When it comes to conveying tree nuts – almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, and similar – one of the most commonly used types of conveyor is the pneumatic conveyor.
Without a doubt, this conveyor has many benefits and might be a good fit for facilities in a wide range of industries. However, it’s important to know that there are several reasons why a pneumatic conveying system should not be your go-to option when conveying nuts.
In this blog post, we will explain how a pneumatic system works, why it’s not ideal for nut conveying, and what type of conveyor you should be using instead.
How pneumatic conveyors work
Pneumatic conveyors use air pressure that is either above or below the atmospheric level to move materials through a system. They can be either vacuum conveyors or pressure conveyors, depending on the configuration that best suits the facility. The material to be conveyed is placed in a chamber where it is then blown or sucked through pipes to its destination via compressed air.
There are different types of pneumatic conveyors, such as the dilute phase system and the dense phase system. The former is typically used for light materials (with low product density), while the latter is designed for heavier items (with higher bulk density). During dilute phase conveying, the product is moved at a velocity of over 59 ft/s, while in dense phase conveying, the velocities are lower (between 20 and 59 ft/s).
This high conveying speed is attractive to many facility managers since it’s much faster than other methods. Additional advantages of pneumatic conveyors include:
- Design flexibility – Pneumatic conveyors can be designed to transport materials horizontally, vertically, or at any angle in between.
- Relatively low maintenance – Since there are few moving parts, pneumatic conveyors don’t require much upkeep.
- Dust-free operation – Because they represent a closed system, these conveyors prevent dust from contaminating the product or escaping into the facility.
However, even though they sound good in theory, there are several reasons why pneumatic equipment might not be the best for conveying tree nuts.
Why pneumatic systems are not ideal for conveying nuts
As a material that needs to be transported, nuts are small, with a medium bulk density – they would be perfect for a dense phase pneumatic system, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Pneumatic systems are not gentle
One of the main reasons you shouldn’t use this type of conveyor for moving nuts is that nuts are very fragile. They are hard and dry, prone to shattering and breaking. This is especially true for almonds, which have very delicate skin.
When using a pneumatic system, there is always the risk that the nuts might get damaged as they are being conveyed. The high velocities at which these systems work can easily cause the nuts to break or even turn into powder. This is especially true if there are any sweeps or sharp turns in the conveyor layout.
There are reports that, in some cases, a whopping 10% of a fragile product was damaged by a high-velocity pneumatic system. And once the nuts are broken, there’s no going back – you can’t un-break an almond.
Damaged or broken nuts can, technically, be sorted out and reclaimed to make nut flour or butter. However, if the broken pieces make their way into the packaging process, they can end up ruining an entire batch of products.
All of this is avoidable if you use a different type of conveyor that is better suited for conveying these fragile materials.
Pneumatic systems use a lot of energy
Technically, you could slow down a pneumatic conveyor enough to avoid major damage to your product. However, this would come at a cost – these systems are already energy intensive, and slowing them down would make them even more so.
Large motors are required to generate the compressed air needed to power a pneumatic machine. Additionally, the compressors needed to maintain the pressure are also quite energy demanding. As a result, pneumatic conveyors tend to have a very high energy consumption.
This is not ideal for facilities looking to reduce their carbon footprint or operating costs. If you want a more sustainable and cost-effective option, consider a less energy-intensive conveyor system.
Here is what to use instead.
What conveyor to use instead
An ideal nut conveyor system would be one that has all the good features of a pneumatic conveyor without the negative ones. Fortunately, such a system exists – it’s called a tubular drag conveyor.
Tubular drag conveyors are gentle
One of the main advantages of these conveyors is that they are very gentle on the product. This is thanks to the way they work – instead of using high-pressure air to move the product; they use circular discs evenly spaced out along a sealed cable inside a fully enclosed tube.
The spaces in between each of the discs create “pockets” in which the product is conveyed. The pockets move along the tube, propelling the product forward without causing any damage. The conveyed material virtually doesn’t move at all from the moment it enters the conveyor until it exits – there is no shaking, no jarring, and no impact.
This is perfect for conveying fragile materials like nuts, as there is no risk of them breaking or being damaged.
Furthermore, you don’t have to worry about sacrificing your production time in order to prevent damage – these conveyors can work at speeds that are just the right balance of being gentle and efficient.
Tubular drag conveyors are energy efficient
Another advantage of tubular drag cable and disc conveyors is that they are very energy efficient. They require up to 10 times less energy to operate than pneumatic systems!
Certain Cablevey tubular conveyors come with drive units that require five horsepower to operate. If you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint and save on energy costs, these conveyors are a great option.
By reducing your energy bill, you are consequently increasing the long-term return on investment (ROI) of your tubular drag conveyor.
Other benefits of tubular drag conveyors
Of course, that’s not all – tubular drag conveyors have many other advantages over pneumatic systems. Here are a few more reasons why you should consider them for your facility:
- They are incredibly easy to clean, especially with Cablevey’s clean-in-place systems. Both wet and dry cleaning options are available, depending on your needs.
- They have a modular design, meaning they can be easily customized to fit your specific application. And as your business grows, you can simply add more modules to increase your conveying capacity as your floor space increases.
- They are low maintenance and have a long lifespan. Tensioning the cable in our tubular cable and disc systems is as easy as turning one knob on the control panel. Your facilities don’t have to experience extensive maintenance and repair downtime.
- They can transport your product horizontally, vertically, or around corners – all while being gentle on it. And because they are fully enclosed, they are ideal for conveying food products.
Overall, tubular drag conveyors are a better choice for conveying nuts over practically any other type of conveyor. They are gentle, energy efficient, easy to clean and maintain, and can be customized to your specific needs. If you’re looking for a top-quality nut conveyor, look no further – Cablevey has you covered.
Just because pneumatic systems are the most common type of conveyor used for conveying nuts doesn’t mean they are the best choice. While they are easy to fit into tight floor spaces, don’t require much maintenance, and can convey materials at incredibly high speeds, they are not gentle on the product and are very energy-intensive.
With a delicate material such as nuts, gentle conveying is essential in order to prevent breakage and damage. A tubular drag conveyor is much more ideal, as it uses solid, circular discs to create pockets that move the product along a sealed tube without any shaking or jarring.
Furthermore, tubular drag conveyors are very energy efficient, easy to clean and maintain, and can be customized to your specific needs. Overall, they provide a better conveying experience for nuts and other fragile materials.
Cablevey Conveyors is a leading provider of these conveyors. If you’re in the market for a top-quality nut conveyor, look no further – we have you covered. Contact us today to learn more about our products and how we can help you convey your nuts more effectively.