Category Archive: Airsweep

AirSweep in the Pet Food Industry

Cat eating pet food

The pet food industry is growing, reaching a record $103.6 billion dollars in 2022, and is expected to rise in the coming years. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, owners actually spent 20% to 25% more on their fur baby’s food.

It’s a big opportunity for pet food manufacturers, but unprecedented growth does come with substantial challenges.

Plants have to keep up with the higher production, and meet strict quality standards—not just from discerning pet owners, but industry and state regulatory boards. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has even tightened its requirements for the animal food industry, including a hazard plan to prevent spoilage and contamination, and regular plant inspections.

Problems that Affect Pet Food Production

Proper material flow is essential for meeting those goals. It can prevent many problems that can slow down production, and compromise the quality and safety of the product. Sluggish flow and stagnant material can:

  • Cause contamination and spoilage. Microorganisms and bacteria can grow in trapped material, or grow on the vessel itself.
  • Compromise blend uniformity. Sluggish and erratic flow compromises the proportion of materials, affecting the pet food’s quality and nutritional value.
  • Lead to production delays. Any clogged vessel affects downstream processes and can lead to shutdowns for manual cleaning.
  • Increase costs. Delayed production can increase manpower hours. Spoiled material and off-spec batches need to be thrown away, and even a single “bad batch” that escapes quality control can lead to product recalls.

pet food in a pet food bowl

Bulk Powders and Solids Used in Pet Food Manufacturing

Pet food is made from meat and meat by-products, cereal grains such as soybean meal and cornmeal, and liquids such as broth, blood, or water. Other materials may be added to improve palatability, consistency, and texture:

  • Cereal grains such as cornmeal, soybean meal, barley, bran flakes, cracked wheat
  • Starches and thickeners like cellulose, carrageenan
  • Flavor enhancers such as fat, fish solubles, protein, or concentrated flavors
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Proteinaceous adhesives such as collagen and casein
  • Plasticizing agents
  • Binders
  • Emulsifiers
  • Antioxidants to slow down oxidation and rancidity
  • Preservatives to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold

Unfortunately, many of these materials can be very difficult to handle, because of a tendency to form fines, segregate during mixing, or clump when exposed to moisture.

These materials can become compact during storage, and form problematic flow patterns in silos and hoppers. Bridging, arching, and ratholing are very common. And for moist or sticky formulas such as canned food, caking and material residue can plague every step of production.

AirSweep®: The Best Flow Aid for Pet Food

Pet food companies – as well as food and agriculture companies that have similar concerns – use AirSweep to improve material flow.

AirSweep releases high-pressure, high-volume air pulses that sweep all material back into the flow stream. It can be used during production to prevent material blocks and ensure blend uniformity, and between runs to flush vessels completely clean.

AirSweep works with some of the biggest manufacturers of pet food and treats, including one of Canada’s largest dry food manufacturers.

Elmira Pet Products had issues with feed blends bridging in the bottom of the bins. Vibrators and pneumatic hammers didn’t work. Operators still had to hit the bins with sledgehammers and climb into the two-story vessel to clean the receiver.

AirSweep provided on-demand flow and even shortened their cleaning time. They use AirSweep VA-12 units to clear material hang-ups in the dry mix bins, and AirSweep VA-06 units to clear kibble fines above the airlock.

The Proof is in the Flow

AirSweep’s precise air pulses are effective for bulk powders and solids used in the pet food industry. Watch the videos:

AirSweep is also used in other industries to promote on-demand flow of even the most challenging bulk materials. Contact us for more information, or to request a material flow test.

Yoda Would Love the AirSweep Force

Yoda loves the force of AirSweep

Happy Star Wars Day!

Today, let’s talk about The Force since Yoda would love the AirSweep Force.

You use force when you hammer your vessels, and some flow aids like vibrators and bin activators will also physically agitate the material.

That’s brute force: strong, but not precise. You still have leftover material. The constant abuse wears out the vessel, and the noise stresses out your workers.

AirSweep also uses force but in a more efficient way. The nozzles release powerful air pulses, when and where you need them. These break up the material blocks and sweep stagnant material back into the flow stream.

And when you use the force, everything flows with ease: your material, your process, and your entire workday. Watch how easy it can get – and if you want to see how it will work in your plant, we can send you more information and a customized proposal.

As Yoda would say, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Read about how AirSweep succeeded where all other flow aids failed.

May The Force Be With You.

Happy (Less) Labor Day!

This International Labor Day, we’d like to thank all our distributors for all your hard work. You have helped us bring AirSweep to all parts of the world, and serve thousands of clients from every industry.

The Control Concepts team is here to help you succeed and make your job easier. If you haven’t already, please check the distributor portal for resources like:

  • AirSweep Certificate Course to help you familiarize yourself with the system and confidently answer your customers’ questions
  • Ready-to-use sales presentations in PowerPoint and PDF formats
  • Product brochures, competitor comparisons, and case studies you can email to your prospects
  • Videos that demonstrate how the AirSweep works on different materials

AirSweep Certificate Course Sign Up

We hope these resources can help you with your sales and marketing efforts. Please let us know if your customers have questions or objections that aren’t currently covered. This can help us improve our content, and give you what you need in order to succeed.

The Most Cost-Effective Way to Improve a Material Handling System

worker on ipad trying to improve material handling

Anyone who works in material handling—or the process of moving, processing, and storing materials—knows how even a small issue can snowball into a bigger and more expensive problem. One machine breaks down, and production stalls. One ingredient spoils, and the entire batch is compromised.

What material handling issue gives you the biggest problems? What are some “quick fixes” that you can make that can make a big difference in production speed, quality, and cost? In this post, let’s look at how some companies improved their material handling system and its impact on their bottom line.

Frequent Downtimes

A US-based utilities company uses bituminous waste coal, a mining by-product, to produce clean energy. The thick material—which contains sandstone, clay, and moisture—had a tendency to cake in the feed chutes.

Workers had to enter the chutes to chip at the blocks. This occurred 15 times during each 12-hour shift, taking 20 minutes each time.

Manual cleaning caused downtime and increased labor costs. Workers were also unnecessarily exposed to dust, which can cause damage to the respiratory system through prolonged or repeated inhalation.

The company replaced manual cleaning with an AirSweep system. The AirSweep VA-51 can activate 6 to 8 feet in diameter of material and is effective even for heavy materials such as sandstone and clay.

After installing AirSweep, the plant no longer experienced plugging concerns in the feed chute. They experienced improved productivity and had lower energy costs compared to previous flow aids. “The AirSweep units paid for themselves within 2 weeks!” said the plant engineer.

Poor Product Uniformity

One of the world’s largest tire manufacturers uses carbon black to improve durability and performance. It conducts heat away from the tread and belt area and can reduce rolling resistance.

However, carbon black has a tendency to pack and leave deposits. Bridging above the hopper discharge caused frequent delays, and the material residue led to off-spec batches that had to be discarded.

The company tried fluidizers, but despite running continuously (and consuming a lot of plant air), these still left material residue.

AirSweep proved to be the more cost-effective solution for material handling efficiency. The system flushed away all carbon black residue and used less energy because the pulses were pulsed in a specific sequence and positioned at problem spots.

“AirSweep has provided us with reliable flow and reliable batch uniformity,” said the manufacturer’s engineering technology specialist.

conveyer belt improving product uniformity

Slow Loading Times

One of the biggest challenges of bulk material handling is loading the final product for transportation to the end-user.

For many years, a major distributor of granulated sugar with multiple locations across the United States had issues with unloading sugar from railcars. Sugar has a tendency to attract moisture, and cake or clump during storage.

The company tried industrial vibrators, which actually made the material more compact. Operators had no choice but to enter the car or do rodding. This affected loading times and worker safety.

Finally, the company found a faster and safer solution: AcoustiClean Sonic Horns. These devices focus sound energy that pushes material in a fast, steady flow. The horns were attached to the railcar’s top access hatch, so all workers had to do was open the hatch and the discharge gate.

Material Pile-Up

If equipment fails, any material that is being loaded or processed can overflow and lead to a material pile-up.

If that occurs, it can take hundreds of manhours just to clean up the mess. A concrete company that processes 250 tons of gravel per hour calculated that it would take 3 people at least 3 hours to shovel one ton. “We would have to shovel for days!”

To prevent the problem, the company installed DAZIC zero speed switches on their conveyor system. Once equipment runs outside of pre-set speed limits, the switches send an alarm to the operator to stop operations.

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.

Can We Help You?

Small fixes can give big results. Your material handling system can be improved without very expensive investments or complicated installations and changes to your process. In fact, our AirSweep ROI calculator will show you how our system can actually help you save money, compared to your current flow aids.

Contact us and we’ll be happy to work with you to find a material handling solution and a customized ROI.

3 Ways AirSweep Can Help You Be More Environmentally-Friendly

Earth Day is just around the corner, and we want to share how AirSweep is an environmentally-friendly flow aid solution!

One of the biggest challenges of the manufacturing industry is sustainability and how to reduce our carbon footprint. Many companies – including some of AirSweep’s biggest clients – are actually rethinking their process to:

  • Lower energy consumption
  • Shift to more environmentally-friendly materials
  • Reduce or reuse waste material

3 ways AirSweep can help you be environmentally friendly

 

That’s where AirSweep can help.

Get better flow with less energy. AirSweep uses less plant air and energy than other flow aids, including fluidizers, air cannons, vibrators, and air knockers.

Reduce material waste. A commercial bakery had to throw away 40 pounds of mixture a day because stagnant material would spoil or contaminate the next batch. AirSweep reduced material retention by 90%.

Work with any material. With AirSweep, plants can use any recyclable or renewable materials, even those that have challenging flow properties. For example, it works on plastic regrind, recycled carpet material, and ground oat hulls (a waste material that can be turned into biomass fuel).

Contact us to find out more about how AirSweep can help a company’s efforts to increase productivity and sustainability.

3 Ways to Improve the Efficiency of Material Handling Equipment

Man on forklift handling material

Material handling equipment stores, moves, controls or protects material as it goes through different processes in warehouses, plants, and other facilities. These are designed to carry large loads and improve production speed and safety.

Types of Material Handling Equipment

“Material handling equipment” is a broad term, and covers everything from the simplest shelf to complex, fully-automated systems. However, equipment generally falls under four general categories:

  • Bulk material handling. Used to store loose powders or solids and transfer these to the next processing stage. Includes silos, hoppers, reclaimers, conveyor belts, stackers, and bucket and grain elevators.
  • Engineered systems/automated systems. Removes the need for manual labor to significantly improve productivity, quality control, and plant safety. Includes automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), automated guided vehicles (AGVs), robotic delivery stems, and conveyor systems.
  • Industrial trucks. Used to stack, load, and transport materials. Includes hand trucks (also called dollies), side loaders, pallet trucks, and order pickers.
  • Storage and handling. Stores and organizes materials. Includes bins and drawers, mezzanines, racks, and stacking frames.

While bulk material handling systems are made up of reliable machines, there are several problems that can still plague production.

Plant manager with material handling equipment

Prevent Spillage with DAZIC

Spillage can stop production, waste materials, and lead to hours of difficult clean-up. It typically occurs at loading points if the upstream conveyor is too fast, or because of a steep incline that causes the material to slump back. Spillage can also occur at discharge points if the flow rate is too fast.

DAZIC zero speed switches can be attached on any material handling equipment that is part of a conveyor system or other shaft-driven process components. The switches stop operations when a machine slows down, stops, or deviates from standard operating parameters.

Barnes Concrete Co., Inc, a ready-mix concrete manufacturer, has used DAZIC to prevent spillage issues. Their feeders load 250 tons of gravel per hour; if any of that equipment failed, it would take three people at least three hours to shovel one ton of gravel. “It would be a nightmare if the DAZIC didn’t shut the conveyor belt down. I don’t even want to think about it,” said the plant supervisor.

Ensure Material Flow with AirSweep

Some materials have poor flow properties and have a tendency to block the discharge. Problems can occur if:

  • The material is cohesive enough to form bridges and ratholes
  • The material is a fine powder that behaves like liquid when aerated
  • The material is prone to sifting segregation
  • The material is hygroscopic and can cake or clump in humid plant environments

Flow properties must be considered when selecting the design of the material handling equipment. For example, hopper walls must be steep enough and should not generate too much friction, and the feeder should be able to discharge the material across the entire outlet cross section.

Material tests can determine the flow behaviors by measuring its cohesive strength, internal and wall friction, bulk density, and the gas permeability of fine powders. Ideally, the tests replicate the handling conditions such as temperature and humidity, moisture content, and time at rest.

Some vessels are pre-equipped with fluidizers to activate material. However, these are only effective for fine powders that respond to gentle aeration. It is more cost-effective to use a flow aid like AirSweep, which can activate even wet, sticky, or heavy materials.

AirSweep can be mounted on any vessel with simple tools, and installation can be completed within just a few days. Various companies have found AirSweep to be more effective than fluidizers, air cannons, and industrial vibrators.

Clear Dust and Powders with AcoustiClean

Materials like gypsum, flour, and sawdust are naturally dusty; processing methods, such as rough mechanical handling, can also create dust. This can affect worker safety since many materials can cause respiratory problems or even fatal lung disease after continuous exposure.

In some cases, dust or fine powders can affect the material handling equipment’s efficiency. The dust can affect heat transfer efficiency, and eventually cause it to clog and break down. This was the problem experienced by a US-engineered wood manufacturer, who had issues with soot accumulating in the boiler. Unfortunately, soot blowers warped in the furnace’s intense temperature.

The manufacturer replaced the soot blowers with AcoustiClean sonic horns, which produce high-energy, low-frequency sound vibrations that disperse dry material from material handling equipment. The cast-iron horns can withstand temperatures up to 2000ºF and require very little maintenance.

Customized Solutions for Every Process

Every process and material will have its own challenges. We work with you to understand your needs, and then customize a solution that can improve plant productivity, efficiency, and safety. Contact us to find out more about what AirSweep, Dazic, and AcoustiClean, and how they can be integrated into your process.

Improving Material Flow of Stored Materials in a Warehouse or Production Facility

Some powders and bulk solids can be more difficult to manage after storage or time at rest. The material tends to clump, agglomerate, or cake on the sides of the storage bin or vessel. The problems can be aggravated by plant conditions, and create problems during the production and packaging of the final product.

AirSweep can address some of the common material flow problems in a warehouse or production facility.

Compression

Powders can cake or clump when they are stored or packaged. Compressive forces release the air trapped between particles, and cause the material to settle and become more compact.

This was the problem faced by a regional asphalt manufacturer. “Over the weekend, when the plant was unstaffed, the 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 Rolando Cavazos, Sales Manager of AirSweep distributor BMH Equipos.

Construction working with Asphalt

After four years of hammering and trying ineffective flow aids like vibrators, the asphalt manufacturer installed the AirSweep system. The powerful air pulses broke the materials’ cohesive bonds, for instant and reliable flow.

Bridging and Ratholing

Many ingredients used in the food industry have a high oil content. Bridging and ratholing can occur when these are transferred from storage into hoppers and other vessels.

A chocolate manufacturer handles hundreds of pounds of cocoa every day. The fine powder would clog the vessels, and bin activators and fluidizers were ineffective. Every four days, it would pause production so workers could manually scrape off the powder. Aside from causing delays, this led to big spills that coated everyone in chocolate. “It turned you into a giant cocoa puff,” said the coatings manager.

Once the AirSweep system was installed, 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.

Stagnation

Stagnant material can spoil, decay, or compromise a product formula. This is common in a core flow or channel flow pattern, where powders at the side drop-down at a slower rate than the powder in the center.

AirSweep system material flow guide

AirSweep can help achieve mass flow, so all materials exit the vessel in a first-in/first-out flow pattern. We conducted a material flow test with fish powder, a material that has a tendency to clump and cake in humid environments. To demonstrate AirSweep’s effectiveness, water was even added to the fish powder to show on-demand material flow.

Plugging in the Outlet

When material blocks a vessel outlet, production can slow down or even stop completely. A mineral processing plant had issues with transferring material into supersacks. Despite the steep slopes of vessels, the fine powders and pebbles would still plug the vessel. It took an hour to fill each sack, and workers had to hit the bins with sledgehammers.

The AirSweep system eliminated all plugging of the outlets and cut the filling time of supersacks from one hour to two minutes. An additional forklift driver was even hired to keep up with the increase in production.

AirSweep is used in production and warehouse facilities around the world to improve material flow of even the most problematic materials. Contact us to get a customized proposal for your material and process.

3 Myths Customers Have About Installing AirSweep

AirSweep is designed to make installation as painless as possible. Who said that change always had to be hard?

Myth # 1: It requires special tools or a trained crew

When food manufacturing company Bunge installed AirSweep in their new bulk bag filling station, all they had to do was thread the nozzles into the couplings and connect it to their existing compressed air and electrical system. “Any electrician can wire it up. Everything was pretty straightforward and I would absolutely recommend it.”

Myth # 2: Installation will cause downtime

Even a more complex installation process will save you thousands of hours of downtime. One cement company had tried hammers and electric vibrators, but still spent every Monday clearing compacted material from their silos. “AirSweep solved a four-year-old problem in less than two weeks!”

 

AirSweep testimonial

 

Myth # 3: It’s a hassle to get a quote

All our customers are very happy with how quickly we respond to queries and work to solve the problem. “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?’” said the CEO of an aviation services company.

Have any questions about installation? Contact us and we’ll be happy to explain how it works, and address any special concerns you or your customers may have about materials and processes.

 

AirSweep keeps the sweets flowing

Cocoa powder with a heart

Happy Valentine’s Day! Did you get any chocolate or candy today? We love a sweet surprise—most of the time.

R. M. Palmer, a leading candy manufacturer in the United States, had issues with cocoa powder clogging their hoppers. During manual cleaning, it would spill on their workers and turn them into “giant cocoa puffs.”

Read about how AirSweep fixed the problem, and even lowered their energy and maintenance costs. Now that’s what we call a sweet success.

Also, see what happens when you don’t have AirSweep installed in a candy plant.

 

Webinar Sponsorship: Key Considerations to Develop a Basis of Design for an Effective Bulk Material Storage System

AirSweep and Powder Bulk Solids will be holding a free webinar on selecting a silo design for effective material flow on December 7, 2021.

Poor silo design can affect material flow, and cause storage and discharge upsets. The webinar “Key Considerations to Develop a Basis of Design for an Effective Bulk Material Storage System” will help participants understand the key factors for operational success, and how to develop a design document that they can share with equipment vendors.

corn in a silo

The webinar will be held on December 7 at 2pm Eastern Standard Time. Topics will include different types of storage systems, common flow problems, and the key parameters for a design document. Speakers include Eric Maynard, Vice President of Jenike & Johansen.

Click on this link to register for the event.