How to avert powder & bulk solids processing & handling issues

Mike Edwards   

Features bulk CPEG equipment handling powder solids processing validation

High temperature testing at the CPEG lab is natural gas powered to generate electricity and produces useful thermal output. The testing includes a vertical vibrating machine that heats up to 450° to 1500°F.

Powder and bulk solids processing and handling are essential components of almost every industry worldwide. This article explores the key considerations to averting issues that lead to delays in start-up time, bottlenecks and stopgaps in the processing and handling of powders and bulk solids.

Key considerations are:

  • Resources & Capabilities
  • Material Characteristics
  • Equipment & Application
  • Equipment Design
  • Lab Testing
Resources & Capabilities

There are no shortages of process equipment suppliers in today’s market. Many manufacturers build reliable equipment and offer design and engineering expertise. However, finding a single resource that can provide design, manufacturing and most importantly, testing of materials through processing or handling steps can be challenging.

Testing in a competent and fully equipped lab can provide the advantage of being able to test several technological solutions to ascertain the best solution for economic value and product quality. Furthermore, testing delivers peace of mind because it mitigates surprises and provides assurance that the process will work as intended.

Material Characteristics

Understanding material characteristics including particle size distribution, bulk density, moisture content and other factors such as heat sensitivity, fragility, cohesiveness, etc., are often necessary parameters for designing an efficient process system.

Low temperature testing is also available and is operated with electric and includes a vertical vibrating machine that heats up to 450°F.

By performing a full analysis of material characteristics and measurements of material behaviour in specific processing applications, operators are assured an efficient and reliable process solution. Having the materials analyzed will help identify operational parameters such as flowability of the materials through specific types of equipment.

Factors to consider are particle size distribution, bulk density, and moisture content are paramount.

Equipment & Application

Process engineers are faced with a mountain of options when it comes to selecting suitable process equipment for various applications. Most pieces of process equipment are designed to perform specific, singular process steps or tasks (e.g., mixing, conveying, screening, drying, cooling, etc.). Some pieces of equipment are designed to be multi-functional, performing several steps such as conveying, heating, cooling, and screening.

To complicate matters, equipment suppliers may offer multiple pieces of equipment that perform the same process step or task (e.g., fluid bed dryers, belt dryers, flash dryers, rotary dryers, etc., for a drying process).

Testing the equipment will disclose the advantages and disadvantages of each and provide the basis for the supplier to make equipment and process recommendations to handle specific materials and applications.

Process engineers should work with the supplier to find ways to reduce uncertainty and eliminate inconsistencies.

Equipment Design

Designing reliable and efficient process systems that deliver required parameters is always the goal. Contributing factors include the actual process used, design attributes such as construction materials, temperature settings and variability, and equipment designed to achieve mass flow to promote uniformity and consistency while eliminating uncontrolled flooding, caking or product degradation.

Material flow, material degradation, temperature, retention time, and air pollution control are the primary factors that go into equipment.

Lab Testing

As mentioned, bulk solids processing systems engineered without proper vetting through a qualified lab could cause delays and other inefficiencies or bottlenecks. When bulk solids systems are not properly engineered to handle the unique characteristics of the materials, start-up time can be significantly delayed, and design capacity may never be reached. Decisions made during the preliminary stages of a project are critically important to the success of an operation and should be included in the risk mitigation and reward strategy.

Comprehensive material and equipment testing in a qualified lab has proven to avert common issues associated with processing bulk solids material. Testing can also bring to light new challenges which can be circumvented before any problems may arise, validate new equipment designs and processes, and facilitate a quicker return on investment.

Validate Equipment Designs & Processes

Thorough testing can validate new equipment designs and processes against material and process parameters and improve existing process lines. Conducting tests with a variety of custom-engineered equipment, modern diagnostic tools, computerized data collection, and real-time information should always be considered.

Expedite ROI

The cost of testing material, equipment, or processes prior to commissioning is negligible when compared to calculating the cost of downtime resulting from equipment that was not properly vetted. With thorough risk analysis through lab testing, factors such as successful increases in capacity and energy efficiencies will be discovered, facilitating a quicker return on investment.

This article is excerpted from a white paper by CPEG — Carrier Process Equipment Group. CPEG offers laboratory services that simulate user operating conditions can also provide field testing with rental equipment. 

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