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A manufacturer of engineered refractory products needed to improve quality, save time and alleviate potential health risks in its operations. The company combines seven different ingredients in a mixer to make refractories for the steel industry, and the operation required several employees to hand weigh the ingredients. The labor-intensive process repeatedly exposed employees to potentially dangerous materials and was time consuming, requiring 15 to 20 minutes to assemble each batch.
Five of the refractory ingredients were delivered in bulk and stored outdoors in large hoppers. This material was dispensed from each hopper, hand weighed and placed on a conveyor for transport to the mixer. The other two ingredients came in 50-lb bulk bags. Each bag had to be cut open, and then the proper amount was hand weighed and dumped directly into the mixer. These manual material handling methods provided many opportunities for errors.
To improve the process, the company turned to engineers at Bulk Equipment Systems Technology, Inc. (B.E.S.T., Inc.), who developed a creative solution. One common challenge and a driving factor when retrofitting a plant is to design a system that will fit into the available space. When practical, it is best to streamline a plant's operations by integrating new systems with the current equipment in the existing space. The challenge in this case was to design a batching system that would fit the existing space, alleviate employee exposure to chemicals, automate the weighing process, convey the materials to the mixer, guarantee product quality and provide historical batch data.
Finding a SolutionTo meet those goals, B.E.S.T. Inc. engineers reconfigured the outlets from the five existing storage bins to transport the product into the plant. Newly installed screw conveyors transport product into a five-ingredient net weigh hopper, while two loss-of-weight bulk bag unloading stations simultaneously feed the desired amount of material.
Both the net weigh hopper and the loss-of-weight unloading stations feed material onto a collection conveyor for transport to the existing mixer. A typical batch consists of 500 lbs from the loss-of-weight unloading stations and 1200 lbs in the net weigh hopper, with an accuracy of ñ0.2%. All seven materials are transported to the mixer on a flexible-walled belt conveyor. The new automated system enables the company to create a complete batch every three to five minutes. When the mixer is ready to make another batch, the system's automatic controller repeats the process.
The refractory manufacturer significantly reduced employee exposure to the materials and has experienced a 75 to 80% decrease in processing time. Additionally, the B.E.S.T. automated control system's data logging capabilities enable the company to track current operations and review historical data. The company is now able to meet the demand for its products more economically, efficiently and safely.
For more information about automated batching systems, contact B.E.S.T., Inc. at 1071 Industrial Parkway North, Brunswick, OH 44212; (800) 827-9237; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.