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Discharger innovation makes difficult powders quake in their FIBCs

30 October 2017

With the launch of its new Varicone FIBC discharger, Process Link believes it has taken FIBC discharging of powders to new levels. Food Processing finds out more. 

The company’s chairman/director, Bill Snape, was involved in the design process of this latest innovation from the company. Bill has been in involved in the powder handling industry for almost 60 years and is the holder of many powder handling patents, including the 2000 Series IBC, the Linkbin IBC system, the Membrane Slide Valve and the rapid changeover Cassette Slide Valve.

Having been involved with the manufacture and supply of powder processing equipment to a range of businesses, including both larger and small UK and multi-national organisations, has given Bill and Process Link the wealth of knowledge needed to supply specialised equipment, tailored to meet some very specific requirements, to overcome site location limitations, and to improve efficiency and product output for customers.

So, it was inevitable that Bill would turn his attention to FIBC filling and discharging, the latter being particularly important with the trend to take FIBC’s directly to the process for discharging. After many months in the concept development phase the Varicone FIBC Discharger design was finalised in 2015 and was presented with an Innovation Award from the Solids Handling and Processing Association (SHAPA). Since then the company has gone on to prove the abilities of Varicone in the field, a must for any new product entering the market.

A demonstration system is also available for potential customers to come and see at the Process Link facility. Varicone was designed specifically to deal with powders that may have become highlycompacted, due to bouncing on trucks, flat-bed lorries and from being packed into containers for global distribution. The Varicone FIBC dischargers encourages the product through the outlet under gravity, preventing further compaction. The design also needed to be able to handle difficult powders and free flowing powders, using the same design and needed to be able to accommodate full FIBC bags of various sizes and to tie off half-empty FIBCs.

Using a patented Earthquake machine approach The company uses an approach similar to an Earthquake, to undermine the foundations of highly compacted powders in a typical FIBC, giving the powder above the vibrations no choice but to fall through the FIBC outlet.

Because this is applied in a very controlled manner, the powder is always maintained in a free flowing state, and is never overworked, which can cause re-compaction. The discharger also includes detectors to signal the need for additional vibration, if and when required, to encourage the powder to collapse inwards.

The company’s extensive research and development resulted in this ‘earthquake’ solution. It encourages the FIBC to collapse the centre column core of powder first, leaving the walls of powder to stand. As additional agitation is applied, the walls collapse further into the central core, and are then easily discharged. The process is repeated as necessary and can also be programmed into the control panel sequencing for a specific powder or a range of different powders.

The Earthquake plate machine only supports the FIBC bag outlet and small surround, so that when the Varicone earthquake takes place, compacted or difficult powders are undermined and the only area that accepts the collapse is the outlet in the FIBC. As the big bag begins to sag the area between the earthquake plate and the outer perimeter of the base of the bag becomes unsupported, because at this stage the Varicone Cone is in a relaxed state.

The adjustable Varicone Cone
During development, and in the interests of keeping headroom to a minimum, Process Link created the Varicone Cone which forces the FIBC into a cone shape, making it ideal for the final discharge sequence. This is manufactured out of similar material to the FIBC. Because it is not a contact part, it can be used many times and with different powders. The Varicone Cone is allowed to rise slowly at the final stages of discharge, forming the FIBC into a ‘cone shape’ to further enhance discharge. The Varicone Cone forms part of a second Varicone Discharge Unit patent, awarded in 2016.

Finally, vacuum is applied to collapse the bag, encouraging product trapped in the four corners to find its way to the outlet. At this point the FIBC bag can be tied off either part way through or when empty. During discharge, the FIBC sides are automatically prevented from collapsing with an autotensioning feature to further encourage the flow of powder.

There are different options for discharging Varicone FIBC discharger into process and these include using the company’s own energy-efficient vibratory feeders or straight into process via a dust-tight manual or automation membrane slide valves. Other options include feeding directly into a mill, mixer, mobile hopper, formulation system or pack off station, depending on the particular needs of the application.

Process Link offers a trials service for customers, to assure them that the Varicone can offer a good solution to discharge their powders. The company is also hosting a series of seminars through November this year. Spaces can be booked via, either joining other companies or for a staff groups from a single company.

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