A date product producer replaced its hammermill and cut production time
Date palm trees thrive in the Coachella Valley, a region of California’s Sonoran Desert, where temperatures range between 105°F and 120°F in the summer and rainfall averages one inch per year. The desert’s hot, dry conditions and sandy soil are ideal for growing dates.
Jewel Date Company grows, processes, packages, and ships approximately 8 million pounds of dates and date products each year. In addition to selling whole and diced dates, the company grinds dates into flours, granules, and powders to sell as ingredients to food manufacturers and directly to consumers through its online store.
“Dates are naturally sweet and nutritious,” says John Ortiz, sales manager at Jewel. “They’re a great binder, and they’re stable. So, we sell a lot of dates to companies that make nutritional bars. We have several customers that use date powder as a sweetener in their teas.”
Harvested dates are air-dried for two days to reduce moisture content from 50 percent to 7 percent, causing the dates to harden. With a moisture content greater than 7 percent, the dates will clump during processing. The dates are then cooled, loaded into a hopper, and forklifted to a conveyor that transports them to be processed.
For several years, the company had been using a hammermill to reduce the dates to the various required sizes. However, the hammermill lacked precise size control, and its capacity was too small, resulting in long production times and low process efficiency.
“It took an 8-hour shift to process 2,000 pounds of dates using the hammermill,” Ortiz says.
To decrease the production time and increase product quality, the company turned to Munson Machinery, a mixing, blending, and size reduction equipment manufacturer based in Utica, NY. The supplier recommended switching to a screen classifying cutter to solve Jewel’s production problems.
Unlike a hammermill in which a series of hammers strike and break the material until it passes through a bed screen, the screen classifying cutter employs solid stainless steel cutter blocks that are welded without seams in a staggered array and have machine-sharpened cutting edges that can be resharpened as needed.
Material is manually fed into the chute, which is equipped with baffles to help prevent dusting. The cutter imparts little to no heat to the material, which is critical because frictional heat or heated equipment surfaces causes date powders and granules to melt and clump.
The cutter uses a variable-speed motor that the plant runs at either 1,500 rpm to reduce particles to ¹⁄16 in. or 1,200 rpm for particles to 3⁄16 in. “We can adjust the speed to output powders or granules according to customer requirements,” says Ortiz.
Once the material is reduced to the desired size, it exits the cutter via a flexible screw conveyor to a vibratory screener. The screener discharges the size-reduced material onto a belt conveyor for manual inspection and metal detection before being weighed and packaged for shipping.
“The screen classifying cutter hasn’t required parts or maintenance in its first 4 years of operation, and it has fewer moving parts than our hammermill,” says Ortiz. “The stainless construction with a food-grade finish allows us to clean it quickly.”
For further reading
Munson Machinery Company • Utica, NY
800-944-6644 • www.munsonmachinery.com
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