A key to successful minerals processing is high levels of productivity.
Materials need to be able to move freely at all times, with anything that slows down the actual processing a potential hurdle for productivity, which ultimately affects the bottom line.
A major problem that often sees a slowing in the movement of materials is blockages in machinery.
If materials are allowed to build up and form blockages, material has a harder time moving through chutes and bins.
“When there is a blockage the machine downstream has not got any materials coming through and it quickly amounts to lost productivity,” owner and managing director of materials handling product supply company Kinder, Neil Kinder, told Australian Mining.
“If there are no materials coming through, then there are essentially no dollars coming out of the end of the pipe.”
The company’s new Vortex Blastair air blaster is designed to clear blockages just the way its name would imply: by blasting them with air.
The air blaster comes in three models and can be used in both high and low temperature environment, the company said.
“The Vortex is very well suited to the minerals processing industry because the materials are often sticky and can easily become blocked,” Kinder said.
According to Kinder, the Vortex Blastair works in much the same way a cannon does.
“The blaster is a large canister connected to an air compressor,” he said.
“The air compressor fills a pressure vessel full of air, then on a timed response the solenoid valve blasts all of the air that has accumulated into the machinery and the blockage.”
The Vortex actually uses only a small amount of air, but it is deployed in such a way that allows it to be especially effective.
“Just a small amount of air coming through the nozzle on its own would be very ineffective,” Kinder said.
“But when you put that small amount under a large amount of pressure, it actually works like a large explosion behind the materials in the machinery that are causing the blockages.
“That is why they call it an air blaster.”
While the idea of what is essentially an air cannon literally blasting material blockages free seems a simple one, it is far more advanced that what many in the minerals processing industry currently do.
“A lot of companies just put up with the blockages,” Kinder said.
“Or they will often simply smash the sides and walls of the chutes with a sledgehammer.”
While this may seem a pragmatic approach, it can potentially create various problems that are solved by using an air blaster.
“Firstly, there is the OH&S issue of someone smashing a pipe with a sledgehammer,” Kinder said.
In addition to potential harm to workers, damage to machinery can also become a concern.
“Smashing the side of a pipe with a hammer will ultimately make it more difficult for material to flow through because it will soon become bent out of shape,” Kinder said.
According to Kinder, companies trying to ignore blockages, or taking what can only be considered very basic action against it, can often be put down to a lack of training and knowing what solutions are available.
“A lot of operators don’t know anything better because that as the way people before them took care of the problem,” he said.
“People just put up with this non-productivity, while there is technology available.”
As cutting power use becomes more of a concern, the Vortex Blastair is designed to use as little power as possible.
According to Kinder, power is saved by the fact that the air blaster does not require the initial use of high pressure air.
“Operators do not have to push the air into the canister at high capacity, but rather fill it at a low PSI,” he said.
“The small amount of air that has been pushed in can then accumulate in the main canister.
“It saves on power because you have to have a huge air compressor to drive it.”
Once the canister has accumulated enough air, it is then released in a blast that clears materials blocking machinery.
Kinder likens the air blaster process to another very simple one: a balloon being blown up.
“If a balloon is blown up and gets well and truly full, when it bursts a massive rush of air is released,” he said.
“It is the same process with the air blaster.”
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