Material testing delivers critical insights for packaging that impact conveyor selection, performance

June 20, 2024
Comprehensive lab testing and material characterization are necessary before conveyor testing to ensure optimal packaging throughput and quality on a wide range of products.

It is common for packagers of food, powder, bulk solids, and industrial commodities to test — and even re-test — their products on the conveyor systems they are considering purchasing. After all, every product or raw ingredient has distinct characteristics that will determine how it behaves under the stresses and pressures of conveyance. This testing offers crucial insights into flow characteristics, throughput, breakage potential, safety measures, cleaning requirements, and maintenance protocols. It also plays a vital role in enabling accurate equipment evaluation and sizing.

However, many in the processing and packaging industries are now seeking a deeper understanding of the material characteristics of their products prior to this step. In a fully equipped laboratory, powders can be evaluated to determine bulk density, moisture content, and other properties to determine flowability. 

The information derived from these tests is proving invaluable to address product-specific challenges with powder such as compaction, abrasiveness, stickiness, and insufficient flowability. These factors can even play a critical role in selecting the type of conveying system — whether aeromechanical, flexible screw, or tubular cable drag. 

“With material testing, the main concern is usually conveyability. Through laboratory analysis, we can assess the flowability of the material to determine the throughput [a conveyor] will be able to deliver,” says Dr.-Ing. Emmanuel Ricohermoso III, Operations and Testing Manager of Automated Handling Solutions Germany GmbH Test Center in Friedrichsdorf. 

Automated Handling Solutions (AHS) offers a comprehensive suite of material handling equipment and industrial automation, including Cablevey Conveyors, a market-leading OEM of tubular cable drag conveyors for food and high-value industrial applications, and Spiroflow, a global manufacturer of material handling equipment and provider of control systems integration.

Utilizing comprehensive testing offers processors and packagers significant benefits in making well-informed decisions regarding conveyor type and brand selection based on known material properties. This approach also allows equipment engineers to create customized solutions that align with processors' specific requirements, leading to improved product quality, conveyor reliability, productivity, and uptime.

More assessable and comprehensive testing

Leading OEMs have invested in facilities equipped with advanced capabilities to offer comprehensive material characterization and conveyor testing services to packagers. These services are conveniently located near major international airport hubs and are often provided at minimal or no cost.

As an example, AHS Germany GmbH Test Center is a 645-square-meter (6,942-square-foot) testing facility centered around a test workshop equipped with product transfer systems from brands that fall under the AHS and Advanced Material Processing (AMP) umbrella, including Cablevey Conveyors, Spiroflow, Kason and Marion.

“If the material test is something that is already part of our portfolio and it is already set up in the lab, we often offer it at no cost to food processors. Typically, we only charge if there is some special setup that we must do for the testing itself,” says Dr. Ricohermoso.

The test facility includes a state-of-the-art in-house laboratory dedicated to material characterization. 

“Laboratory analysis is a quick and simple way to assess product conveyability,” says Dr. Ricohermoso. “Instead of testing a bulk of sample, 150 kilograms or more, lab analysis will only require a kilo of the sample to measure the densities (bulk and tapped), moisture content, particle size distribution, friability, flowability indices such as Hausner ratio, Carr’s Index, angle of repose, and slip angle. We also consider qualitative analysis such as the tendency of the sample to be static, to form ratholes, to bridge, or to compact.”

“Lab analysis requires less work but offers a lot of data about the material itself. This process helps us come up with a suitable device that is tailored to the product,” he adds.

If the tests indicate that the product is prone to breakage or damage, for example, an enclosed tubular conveyor system from Cablevey Conveyors is often recommended. Tubular drag cable conveyors excel at reducing product damage since the units gently move product through a sealed tube using a coated, flexible stainless-steel drag cable pulled through on a loop. Solid circular discs (flights) are attached to the cable, which pushes the product through the tube without the use of air. These conveyors can transport delicate, precise blends for a wide variety of food and material types and up to 2,000 cubic feet per hour of material in versatile layouts and configurations.

When preventing product damage is less of a concern to processors, other options can include a range of conveyor types. Aero mechanical conveyors such as Aeroflow can be used for rapid product transport. These conveyors have a tubular design where a cable assembly, with evenly spaced polyurethane discs, moves at high speed. Enclosed aero mechanical conveyors are a good choice for conveying large volumes of products such as powdered and granulated sugar. 

For less sensitive products, flexible screw conveyors are designed to transport materials in any direction, from horizontal to vertical. The flexible screw conveyor’s only moving part, the spiral, continuously mixes as it conveys, making it an ideal choice for products like flour. The simplicity of the design makes these conveyors a cost-effective, low-maintenance option.

After identifying the optimal conveyor style, processors and packagers should proceed with conducting bulk tests on the actual equipment at the site. During conveyor testing, the facility’s technicians and engineers can diagnose and prescribe solutions to concerns over breakage, temperature, stickiness, or other issues. Packagers are provided with full documentation of the results, including a detailed report with video as well as recommendations.

In this regard, AHS Germany GmbH Test Center offers processors an extensive array of conveyor types for testing purposes. The facility also provides testing on a full range of other associated equipment necessary for material handling and production, including bag conditioning, bulk bag discharging and filling, dewatering, sieving, mixing, and drying.

Since Germany GmbH Test Center is part of a network of international test sites available to food processors within AHS’s family of companies, it is a simple matter to perform a required test at one site and transfer the results to the needed location around the world.

For instance, material testing could be done at Germany GmbH Test Center and the results shared with Cablevey Conveyors’ stateside test facility in Oskaloosa, Iowa, where bulk testing could be performed for a U.S.-based processor. Cablevey has tested more than 1,900 products, including beans, rice, grains, cereals, coffee, chocolate, and caramel corn peanut snacks, for some of the largest global brands. All products are run through a tubular disc and cable conveying system to observe the effects and fine-tune the results.

For those unable to visit the test facility in person, Cablevey now offers the ability to view and respond to product testing live in a “virtual visit” with a link to real-time video. With this technology, the tubular cable conveyor manufacturer can host both in-person and virtual visits simultaneously, which is helpful when larger work groups such as quality assurance teams have an interest in evaluating the conveyor.

Although packagers are familiar with testing products on conveyors before purchase, the availability of both material testing and bulk testing at international facilities enables greater optimization of material flowability, product quality, and other desired characteristics than previously attainable. With sufficient testing and conveyor selection prior to purchase, processors can significantly improve their production and performance.

Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California. For more information, call 641-673-8451; email [email protected]; or visit View the virtual tour at

Cablevey Conveyors

About the Author

Del Williams

Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California.

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