services company gets perfect material flow—and first-class customer service
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires airlines and airports that operate during icy conditions to perform deicing and anti-icing of aircraft and airfield pavement. Frozen deposits can lead to loss of control, engine flameout, and other accidents. An aviation services company that helps to deice gates, ramps, and other critical equipment for over a hundred airports across the United States had to clear their material blocks, before they could clear the runway.
The company blended salt with binder and other additives to make pellets, which were irregularly shaped to prevent them from rolling or blowing off the runways. Unfortunately, many materials used in deicing formulas are hygroscopic, and have a tendency to clump and harden.
The company’s process engineer suggested vibrators. But after the maintenance supervisor saw its description of “gentle vibration,” he knew it wouldn’t work.
“We needed something more…violent,” said the company’s CEO.
The aviation services company searched online and upon watching the video of the AirSweep® material flow aid system, knew it was exactly what they were looking for. AirSweep® engineers customized a solution that took into account their process, size, and angle of the vessels. This included:
- Two PM surge welded bins: Two VA-06 units placed at the upper half of the vessel, two VA-06 units in the center, and one VA-06 unit above the discharge
- Four minor welded bins: Four VA-06 units placed 90 degrees apart above the discharge
- Acetone bins: Four VA-06 units placed 90 degrees apart
- Receiving bins: Four VA-06 units placed 90 degrees apart
- Baghouse: Four VA-12 units placed 90 degrees apart
- Cyclone: Four VA-06 units placed 180 degrees apart
“AirSweep has made a 100% difference to our materials flowing,” the aviation services CEO said. They are getting more units to install in their other business areas, where they serve other airlines—including the biggest carriers and package delivery services.
They’re also happy with the “first-class” customer service they’ve received. “From the very beginning, the Control Concepts team has been very responsive. Every quote is accurate, and I never have to ask ‘where is my stuff’? Because if I’m calling a company for an update, I’m already mad,” said the CEO.
“Finally, we’ve found a company on the same level of service as us. With Control Concepts and AirSweep, there’s no headaches or bad surprises.”
“It would be a nightmare if DAZIC didn’t shut the conveyor down”
Local businesses can’t spend a lot of money on safety equipment—and they don’t have to. DAZIC Zero Speed Switches are used by a wide range of companies—from those in the S&P 500 to small family-owned businesses.
Barnes Concrete Co., Inc. has been manufacturing and delivering ready-mix concrete for 50 years. It started out as a small-batch plant with just three mixers. Now, they have 12 mixers and supply to the Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey tri-state area.
The feeder loads up to 250 tons of gravel per hour. Any equipment malfunction or failure in the production line could lead to an avalanche of material. “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.”
But they never had that problem because of the DAZIC 4100 Zero Speed Switches (CI 4120/B) they installed on all of their 12 conveyors, years ago. The oldest one is 18 years old, and it is still working!
DAZIC Zero Speed Switches are interlocked into a conveyor system so that operations stop if any equipment runs outside of pre-set speed limits. It prevents material pile-up, and its disastrous consequences.
Kruzewski estimates that it would take three people at least three hours to shovel one ton of gravel. The feeder loads 250 tons of gravel per hour, or about four tons a minute. 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. “We would have to shovel for days!”
The DAZIC Zero Speed Switches used by Barnes Concrete cost less than $900 each, and have not broken down after more than a decade of use. “They have never quit. The mounting eventually fails from wear and tear, but that’s more of maintenance on our part, not from the unit failing,” says Kruzewski.
But most importantly, the cement plant has not had a single incident of material pileup.
“It would be a nightmare if the DAZIC didn’t shut the conveyor belt down. I don’t even want to think about it,” Kruzewski said.
AirSweep is the only flow aid that can be used for both material flow and vessel cleaning—saving time and money at all stages of production.
The AirSweep system has many uses and applications. Aside from promoting on-demand flow, it can keep materials from adhering to the inside surfaces of process equipment to help ensure batch uniformity, and also clean and flush vessels between production runs. This reduces the time needed for final, manual cleaning—and for some industries, it can help protect product quality and safety.
An infant formula manufacturer produces several formulations in the same processing and packaging lines. They rely on a labor-intensive, multi-step process of flushing and manual cleaning because even trace amounts of cross-contamination may compromise the next batch and affect their consumers. They couldn’t take risks with a baby’s health.
Formula blends use ingredients containing high fat, sugars, and proteins that tend to cling to process vessel walls and inner surfaces. Some vitamin and mineral compounds also segregate out of the blends, causing out-of-spec formulations in the final product. This results in some batches of finished product to be scrapped or re-blended.
The manufacturer installed AirSweep USDA 135 and 185 and Straight Shooters in their blenders, vacuum receivers, sifters, and packaging line vessels. By pulsing the AirSweep units during and after the batch runs, they found that the powerful air pulses swept the vessel walls and inner surfaces of residual powder buildup. This made a significant, positive impact on blend uniformity and dramatically lessened the labor and time needed to clean after the batch runs were completed. This allowed them to add batch runs and increase production output.
AirSweep helped prevent material buildup during, and after, the process—proving its versatility and value.
“Beyond reliably producing a consistent product, they’ve also cut their turnaround and cleaning time significantly—saving tons of money,” said Paul Rose, AirSweep’s Sales Director. After the initial pilot test in one facility in 2016, they have since added AirSweep units to the other process lines in that plant, and in four other plants worldwide, and are currently adding the system to other plants.
“We went from 40 hours to 10 hours in cleanup time,” said the Company’s Associate Director for Process Technology Application and Productivity.