Protect Powder, Bulk Solid, and Product Integrity by Conveying Without Air

Protect Powder, Bulk Solid, and Product Integrity by Conveying Without Air
Gently conveying and feeding high-value powders and bulk solids can be critical to a wide range of processing industries including food, milling, pet and animal feed supplement, chemical, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.

Often, this can require the correct formulation of various trace elements, micro-ingredients, chemicals, or pharmaceuticals in the correct proportions in accord with regulatory guidelines, such as the FDA.  

However, conveying and mixing specific formulations, which can vary by numerous factors, can be challenging and inefficient with traditional air conveyors.  High-speed conveyance, particularly through bends, can cause product separation and potentially degrade product integrity.

Fortunately, industry innovation has made an alternative available that gently conveys powders and contains precise formulations during product and ingredient transfer: tubular cable conveyors, which can effectively safeguard product integrity.

Such cable and tube transfer systems can safely move all kinds of powders including pre-blended mixes with ingredients of varying bulk densities.  This is accomplished with cable and tube technology that contains the mixed ingredients in between discs, which keeps all contents secure during movement, as shown:

The approach also offers more options for dry and wet tube conveyor cleaning than traditional pneumatic equipment. These options can enhance production by minimizing the downtime necessary for cleaning.

Additionally, compared to high-speed pneumatic systems, cable and tube transfer systems use smaller, more energy-efficient motors, which provide significant energy savings and a quieter work setting.

The Limitations of Air Conveyors

High-dollar value powders and bulk solids can be prone to product separation and degradation when conveyed at high velocity by air-power, such as pneumatic and aeromechanical systems.

Pneumatic conveyor systems utilize air by creating air pressure above or below the atmospheric level.  Product separation is a particular risk at bends and sweeps where it can be forced through constricted areas and quickly change direction.  In such cases, various powders and micro-ingredients with different bulk densities can segregate.  Valuable products and ingredients can also be damaged, if fragile. In addition, these systems use filters that require regular replacement.

Aeromechanical conveyors can also potentially degrade powdered products and ingredients.  With these systems, a wire rope with evenly spaced discs within a tube travels at high speed, running in sprockets at each end of the conveyor.  This generates an internal air stream traveling at the same high velocity as the discs that carry product along in the tube.  However, these conveyors may also force vulnerable materials through stressful phases during transport, which could impair their integrity.

Protecting Product and Profitability

A gentler alternative to protect sensitive, high-value powders, bulk solids, and products is to utilize tubular cable conveyors like those from Cablevey Conveyors.

Tubular cable conveyors move product through a sealed tube using a coated, flexible stainless-steel drag cable pulled through on a loop.  Solid circular discs (flights) are attached to the cable, which pushes the product at low speed through the tube without the use of air, preserving product integrity.  The systems can convey up to 2000 cubic feet per hour (56m3/hr.) of powders, granules, etc. with numerous layouts using multiple inlets and outlets.

Since the material is carried between the flights, powders and bulk solids in premixed or blended form, as well as inputs, are safely conveyed.  These flights act as pockets that fully contain powders and mixed ingredients of varying bulk densities with virtually no product separation or degradation during movement.

The cable and tube powder transfer systems also provide clean handling between the flights. This minimizes any potential contamination of products and inputs as well as the processing plant.  When cleaning is factored in, closed-system tubular cable conveyor systems are also less expensive to own and operate than pneumatic equipment.

In regard to maintaining cleanliness, tubular drag cable conveyor systems offer more options for dry and wet tube conveyor cleaning than pneumatic equipment.  These include brush boxes, urethane wipers, air knives, inline sponges, inline bristle brushes, and multi-step, essentially automated Clean-In-Place (CIP) dry and wet cleaning.

Since pneumatic systems convey product at high velocity, this typically requires larger, power-hungry motors that run fans, blowers, and rotary valves.

In terms of noise level, pneumatic conveying systems also generate considerable noise. Aero-mechanical systems, running at high speed, generate considerable motor and disc noise as well.

Given that smaller motors are used, tubular cable and disc systems utilize much less energy and are quieter overall.  A low-speed tubular cable system is quiet enough to easily have a conversation around it while it is running.  In regards to energy, it utilizes about one-tenth that of pneumatic systems.  Compared to pneumatic dense phase models, the electricity savings of using a tubular conveyor can be sizable, with a 1-year ROI, in energy costs alone, in some cases.

As powder and bulk solid industry professionals seek to protect product integrity and margins, tubular cable systems can be a tool toward enhancing profitability for many years to come.

This article is published by

Cablevey Conveyors is a global specialty conveyor manufacturer that designs, engineers, assembles and services tubular drag cable and disc conveyor systems. With customers in more than 65 countries, the company specializes in moving materials for food/beverage and industrial powder processors that seek food-grade conveying performance with systems ...

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