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Conveyor selection advice

04 January 2021

Selecting the right conveyor for a food application can be a daunting task for any buyer who may not be aware of the key factors to consider. Chris Brennan offers some useful guidance. 

Hygiene/safety requirements: A crucial deciding factor in choosing a conveyor will be the hygiene specification. Food applications require the highest hygiene standards and dust free operations, especially if they operate in an ATEX environment, so choosing a conveyor that meets these needs is vital. The simplicity of cleaning a flexible screw conveyor, for example, can be a benefit in many food applications. Further, because air isn’t used as a conveying medium there is no risk of dust contamination or humidity from the atmosphere. 

Understanding the area/layout: Understanding requirements for installation and the conveying route is critical. For example, does the equipment need to be installed on a second floor, go through walls or round bends? Identifying any possible hazards in the conveying area is essential, such as ATEX zones, FLT traffic, operator safety, equipment barrier requirements. It is also important to have an awareness of the area ‘environment’ i.e. what is the ambient temperature and does it change seasonally? Ask questions about cleaning and follow on maintenance. Thinking ahead on future plans is also advisable. 

Key objectives: Highlight your key objectives. Maintaining blend, increasing throughput, reducing degradation, improving efficiency or reducing manual handling could be driving factors that influence your choice. For example, if the conveyor needs to minimise degradation on a fragile product, then a gentle conveyor, such as a tubular drag conveyor, could be a better choice over a spiral or flexible screw conveyor. 

Installation speed: For applications which need results quickly, a mobile conveying solution might be the best option for a shorter lead time. Aero mechanical conveyors and flexible screw conveyors can be mounted on wheeled frames, usually complete with integral controls and a power connection fly lead which makes it possible to use one conveyor to serve several processes, or to remove it to a remote wash-down area for cleaning.  

Understanding the product: Does your chosen supplier have access to a materials testing laboratory and machine test facilities? A testing facility should be able to provide wide-ranging scientific product analysis on bulk solids or powder, such as the bulk density and particle size. 

If your product is characterised as ‘difficult to handle’, or if it is friable, sticky, hygroscopic or tends to cake or pack, it will be difficult to convey. Here, product testing is vital to help understand how the product behaves. After lab tests, machine trials should give a full understanding of the product to be conveyed, avoiding any potential future handling issues. 

Chris Brennan is technical sales manager at Spiroflow.

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