A ready-mix plant installed fluidizers to eliminate production stoppages
Jackson Concrete, West Bend, WI, dealt with some rough winters at its ready-mix concrete plant. Being in Wisconsin, the brutally cold winters presented an annual problem that held the company back from optimal production efficiency.
“Our cement silo would back up when the air pads that supplied aeration backed up,” says Jackson Concrete owner John Meyer. “We would have to stop production at our busiest times and send someone up to pound on the sides of the silo to free the cement.”
The air pads provided some airflow through a felt pad with a screen on the inside. The felt pad would wear down and hardened due to the moisture created with the move from the warm air inside the building to the cold air in the silo.
The backup would happen at least once a year during high production times, and the air pads would be changed every off-season (winter), which was a labor-intensive and potentially dangerous job. The company had to completely empty the silo and replace the air pads, losing production at critical times.
Jackson Concrete relocated the plant to a fully enclosed facility and, in the process, decided it was time to fix the issue with their two silos. One silo is partially inside and stands out of the ceiling about 30 feet, and a second silo is completely outside.
In the midst of one of the shutdowns, Meyer was talking to the company’s bulk tanker driver about the problem. The driver pointed out that the fluidizers on the trailer emptied the material load every time without any backup issues. Since the same amount of cement is brought in as is held in the silo, Jackson Concrete decided to look into the disc-type fluidizers (also known as aerators).
To see if the fluidizers might be the solution to the flow issues, Jackson Concrete contacted Solimar Pneumatics, Minneapolis, MN, a designer and supplier of aeration systems for dry bulk materials. The company needed fluidizers for its two 1,000-barrel silos and, after talking with the supplier, decided on silicone disc fluidizers.
The fluidizers loosen up the material by sending steady airflow along the wall of the bin or silo, promoting smooth material flow. The gentle vibration caused by the airflow keeps material flowing without compacting or plugging.
“The aeration is so efficient we only have to run four of the units at a time,” says Meyer, “and in the rare case of a repair to one of the fluidizers, we simply move the air line to the next one in a matter of minutes and cement keeps flowing. Since installation [in 2007], we’ve only purchased six fluidizers for replacement and four are kept for backups.”
The 16 fluidizers were installed from the outside of the silo using the supplier’s EZ-IN kit. The kits are designed for retrofitting existing silos and allowed Jackson Concrete to install the new fluidizers in the existing openings that were previously used for the air pads.
Since installation, the fluidizers have kept the silos running with minimal downtime. Jackson Concrete did notice the gaskets on the fluidizers dried out quicker than expected due to the contact with the cement powder and the area’s weather. This issue was quickly remedied with caulking around the gasket edges to ensure no moisture leaked out.
“I would say we made our money back on the purchase and installation of the aerator units in three weeks,“ Meyer estimates. “We went from having a nightmare to a non-issue as far as cement flow. This plant was built for Wisconsin’s conditions, and there’s no doubt in my mind we have the most modern plant in the area.”
For further reading
Solimar Pneumatics • Minneapolis, MN
800-233-7109 • www.solimarpneumatics.com
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