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A quick look at pneumatic conveying system basics

pneumatic conveying system transfers powders, granules, and other dry bulk materials through an enclosed horizontal or vertical conveying line. The motive force for this transfer comes from a combination of pressure differential and the flow of air (or another gas) supplied by an air mover, such as a blower or fan. By controlling the pressure or vacuum and the airflow inside the conveying line, the system can successfully convey materials.

Pneumatic conveying provides several advantages over mechanical conveying.

A pneumatic conveying system can be configured with bends to fit around existing equipment, giving it more flexibility than a mechanical conveyor with its typically straight conveying path. This also means the pneumatic conveying system occupies less space than a comparable mechanical conveyor. The pneumatic conveying system is totally enclosed, unlike many mechanical conveyors, which enables the pneumatic system to contain dust. The pneumatic conveying system typically has fewer moving parts to maintain than a mechanical conveyor, as well.

Pneumatic conveying also has some disadvantages compared with mechanical conveying. One is the pneumatic conveying system’s typically greater use of horsepower than a mechanical conveyor, resulting from the pneumatic system’s need to change air pressure to produce conveying power. The pneumatic conveying system also uses a comparatively larger dust collection system than a mechanical conveyor because the pneumatic system has to separate the material from the conveying air at the system’s end. Some materials also have characteristics that make them difficult to convey in a pneumatic system. Examples are materials with a large particle size and high bulk density, such as gravel or rocks, and extremely sticky materials, such as titanium dioxide, which tend to build a coating on material- contact surfaces and can eventually block the conveying line.

Pneumatic conveying system types and applications

Pneumatic conveying systems are classified by their operating principle into two basic types: dilute phase and dense phase. Either can run under pressure or vacuum. Dilute phase. In dilute-phase conveying, particles are fully suspended in the conveying air and transported at low pressure and high velocity. Dilute-phase pressure conveying is one of the most common conveying methods for powders or granules. It’s most often used with nonabrasive, non fragile materials that have a light bulk density (typically less than 62 lb/ft3); common examples are flour, In this method, illustrated in Figure 1a, a blower at the system’s start supplies a high volume of low-pressure air to the system, and material is fed into the conveying line through a rotary airlock valve. The system relies on the air stream’s velocity to pick up and entrain each particle, keeping the particles in suspension as they travel through the conveying line. The dilute- phase pressure conveying system requires relatively little head room and is simple to operate, economical, and ideal for conveying material from a single source to multiple locations.

Dilute-phase Method:

Dilute-phase vacuum conveying is suitable for conveying materials that tend to pack or compress under pressure, such as wood shavings and certain other fibrous materials, and for toxic materials that must not leak into the workplace air. This system is typically used to convey materials over short distances at low capacities. Dilute- phase vacuum conveying requires minimal headroom at the feed point and is ideal for conveying material from multiple sources to a single destination.

Dense phase Method:

In dense-phase conveying, particles aren't suspended in the conveying air and are transported at high pressure and low velocity. Dense-phase pressure conveying is suitable for gently conveying fragile or abrasive materials with particles 3⁄4 inch and smaller over long distances (typically more than 250 feet). Commonly handled materials include silica sand, feldspar, fly ash, glass cullet, alumina, glass batch mix, carbon black, sorbitol, dextrose, candies, resins, cocoa beans, hazelnuts, and puffed rice cereal. The system conveys material at a relatively low speed to reduce material degradation, air consumption, and abrasion on pipeline, bend, and diverter contact surfaces. This system can also stop or start with the conveying line full of material.

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