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Switch to rotary batch mixer cuts cost, boosts output

Quality Powder Ltd. of Newmarket, Ontario custom blends a variety of key food ingredients for one of Canada’s largest makers of gum-based ingredients used in packaged foods such as hamburger patties, breads, fish, chicken and dairy products. 

In 2010, Quality mixed more than 2755 tons of ingredients using a ribbon blender, which did a sufficient job of blending, but presented a number of problems that management solved by converting to a rotary batch mixer.

“We were spending significant time maintaining the ribbon blender,” said Charles B. Abarado, company president.  “The shaft seals come in contact with powders, some of which corrode or dry out the seals, requiring seal replacement every three or four weeks.” In addition, the seals contaminate the ingredients.

“As our volume increased, so did the amount of maintenance required.,” Abarado continued. “At the same time, we began to increase the number of product changeovers. During changeover, we had to spend as much as 1-1/2 hours cleaning because residual powder would settle at the bottom of the blender's trough.”

Growing pains cured with new blender

Quality wanted to eliminate maintenance related to seals, and time related to manually removing 33.7 or 40 lb. of residual material every time it blended a different formulation or shut down the equipment.

“On some days, our workers have a minimum required output,” said Abarado. “If there was a product changeover during a shift, we lost an hour or more doing a cleanout, sweeping, vacuuming and making sure that residual material was removed from the ribbon blender.

“When we decided to increase our capacity, we specified a Munson Model 700 stainless steel rotary batch mixer with a 140 cu. ft. capacity. It accommodates our batch weights of 5500 lb. in excess of what a cone blender can handle.  Because the drum rotates on external trunnion rings, there is no internal shaft with seals immersed in the material, eliminating a maintenance and cross-contamination problem. In addition, the mixer evacuates upon discharge with little or no residual, allowing rapid, thorough cleaning.”

Cleaner, faster production

Each batch blends in about three minutes, and Quality doesn’t have to worry about leftover residue. Cleanout is complete because the rotating drum's internal mixing flights and lifters direct material toward the discharge gate, which discharges 100 percent of the batch.

Abarado also wanted a better product blend that is more homogenized. Continuous rotation throughout the entire blending cycle assures that all materials remain in motion, preventing segregation in batches of varying material densities. The machine tumbles, turns, cuts and folds the material in a four-way mixing action that produces a homogenous blend with no segregation upon discharge.

Quality ordered the machine with two doors and a drain for unrestricted access to internal surfaces during washouts. “After a batch is blended, we clean the machine and proceed directly to blend the next batch,” Abarado stated. “We don’t have to wash out after every batch, even though the ingredients vary according to the customer specifications. If we do need a washout, the drain makes it easy.” The absence of residual material, coupled with dual, clean-out doors allows sanitizing in minutes, preventing cross-contamination between changeovers. 

Although the old ribbon blender and the new rotary mixer have the same capacity, the ribbon unit requires a 50 hp (37.3 kW) electric motor versus 20 hp (14.9 kW) for the rotary mixer, substantially reducing energy usage.