Solving Liquid Coating Problems with Atomizing Systems

spray coating rotating disk

Getting the right liquid coating for snack foods, pet foods, and other products is already a difficult process. Finding a liquid coating system that can handle the coating efficiently and effectively is even more challenging. Some food manufacturers struggle to maintain the consistency of the coating while finding a clean application method that won’t cause shut-downs or require frequent maintenance. If you’re struggling with this problem, consider the following ways to reduce waste, improve efficiency and reduce maintenance costs in liquid coating using atomizing systems.

What are Atomizing Systems?

Most liquid coating systems use spray nozzles to evenly coat material as it moves through a mixer or conveyor. A rotary atomizing liquid coating system uses spinning disks to instead turn the liquid coating into a fine mist, which evenly coats the material as it falls through the coating chamber. The Mistcoater, including the T, TMX and SST models, is one such liquid coating system. These systems are preferred for many liquid coatings which can clog spray nozzles, such as those with high fat, sugar or salt content.

How Do Atomizing Systems Solve Liquid Coating Problems?

Reducing Overspray

One common problem for liquid coating systems is overspray. In many cases, too much liquid coating is used in order to ensure that all particles receive some of the coating. If a particle receives no coating it can be missing key elements, while overspraying generally won’t harm the end product, so overspraying is usually preferred. However, this also causes waste and expenses that will build up over time. In addition, it can create slip-and-fall hazards when overspray touches walking surfaces, or generally create an unclean environment.

The Mistcoater uses a fully enclosed chamber, so the liquid coating does not escape and does not collect on surrounding surfaces. Since it creates a mist with increased surface area, it also requires less liquid to coat the product. Finally, the product falls through the coating chamber, so all sides of the particles are fully exposed to the liquid coating. By increasing the surface area of both the liquid and the solid, there is less waste and overspray.

Eliminating Clogs

Clogging may be the most common problem in liquid coating systems. Sugars and salts are prone to crystallization on the end of the spray nozzle, and fats are prone to congealing. Most liquid coatings use some combination of sugar, salt or fat solutions. Though not all of these mixtures will cause spray nozzles to clog, it can be difficult to predict which ones will. Or, changing the recipe slightly can cause clogging where a previous mixture did not.

When spray nozzles clog, multiple additional problems can occur; a buildup of backpressure can damage the liquid coating system, the liquid coating will be uneven, which can reduce the quality of the product, and excessive repairs and maintenance may be required to repeatedly deal with clogs. The Mistcoater helps to reduce and, in many cases, completely eliminate clogging problems, since it does not use spray nozzles. Instead, the liquid coating atomizes through the use of a rotating disk spinning at high RPMs. The liquid touches the disk and turns into a mist, which then coats the product as it falls through the enclosed chamber.

Improving Consistency

Inconsistency is another notable problem that can arise in liquid coating. Liquids are, by their nature, difficult to control. Ensuring that a liquid coating uniformly covers a particle once is difficult enough—it is even more difficult for millions of particles over a short space of time. Spray coating often only covers one side of the particle and requires additional steps for uniform coating. When working with a mixer, the spray coating must set very quickly, or the coating can be lost through the mixing action.

An atomizing liquid coating system like the Mistcoater works with, rather than against, natural forces to improve consistency. As the material falls through the coating chamber, it naturally turns, rather than remaining still, as it might on a conveyor. This exposes all sides of the material in a very short span of time, without requiring mixing action or additional steps. Instead of forcing a high pressure spray coating onto the particle and relying on absorption over time, the fine mist naturally attracts to the particle’s surfaces and pores. Since the mist is lighter than the liquid spray, it works its way into and onto the particles more easily, and dries faster.

Finding the right liquid coating equipment for your application requires careful consideration. Take a close look at the properties of the liquid coating, as well as the dry material. If you are struggling with these liquid coating problems, atomizing systems like the Mistcoater may be the ideal solution. To learn more about the Mistcoater and other liquid coating solutions, contact us.


Enzyme Applications for Animal Feed: Questions and Answers

enzyme applications for animal feed

Enzymes essentially speed up chemical reactions, including metabolic reactions. There are many different types of enzymes, and many different ways to apply them to animal feed. They may be added in liquid or dry form, and the ideal application process depends on the type of feed, the manufacturing process, and more. In this blog post, we’ll discuss a few common questions, problems and solutions in enzyme applications for animal feed.

How Do Enzymes Work?

There are many different types of enzymes, and these useful proteins are now used in a wide range of agricultural and industrial processes. We add different enzymes to different applications to speed up chemical reactions, such as enzymes in laundry detergent to break down stains or enzymes to pre-treat biofuels, but many enzymes are also naturally-occurring, such as those used in digestion.

How Do Enzymes in Animal Feed Work?

Enzymes in animal feed increase the rate at which animals can break down and absorb fats and nutrients. This means the animal can grow faster with fewer nutritional additives and less waste. Phytase, which aids in phosphorus absorption, is particularly important in reducing phosphorus pollution. Phosphorus pollution is a common, negative effect of industrial agriculture which contaminates waterways and creates marine dead zones.

How Are Animal Feed Enzymes Applied?

As previously mentioned, enzymes may be applied in either dry or liquid forms. In dry forms, this might include powder or granulates. These may be added directly to the feed during the mixing process or added as a powder coating post-pelleting. In liquid forms, the enzyme may be diluted in an oil-based or water-based solution, and applied as a liquid coating over the feed post-pelleting.

What Are the Challenges in Enzyme Applications for Animal Feed?

Accurate Dosing

Many suppliers will ship enzymes in highly concentrated forms to reduce shipping costs. In addition, enzymes must be added in carefully measured amounts. Some enzymes can be applied at levels as low as 50 grams per ton of feed. This means accurate dosing is very important. It’s also important to have a clear picture of the enzyme’s potency and how to dilute it properly. This is true for both liquid and dry enzyme applications for animal feed. The measuring and mixing system for the enzyme and carrier must be highly accurate, and calibrated regularly to ensure it remains accurate.

Withstands Heat

Enzymes that are added to the feed prior to pelleting must be heat stable, or able to lose some potency without eliminating the overall effect. Most enzymes will start to break down when exposed to temperatures over 150, however high temperatures are also required to kill bacteria. To solve this problem, the enzyme must be protected from the heating process, applied in amounts where heat will not completely destroy the enzyme, applied after the heating process, or a heat-stable enzyme must be used.

Withstands Pelleting

Pellets require the right levels of moisture and the right density to retain their shape. If the dry enzymes added to the mix reduce the moisture content past a certain level, the pellets may begin to break apart more frequently, causing product loss and waste. Or, when using granulate enzymes, the particles must be the right size for the pellet, or this can also cause the pellets to break apart at later stages. This problem can be solved through careful testing, gentler treatment of the pellets, or by using enzyme applications for animal feed after the pelleting process.

Suitable for Application Equipment

When working with liquid enzymes, the application system must be designed to effectively handle the enzyme as well as the carrier. In some cases, a saltwater solution may be used as a carrier. If this is the case, it’s important to take corrosion into consideration. The spray nozzles and the equipment in general must be able to withstand corrosion from saltwater.

In other cases, the liquid enzyme may be injected into the fat application system. If the enzyme is first diluted with water, it cannot be introduced into the fat, or it will cause the fats to congeal and clog the application system. In some cases, utilizing an atomizing system, such as the Mistcoater, can solve these problems, since it does not require spray nozzles.

Characteristics of enzymes will vary depending on the type of enzyme and the manufacturer. It is important to work with the enzyme manufacturer to determine the optimum conditions for enzyme applications for animal feed. This can be true with the same enzyme manufactured by two different companies. With the enzyme characteristics and application methods in mind, it’s also important to work with your equipment manufacturer, and make sure that the system is designed properly. To learn more about liquid application, microingredient metering systems, and similar equipment, contact us today.

What is Hermetic Sealing?

what is a hermetic seal

Hermetic sealing is the process of creating an airtight seal. Hermetic sealing can be done with plastics, epoxy resins, glass, metals, ceramics and more. There are many ways to create a hermetic seal, and even more applications. The specifics of what a hermetic seal is and what it’s for depends on the materials, applications, and processes behind it.

What is Hermetic Sealing?

A hermetic seal is simply a watertight and airtight seal. The first hermetic seal was an airtight glass tube known as the Seal of Hermes, which was used in very early alchemy. The process of hermetic sealing was named after the Greek God Hermes and the “hermetic tradition” that gave rise to alchemical experimentation. Though this first seal was made through glass, there are many ways to create an hermetic seal.

What is Hermetic Sealing Used for?

Hermetic seals have many different uses. There are many instances where contact with water or air can damage a delicate connection or stop it from working. Semiconductors, which can be damaged by contact with water or water vapor, are one of the most common. These semiconductors must be carefully sealed to keep them functioning. A hermetic seal might be created by glass, ceramic or metal to protect the semiconductor.

Nearly any device using sensitive electronics, from smartphones to advanced medical equipment to lasers and much more, uses hermetic seals. Circuits, switches, ignitors, sensors, transistors, semiconductors, microchips and much more all require the protection of a hermetic seal to function properly and maintain a long useful life. Hermetic seals are also used to protect electronics in manufacturing equipment, like hermetically sealed load cells. These load cells will maintain their accuracy, last longer, and can withstand cleaning procedures better than those that are not reliably sealed.

There are other types of hermetic seals that you see every day, but probably don’t often think about. A canned food item is an example of a hermetic seal. The can keeps food preserved by preventing contact with the air and therefore stopping bacteria from growing. Some other foods are vacuum sealed with plastic wrapping, which also prevents microbial growth.

There are other hermetic seals around your home that you might not think twice about. Lightbulbs, for example, are hermetically sealed. Many eco-friendly windows are hermetically sealed to reduce the loss of warm or cool air. Your thermostat, multiple components in your car, batteries, your TV, computer, and many other devices all use hermetic seals to function.

How to Make a Hermetic Seal

How a hermetic seal is made depends on the materials being used, and what the seal must be used for. For example, a hermetic seal made with plastic might not be ideal for a device that gets warm, while a glass hermetic seal wouldn’t make sense for a disposable item, like a ready-to-eat meal.

Glass And Metal Seals

Some hermetic seals are created simply by welding metals together. A proper weld prevents moisture and air from entering the seal. However, in some many cases, electrical signals or light still must enter or exit the seal. In these cases, a hermetically sealed glass enclosure might be ideal, or the glass might be soldered to a metal cap, depending on the needs of the object being sealed.

Glass hermetic seals can be made through matched sealed or compression seals, depending on the coefficient of thermal expansion between the metal and the glass. A matched seal is commonly used for lightbulbs, while compression seals are used for objects that must withstand more pressure fluctuations. Glass-to-metal seals can withstand temperatures up to 250 °C (compression seals) and 450°C (matched seals), so they’re useful for applications with high temperature demands. Hermetic seals can also be made using a ceramic-to-metal seal. These types of seals can withstand more demanding environments, but they are more complex to make.

Epoxy And Plastic Seals

Epoxy is another common way to create a hermetic seal. The use of epoxy again depends on the coefficient of thermal expansion between the substrate and the epoxy. Epoxy seals are commonly used in electrical devices and fiber optics. The epoxy can bond to copper, brass, or other epoxy. Epoxy seals can withstand temperatures between 70°C to +125°C or 150°C, so they’re useful for many standard applications, but can’t withstand extreme heat.

Thousands of different types of devices require hermetic sealing to keep them working properly, or to make them work at all. This airtight, waterproof seal is essential to many of the devices that we use everyday, as well as many others that are much more advanced.

9 Inefficiencies in Food Processing Eating into Money and Time

automation for FMSA compliance

Inefficiencies in your operation aren’t always big problems like a machine break-down or product contamination. Though these are certainly concerns, many sources of lost time, energy and resources—and, ultimately, lost money—are a series of small things. These small inefficiencies add up and take their toll on production time. Consider these 9 inefficiencies in food processing. How many are affecting your production line, and how much time is this costing you? Solving these seemingly small problems one by one can improve your productivity enormously in the long run.

9 Inefficiencies in Food Processing Eating Up Money and Time

1. Inaccurate measurements

Using an inaccurate weighing device is a common cause of ingredient over-use, and an inefficiency in food processing that is often overlooked. While it’s important to meet minimum amounts of any ingredient, many weighing and batching systems overfill, ultimately wasting the ingredient. Using a volumetric meter instead of a mass flow meter can create inaccuracies, as well as failing to calibrate the load cell, or damage to the load cell. If the measurement device is extremely inaccurate or inconsistent, in can cause product defects, creating more waste.

Maintaining accurate measurements is equally important for small amounts of relatively expensive ingredients and larger amounts of inexpensive ingredients. For example, overusing an ingredient by .5% might be within the tolerance, and might not seem like much for a small amount of a microingredient. However, this culminates in a .5% overuse annually, which can be substantial.

2. Energy-Wasting Equipment

Overhead costs like energy use is an easily overlooked inefficiency in food processing. As equipment ages, these costs often sneak upward without notice. A number of factors can cause equipment to waste energy. Many of these occur as the equipment ages, such as compressed air leaks from aging seals. Some can be prevented with a good maintenance schedule, such as replacing seals, and keeping proper belt tensioning and lubrication to keep from over-working motors.

Other times, this actually occurs at the equipment design stage, such as excessive horsepower on inefficient motors. When working with your equipment manufacturer, remember that more power is not necessarily a good thing; if your equipment doesn’t need the extra horsepower to run, it’s ultimately a waste.

3. Energy-Wasting Facilities

Just like equipment, facilities also age and become less energy efficient. Or, as new building materials and designs emerge, their energy rating can fall behind the norm. Inefficient heating and cooling systems, lighting, insulation, even worn-out seals on doors and windows can all create energy waste.

While a single leaky seal on a door isn’t cause for concern, it can become a problem when every door is letting cool air escape, while light fixtures are creating extra heat, and the ventilation system isn’t running properly. Besides wasting energy, this can cause both employees and machines to get overheated, reducing productivity. Over time, small issues stack up and compound. Comparing energy use over time and reassessing or making improvements can help to save thousands.

4. Ingredient Spoilage

Ingredient storage systems can have a noticeable impact on waste. First-in, first-out (FIFO) ingredient storage systems help to prevent ingredients from spoiling. However, maintaining these systems requires employee participation, training, and proper set-up. If FIFO is difficult for employees to maintain—for example, if workers must repeatedly move pallets or bulk bags, or check use dates on every shipment—the system will either introduce losses to productivity due to time, or ingredient loss due to spoilage. Taking the time to arrange an easy, manageable FIFO system, and emphasizing its importance to employees, can help to prevent this inefficiency in food processing from eating into productivity.

5. Machine Down-Time

Preventative maintenance might seem like a regular inefficiency chipping away at productivity time, however, scheduled maintenance can actually help to prevent a more costly issues; unscheduled maintenance and machine down-time. Checking lubricant levels, seals, drive tension, electrical wires, electrical sockets, load cell calibration and other preventative maintenance items regularly can help to prevent breakdowns. Scheduled maintenance means downtime is planned; the necessary tools and parts are prepared, employees aren’t unexpectedly idle, and productivity schedules aren’t lagging.

6. Excessive jogging

Excessive jogging can also cost valuable production time. Jogs occur when the automation
system stops the feeder before the target weight is achieved. The system will then start and
stop the feeder for a short duration in order to fill to the target weight. Besides creating inefficiencies in production, excessive jogging can also be hard on drive components and switchgear, because the feeder is constantly starting and stopping.

Free-fall compensation helps prevent this from happening. Two-speed operation of the feeder can also help to prevent excessive jogging.

7. Overweight Alarms

Overweight alarms occur when the batching system meters too much product into the scale. They can occur because the feeder size is not well matched to the required minimum output. They can also occur because the system stopped too early, and then had to jog to put the remainder of product into the bin. The final jog to reach the target weight can put the weight over.

Each time an overweight alarm occurs, the system halts and sends an audible and visual alarm to the operator. The operator then has the option of accepting the overweight or aborting the batch. Each alarm consumes valuable production time. The best way to prevent overweight alarms is with two-speed operation of the feeder.

Overweights can also occur because the user has an unrealistic expectation of what the system can actually weigh. Don’t set the tolerances for the system to be one scale increment if the feeders and controls are not capable of stopping the system within one increment.

8. Batch Routing

Batch destination confirmation is another inefficiency in food processing that can cost production time. When a new formula is produced prior to the discharge of the batch mixer, the operator is asked to specify the correct downstream destination for the formula. If the operator is busy doing something else, this alarm may go unnoticed for some time and cost production time.

Auto-routing is a simple automation upgrade that can solve this problem, and most automation suppliers provide it. This allows the operator to designate the bin when the formulate goes into production, thereby easily eliminating this inefficiency in production.

9. No-Flow Alarms

No-flow alarms are one of the most common and costly inefficiencies in food processing. This alarm occurs with an auto-batching system. No-flow alarms can occur when someone forgets to fill a bin, when a bin bridges or when a feeder plugs. A standard operating procedure for bin inventory and refilling bins can prevent these alarms. It may be necessary to add some type of bin agitation to the system to prevent the ingredient from hanging up in the bin or feeder.

One small inefficiency in food processing can quickly become many inefficiencies if they’re allowed to add up. Solving these small problems takes regular assessments and housekeeping, but this time is well-spent when it prevents wasted ingredients, surging energy costs, maintenance problems, and lagging productivity. Assess your operation carefully to see where you can solve these problems, and make small improvements to save time and money.

How to Choose a Food Processing Equipment Manufacturer

how to choose a food processing equipment manufacturer

When your food processing equipment works at optimal speed and efficiency, every part of your plant runs better. Choosing the right food processing equipment manufacturer is the first step to implementing the best possible equipment. Consider the following when choosing your supplier and you can reduce repairs, maintenance, and hazards.

How to Choose a Food Processing Equipment Manufacturer: 6 Considerations

1. Experience With Your Products

material segregation in batch mixing processesAll food products are unique, and each one presents unique challenges when it comes to processing. When choosing a food processing equipment manufacturer, look for experience with your products.

For example, powder or oil coatings can cause challenges in the mixing process if the equipment is not properly designed. Or, products that contain mixed nuts can experience segregation problems during batching, and require special considerations for allergies. Working with milk or other perishable liquids requires adherence to 3-A sanitary standards. A food processing equipment manufacturer who has designed equipment for your products and ingredients will be aware of these unique challenges and requirements.

2. Offers Product Testing

With product testing, you can be sure that your equipment will operate according to plan. Sometimes, unexpected problems can arise with your equipment and processes. Product testing with your food processing equipment manufacturer allows you to address these problems before they become problems at your facility.

With product testing, your equipment supplier will conduct a demonstration using your ingredients and a version of your equipment. This test will allow you to see how the process actually works, and how this compares to how it’s supposed to work.

Product testing can reveal issues that arise at any point in the process, such as inadequate mixing, inconsistent coating, cycle times that are too long or too short, inaccurate weighing, or other challenges. Then, these can be addressed before your equipment is finished and shipped.

3. Provides References

One of the best ways to choose a food processing equipment manufacturer is to take a closer look at the equipment they’ve built in the past. Your equipment manufacturer should provide a list of references, including a contact person you can ask about the equipment.

Consider the following when examining the list of references:

  • Are your ingredients, products and processes comparable?
  • Are your environments and volumes comparable? Keep in mind that changes in temperatures, humidity, and facility size can impact the equipment design.
  • Did the customer have any unexpected problems? How did the supplier respond?
  • Did the machines require repairs or maintenance? Are the parts difficult to obtain?
  • How long has the equipment been running, including both time and volume?

4. Will Customize

Food processing is not one-size-fits-all. While some standard fittings may work for your process, you should be able to customize some aspects without much trouble. You may wish to add or remove some features, add coatings or finishes, or alter the dimensions of the machine to fit your facility.

5. Complete Process Engineering

food processing system

Now more than ever before, each step in the food processing chain affects the next. For the system to perform at its highest level, each step in the process should work together. This means your food processing equipment manufacturer should have experience with every part of the process, including mixing, coating, weighing, batching, controls and more. When you choose a food processing equipment manufacturer with a range of experience, you can optimize each machine to get the most efficient mixing time, and minimal waste and maintenance.

6. Offers Plant Visits

To choose the right food processing equipment manufacturer, you may wish to inspect the manufacturer’s facility. This will give you a closer look at how the manufacturer does business, including the manufacturing equipment and technology they use, the condition of the facility, its capacity, and adherence to safety requirements. Though these details by themselves may not tell you much, all together they can show you the manufacturer’s attention to detail, level of organization, and use of technology.

When you choose the right food processing equipment manufacturer, you will not only have exceptional equipment to support a highly efficient process, but you will also have a problem-solving partner to support your equipment into the future. To learn more about food processing equipment design, manufacturing and product testing, contact us.