Considerations for Avoiding Explosions in Powder Processing

Considerations for Avoiding Explosions in Powder Processing
As companies invest in workplace safety initiatives and divert resources to comply with the many regulations and guidelines intended to protect workers from explosion hazards, perceptive engineers are rethinking the logic of allowing explosions to occur by design, according to David Nichols, vice president of sales and marketing for process equipment manufacturer Volkmann USA, Bristol, PA. Nichols offers the following considerations for avoiding explosions when processing ignitable powders:

Containing Explosive Damage

Many companies invest abundantly in clever systems to suppress, contain, or vent explosive energy in hopes of minimizing the damage to personnel, equipment, and to ongoing operations. However, these systems are designed to operate after a costly explosion has occurred. Preventing explosions from occurring in the first place by designing explosion-proof systems seems a far safer, less costly, and more desirable outcome.

Beware Changing Material Properties

Powder process equipment is often designed to suit a specific application given a precise set of materials, conditions, and quality targets. As supply chain issues trigger material substitutions, it’s vital to understand that even the slightest change in the particle size or shape, moisture content, and/or other properties may render the new material an explosion risk even if the equipment had been verified as safe from explosions when processing the original material.

Eliminating Risk

Considerations for Avoiding Explosions in Powder Processing

An explosion requires oxygen, an ignitable fuel source such as a fine powder, and a source of ignition, such as a spark, to occur. Removing any one of the three eliminates the possibility of an explosion. Equipment such as pneumatic vacuum conveying systems that operate without electricity, without rotating parts, without generating heat, and with proper electrostatic grounding eliminate the source of ignition as a risk factor, eliminating the potential for an explosion. Volkmann conveyors use this design concept and earned the ATEX certification as suitable for safe installation in all dust explosion areas. Volkmann also manufactures an ATEX-approved system for discharging into Gas-Ex (zone 0/1) environments called the INEX system.

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Volkmann high-quality, high-performance pneumatic vacuum conveyors, bag dump stations, unique No-Tip Unloaders and additional powder handling equipment are found wherever safe material handling of fine chemicals, granules, pellets, tablets and small components are needed. Volkmann systems are particularly well-suited to dust-tight, segregation-free ...

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