One of the most important aspects in any industry is materials handling. Many people may not know it, but materials handling play an important role in the successful operation of the industry. A good materials handling plan contributes to the smooth operation of processes which will consequently result into great savings for the company. As such, in any industry, materials handling is always given utmost importance. |
Every industry has different types of materials handled. In order to handle these materials correctly, all pertaining characteristics of the material must be critically considered. Moreover, specific equipment and machines are assigned to handle different types of materials. Thus, the design of the process flow and the identification of the materials handling equipment are very important. Failure in doing this can cause the company huge amounts of money which certainly no company would wish for.
One of the most common materials handled in many industries is bulk powder. Bulk powder can be of many forms. It can be plastic powders in the plastic manufacturing industry, or it can also be metal powders for that matter. Bulk powder handling should be given special attention since while this type of material may seem to behave like fluids; flow problems are most often experienced.
Two of the most common flow problems experienced in bulk powder handling are no-flow and erratic flow. These problems usually happen in an improperly designed silo. No-flow from a silo can be attributed to arching or ratholing. When there is an interlocking arch, particles are most likely to form an obstruction or a cohesive arch. An interlocking arch occurs when the particles are larger compared to the outlet size of the hopper. As such, in order to avoid flow problems in bulk powder handling, the silos should be properly designed with the particle size of the powder critically considered.
Many people may not know this, but bulk material handling problems actually create process non-uniformity. In the event that bulk powder handling is not properly planned, non uniformities in processing occur. In effect, the downstream supply chain is can be greatly affected and problems will occur. Some of the most common problems that may occur include lack of product consistency, safety risks, variable production rate, increased and variable manpower, poor performance qualities of product, higher and variable operating and utility costs, poor on-stream reliability, environmental risks, and even equipment failure.
Most often, decision makers and the design teams supporting them are unaware of the risks that they are taking. Implicit assumptions are being made with powder and solids handling process and equipment selection despite the critical nature of the entire process. This is definitely something that no industry can afford. The key to reliable bulk powder handling is to design a system based on the measured flow properties of the material to be handled. To avoid catastrophic risks, it is very important to understand the processing behavior of the material, specify appropriate equipment, and identify operating set points.
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