A new batching line is providing flexibility and reliability to help Prince Minerals produce high-quality pigment blends for its customers in the Brick Belt.
Each dispenser holds a single ingredient and is modular so it can be easily removed from the line.
Prince Minerals, Inc. is a leading producer of specialty mineral
products with an emphasis on naturally occurring minerals and pigment
applications. Its products are used in brick, refractories, glass, ceramics,
foundries, cement and other applications. The company operates six processing
plants, including the newest, a 40,000-square-foot facility in Monroe, N.C.,
that’s also home to an extensive R&D lab and Technical Service Center. The
North Carolina location, which began production in March 2008, was chosen for
its close proximity to the company’s growing Brick Belt customer base, which
spans from Maryland to Texas.
Two main production “circuits” comprise the
Monroe facility. One dedicated line manufactures proprietary through-the-body
pigment blends in bulk at a rate of 10 to 15 tons per shift for the clay brick
and colored mortar industries. Colorant is stored in silos.
A second commercial line produces specialized
dry-mix surface colorants for the structural clay, brick and tile industries.
For the design and manufacture of this larger line, Prince Minerals worked with
Ingredient Masters of Cincinnati, Ohio. The firm specializes in precision
batching systems and has experience in the brick (Redland Brick), ceramic
(Oceanside Glasstile), refractories (Uni-Ref, Spar Refractories, Zedmark) and
colorant (Englehard) industries.
Jon Attridge, Prince Minerals’ construction facility manager, led
the team that developed the requirements for the line. For the 10 years that
Attridge has been with Prince Minerals, his area of specialty has been colorants
for the brick industry. “I’m an R&D guy, a ceramic engineer whose focus is
colorant development,” he says.
The goal for the commercial circuit, according to Attridge, was to
build “a flexible batching line that would produce consistently high-quality
product with virtually zero rework. We also wanted to optimize the ergonomics
of the operation by eliminating manual tasks, such as bag cutting, and have the
cleanest possible work environment by preventing material from becoming
airborne when dispensed. Finally, we looked for a system concept that was
industrial, rather than food-grade or something else, and a supplier with an
understanding of the industrial environment.”
After substantial research and consideration of the approaches of
several batching system manufacturers, Prince Minerals chose the system concept
recommended by Ingredient Masters. The heart of this system is a sequence of
54-cu-ft polyethylene dispensers, each with a bulk bag lifting frame. The
dispensers are arranged in facing rows of a dozen each and have a common
support structure and dust pickup system.
Each dispenser holds a single ingredient and
is modular so it can be easily removed from the line. Bulk bags-Super
Sacks-of raw material are suspended above the bins at a 12-ft elevation.
Beneath the bins, an operator-driven, motorized scale cart moves on a track.
Ingredients, target weight and tote locations applicable to the selected recipe
are entered into a program. The cart then moves down the track and the correct
proportions of each ingredient are released through a valve into the cart’s
hopper. Materials can also be added from Super Sacks or in bulk from an outside
silo. Batch accuracy is +.2 lbs.
When the batch is complete, the hopper is retrieved by a forklift
and emptied into a mixer. After blending and testing, finished product is
conveyed pneumatically to one of the storage silos, then to the bagging
facility. Half of the finished product is packaged into 50-lb bags, while the rest
is put in bulk bags of 1000 to 2000 lbs.
“We get precise weights into the Super Sacks
just by hitting a button and specifying the weight, but that’s not the end of
the story,” says Attridge. “There’s still a 24-hour quality control process before
batches can be shipped. A master standard has been established for each color
blend. Finished products are tested for fired color according to customer
firing parameters. Incoming raw materials are subject to quality protocols we
developed. In either case, a sample is taken from each batch and tagged for
firing and rheological tests.
“Samples are suspended in water, applied to test substrates or
tiles, and fired at 1900 to 2000ºF. The next morning, they’re read with a
spectrophotometer, which gauges color against the standard. If approved, that
batch is released for shipment. If alterations are required, material is
returned to the mixer, adjusted for color and rheology, re-sampled, and tested
system offers flexibility and the ability to automate or expand as needs evolve.
A Flexible Solution
The system engineered for Prince Minerals is a lean manual system
that offers flexibility and the ability to automate or expand as needs evolve.
“Prince Minerals has a commitment to supply a pre-qualified, pre-checked
product,” says Scott Culshaw, president and owner of Ingredient Masters. “They
needed to know that when it’s shipped to a customer and fired as designed, it
will be accurate to the standard.”
Another advantage of this equipment,
according to Culshaw, is that Prince Minerals’ customers “have no need to maintain
inventory, but rather just a dozen or so pre-blended formulas.” In addition to
the primary production line, Ingredient Masters also supplied equipment for a
third line, similar in design, which incorporates three feed hoppers mounted
above a 200-cu-ft mixer.
For more information
regarding batch handling systems, contact Ingredient Masters at 1080 Nimitzview
Dr., Suite 302, Cincinnati, OH 45230; call (513) 231-7432; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.ingredientmasters.com. Prince Minerals’
website is located at www.princeminerals.com.