Global Processing

Pneumatic conveying system changes the way you use volumetric auger fillers

May 24, 2004
As Vice President at Pacon Manufacturing, a contract manufacturer and product converter, one of Mike Scaduto''s most important projects was engineering a process for the manufacture and packaging of a new facial product for a major consumer goods partner. To hit a critical price point for market success, however, Scaduto and the Pacon Project Team first had to solve a material conveying challenge involving the use of volumetric auger fillers — the filling machines used to dispense powders, granulars, and flakes for packaging. The solution, an innovative use of semi-custom pneumatic conveying equipment that works in sync with auger fillers, was so successful in handling the problem that it may also serve as a blueprint for how manufacturers use this type of equipment in the future. Scaduto''s project required high-speed conveying and dispensing of a blended powder inside two layers of non-woven material being ultrasonically sealed as the powder was dispensed. This had to be done in a way that wasn''t labor intensive, achieved high production speed, minimized environmental dust exposure, and most importantly maintained consistent size, density and texture for product quality control. Volumetric auger fillers are typically used in slower fill applications, can be labor intensive to keep operational, and are susceptible to changes in fill material size, density, and texture due to their reliance on volume to dispense proper amounts.
"Because product manufacturing speed ultimately sets the price, our goal wasn''t only to develop the product but also to develop a process that maintained quality at the necessary price point," says Scaduto. "The chief problem was that in moving a powder, you typically change its size, density, and texture which affects product performance. In our case, the powder''s self-lathering properties were critically affected by how the powder was conveyed to the auger fillers."
When Scaduto investigated traditional ingredient transfer methods such as super sacks and screw conveyors, he found those had insurmountable drawbacks for his application. The super sacks — big bags placed over each hopper with pull strings to dump product — were a cumbersome open system vulnerable to powder dusting and potential dust explosion. It would be labor intensive to hook each heavy sack to an overhead system to physically pull a dump cord at the appropriate times, and to take down and re-fill each depleted sack. Moreover, during hook up and refill, the manufacturing process would be interrupted. Scaduto turned to Vac-U-Max. As Pacon Manufacturing was still developing its powder formulation, Vac-U-Max ran the first of many conveying tests at its in-house test lab. Each time Pacon Manufacturing re-formulated its powder blend during product development, a new trial was run to maintain or improve powder consistency.
Vac-U-Max installed a semi-custom pneumatic conveying system at Pacon Manufacturing''s plant, adapting standard components to their processes and product. Two low-profile drum dump stations for easy loading, powered by negative vacuum through convey line piping to three auger fillers comprised the system. The auger fillers were provided by another company and integrated into the system. One drum dump station supplies powder to a single auger filler, the other supplies the remaining two auger fillers.
On installation, Vac-U-Max worked with Pacon Manufacturing to adapt the system to their needs. Instead of hanging the convey piping from the ceiling or supporting it from the floor, they mounted it on machinery to better accommodate a vertical receiver adjustment mechanism Scaduto designed. The result was a modular system easy to install or relocate, which took significantly less production floor space than typical material convey systems.
Since powder can change density in the auger filler head leading to improper fills, keeping the head full and at proper density was critical.
"They modified the powder receivers several times to help transport our powder even more smoothly without degradation," says Scaduto.

For more information, contact Vac-U-Max at 888-241-6992, email