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Successfully conveying sticky materials

June 5, 2015

Conveying sticky materials can pose a tough challenge for manufacturers and processors. These materials can adhere to equipment, significantly eroding productivity and throughput, and necessitating frequent stoppages to clear material buildup. Successfully conveying sticky materials requires selecting and using equipment that is capable of moving these difficult-to-handle materials.

Materials and products may adhere because they are inherently sticky and tend to cohere, because of the presence of moisture, or due to the build up of a static charge. A wide range of materials can exhibit sticky characteristics, and the problem of successfully conveying sticky materials can be particularly acute in the food industry. (See our Sticky Materials page for a listing of food and non-food sticky materials our equipment has handled.)

In successfully conveying sticky materials, the following points should be considered.

Although bucket conveyors are generally used for free-flowing materials, sticky materials can be successfully conveyed with careful application. Particular attention should be paid to bucket construction, as well as the infeed and discharge areas of the conveyor.

With respect to bucket capacity and construction, it is best to choose equipment where buckets are fabricated from materials which reduce the propensity for materials to adhere. For example, UniTrak’s TipTrak™ line of bucket conveyors are supplied standard with plastic buckets which minimize the risk of material adhering to the bucket surfaces.

Conveying sticky materials in a bucket conveyor also requires careful consideration of the infeed and discharge areas of the conveyor. Infeed and discharge assists may need to be installed on the equipment to ensure successful loading and discharge of the conveyor. At UniTrak, when servicing sticky material applications, we have often “customerized” our TipTrak™ conveyors to include infeed and discharge aids, such as vibratory feeders and Bucket Knockers, to ensure successful loading and discharge of the conveyor. (Please see our case study on Granola showing how we “customerized” a TipTrak™ bucket conveyor for a sticky material application).

Bucket knocker to assist discharge of sticky material

While flexible screw and aeromechanical conveyors can successfully convey many types of fine powders and loose materials which tend to cohere, conveying dense, viscous materials through these devices may be problematic. This points up the importance of the oft-used mantra, “When in doubt, test.”

When faced with the challenge of selecting conveying equipment for challenging applications, such as moving sticky materials, it is important to work with equipment providers who will provide material tests. Extensive testing, under controlled conditions, of the material to be moved in the equipment being considered, is a reliable way to ensure that the right equipment will be chosen and the problems of material adhesion fully addressed. A good material test will show how the material behaves and interacts with the conveyor, and will highlight any modifications that may need to be made to the equipment to ensure a successful outcome once installed in the field.

Ask UniTrak

If you have an application that involves conveying sticky materials, a UniTrak application specialist will be pleased to speak with you about our equipment or arrange a no-charge product test. Please contact our sales department, or your nearest UniTrak representative, to obtain further information on our equipment solutions for your sticky materials application.

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