Flexibility and adaptability are key elements of today’s bulk materials handling systems.

elementi traposrto pneumatico

Flexibility and adaptability are key elements of today's bulk materials handling systems.

Applications for systems engineers and end users require ever-increasing integration capabilities.

The design of bulk materials handling systems involves not only the choice of the type of technology, but also the ability of that technology to be integrated into existing production systems, thus ensuring continuity.

The benefits of using a new solution become the driver of a decision-making process that can be undertaken by both manufacturing companies and system designers.

On the one hand, the end user wants to achieve a return on production and a competitive advantage; on the other hand, the systems engineer must design a complete system in which each component integrates seamlessly with the others. The ability to meet this multitude of requirements in a well-structured yet flexible manner is the key to choosing a supplier of bulk materials handling solutions today.
Let us take a closer look at the different applications of these solutions for manufacturing companies in all industries and for systems engineers.

Manufacturing companies

End users of powder and granule handling systems are often faced with issues relating to conveying or processing raw materials. Important factors to consider include: economic commitment, product and production environment characteristics, and compatibility with technologies already in use.
Previous experience and in-depth knowledge of the product are the basis for an informed choice of the most suitable handling system.
Starting with an initial technical consultation phase, Air-Tec System applications are designed, built, and installed according to the intended use. The handling systems, whether extensions of existing installations or new solutions, are complete and ready to use.

Systems engineers and engineering companies

They are specialists in the design of even the most complex systems that include various processing stages: from storage and conveying to dosing and mixing of bulk materials. These are complete systems based on the concept of automating production processes by combining different technologies.
Each part of the system must be selected taking into account the characteristics of the equipment, the intended end use, and the need to fulfil the economic agreement entered into with the customer. The solutions aim to develop synergies between the various existing systems by properly interfacing them.
It is essential that all selected technologies can be fully interfaced to ensure an integrated production flow. Air-Tec System’s systems are specifically designed for efficient data exchange. Entire system sections, including the necessary accessories, are adapted to the context in which they are to be used.

Air-Tec System offers complete solutions and accessories to meet the needs of both end users and systems engineers.

Are you a manufacturing company?

Read our case studies to learn more about some of the solutions we have implemented.

Are you an engineering company?

Find out more about our range of pneumatic conveying systems.

Digital transformation: how pneumatic conveying systems enable you to digitalise your business

Digital transformation: how pneumatic conveying systems enable you to digitalise your business

Smart technologies for production in accordance with the 4.0 model

As part of the Transition 4.0 project in support of the digital transformation of companies, there are still a number of beneficial opportunities.
Today it is more important than ever to be resilient in the face of dynamically changing economic conditions.

Digitalising your company means not only taking advantage of available tax credits, but also gaining full control over your production processes through the ability to collect automated data in real time.

Pneumatic conveying systems as enablers of Industry 4.0 change

Pneumatic conveying systems are able to connect with each other and with the other components of a production plant in order to create a perfectly integrated processing flow. This makes it possible to achieve a high level of efficiency and optimise production costs.
These machines, developed for data exchange and remote assistance, are among the enabling technologies for Industry 4.0.

Let’s take a detailed look at the requirements for their inclusion among the functional assets for the technological and digital transformation of companies, according to the Transition 4.0 model:

  • Automation control by means of a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller).

The PLC is a highly versatile tool that today allows perfect integration in automated systems. The HMI (Human Machine Interface) allows machine functions to be controlled and working parameters to be modified by the operator.
Through appropriate protocols, information can be exchanged with existing supervisory systems (SCADA) for even greater integration.

  • Interconnection with factory computer systems with remote loading of instructions and/or part programmes and communication with other machines in the production cycle.

Each plant has its own characteristics and often requires IT adaptation to existing installations.
Air-Tec System conveying systems provide parameters that can be set through the HMI and selected through data exchange according to the protocol chosen for integration.

  • Simple and intuitive interface between man and machine.

The HMI operator panel makes the information needed to control the system usable and immediately available.
This operator panel is the main interface for normal use of the machine, during maintenance, or simply for changing the working parameters.

  • Occupational safety, health, and hygiene parameters.

Air-Tec System’s plants comply with EC regulations and the Machinery Directive.
If potentially explosive products are to be handled, the measures prescribed by ATEX regulations will be implemented.

  • Remote maintenance and/or remote diagnostics and/or remote control systems.

Remote assistance is one of the crucial points of Industry 4.0 integration, whereby every piece of equipment must be remotely accessible.
The operator panel provided by Air-Tec System optionally enables the remote assistance service.
Alternatively, dedicated remote assistance modules can be provided when heavy-duty use is foreseen or when the connection must be ensured by a SIM card.

  • Continuous monitoring of working conditions and process parameters.

In Air-Tec System’s systems, each of the physical quantities involved is monitored by means of specific transducers such as pressure switches, vibration and/or capacitive levels, and optionally load cells and/or flow sensors for monitoring consumption.
These sensors allow more accurate monitoring, optimising performance, given the variability of the products that can be handled.

Applications involving pneumatic conveying alone are not covered by Industry 4.0. standards; however, when they are integrated into systems that comply with the standards, they become part of the production process and acquire the necessary requirements.

In the planning stages of a production system, the advice of Air-Tec System engineers is aimed at ensuring effective integration to fulfil regulatory requirements.

Find out how to deal with the digital transition process, increase productivity and improve the quality of your offer

Pneumatic transport sizing

Pneumatic transport sizing

Know the parameters that contribute to the sizing of a pneumatic conveying system

Pneumatic transport sizing: find out the right technology for your product

To select the best system for your needs, you should consider a number of factors including material properties, desired throughput and conveying distance.

Other factors to consider are for example air pressure, air flow and velocity.

Typical pressure values for dilute conveying systems are:

ΔP: from + 0,2 to + 0,8 bar for pressure systems
from -0,2 to – 0,5 bar for vacuum systems

Typical pressure values for dense phase pneumatic systems are higher, ranging between 0,5-5 bar.

Air flow, which is the amount of compressed air needed to obtain the speed for the conveying process, is affected by three factors:

  • Material properties
  • Conveying distance
  • Throughput
  • The first step in pneumatic system design is to determine the blend ratio (material kg/air kg), considering that air, at 20°C and at 1 bar pressure, has density of 1,22 kg/m³.

The formula is:

rp= product (kg) / air (kg) 

where rp is the blend ratio.

The blend ratio can have different values: for dilute phase systems the maximum value is 8-9 (however, it is advised not to exceed 5-6); for dense phase systems the blend ratio is about 30 L of air per 1kg/product.

come dimensionare impianti di trasporto pneumatico

Why segregation of mixtures might be a problem

segregazione delle miscele

Why segregation of mixtures might be a problem

Powder stratification and blend prone to demixing

If you handle bulk materials with different physical and/or chemical properties, you might be familiar with segregation issues.

Whatever your industrial sector is (food industry, pharmaceutical, chemical, etc…), it is important that the mixture transported remains homogenous and uniform.

Taking a binary mixture as an example, we can have three degrees of blending:

  • Perfect mixture

Every part of the mixture has the same pattern. This is theoretically possible but not achievable in practice (picture a).

  • Random mixtures

The probability of finding a specific component at any point in the mixture is the same everywhere (picture b).

  • Segregating mixture

The probability of finding a specific component varies depending on the different points in the mixture (picture c).

Therefore, you can understand why segregation is such a common issue when handling material mixtures. In many applications, it’s almost impossible to obtain a uniform and homogenous blend.

Dense phase pneumatic conveying can overcome efficiently this issue. Dense phase systems use approximately 30 litres of gas to move 1 kg of product but, due to the high pressure inside the pipeline (more than 1 barg), powders form compacted plugs which are then carried along the line. This does not allow fine particles to segregate from the others.

How to reduce the risk of segregation.

Laboratory tests should be performed to check if a blend is prone to demixing and to advise on precautions to adopt to avoid this issue.

We can carry out pneumatic transport tests at our facilities and we take several samples of material, before and after the transport. These samples are then put inside some 250 ml transparent jars (see picture above) and then checked.
Once we have excluded the chance that the powder can stratify, we can then measure the average bulk density at different heights, so that we can be more detailed about the risk of segregation.

We have tested more than 500 powders in our laboratories and we have come to the conclusion that only dense phase pneumatic conveying can avoid powder stratification.

Francesco Pozzi
Head of Air-Tec System Research and Development Department

Find out more about dense phase pneumatic transport

Which pneumatic conveying system is suitable for your product?

Which pneumatic conveying system is suitable for your product?

Types of pneumatic conveying.

The selection of a pneumatic conveying system for a particular application involves consideration of numerous parameters associated with the conveyed material and the conveying conditions.

When considering which system to use, we need to take into account the material to be conveyed at a specified flow rate over a given distance. Other factors that can be used in the decision-making process are power consumption, and hence system operating costs.

Dense phase or dilute phase?

Materials can either be conveyed in batches through a pipeline, or they can be conveyed on a continuous basis, even 24 hours a day if necessary. In batch conveying, the material may be handled as a single plug if the lot size is relatively small.
If the batch size is large, two possible ways  of conveying are possible.
If the material remains in suspension in the air through the pipeline, it is referred to as dilute phase conveying. If the material is conveyed at low velocity in a non-suspension mode, we refer to as dense phase conveying.

Dilute and dense phase systems are the two most common technologies. They differ from the concentration of the products inside of the pipeline.

In dilute phase the particles are held in suspension in the air as they are blown or sucked through the pipeline. A relatively high velocity is required and so power requirements can also be high. There is virtually no limit to the range of materials that can be conveyed but some considerations must be done about friable and abrasive materials. In fact the contact between the product and the pipeline, and particularly the bends, could degrade the particles.

In dense phase pneumatic conveying the air pushes a considerable quantity of product inside the pipe, generating an actual plug.
The possibility to control the pressure of the fluid acting on the plug allows to give the minimum power necessary to move it.

Conveying velocity

In dilute phase conveying the air velocity in the pipeline is very high, usually in the range of 16-20 m/s at the start and final speeds not exceeding 30 m/s on the outlet.

For dense phase conveying, air velocitiy can be reduced to 3 m/s. Low speed allows to reduce the breakage of delicate products and the wear of the pipes when they are crossed by abrasive products.

Do you want to know more about pneumatic conveying technologies?

Download our pneumatic conveying guide for free.

Did you know that pneumatic conveying systems can also be classified according to the construction characteristics?

Discover more about negative and positive pressure technologies.

Pneumatic conveying system of abrasive materials: how to reduce wear

Pneumatic conveying system of abrasive materials: how to reduce wear

Tips on how to protect line systems and materials from abrasive wear.

Abrasive wear is one of the most concerning issue when using pneumatic conveying system, especially when abrasive particles are transported.

Dense phase pneumatic conveying can offer some benefits in such instances. This method can handle large flow rates at relatively low speed, which makes it possible to minimize pipeline wear and material degradation.
In fact, conveying speed is the most important parameter affecting wear in pneumatic conveying.
We know that some powders are particularly abrasive.

How to identify the abrasive power of a powder?

Hardness is a key indicator of the erosive power of powders. You can identify a threshold value in the hardness of the powers, beyond which the abrasiveness remains approximately constant. This is shown in the graph in picture 2. Here you can see that the specific erosion rate increases with respect to the material hardness and the threshold value is 800 kg/mm2.

The best-known abrasive particles of natural origin include corundumquartzsilicadiatomaceous earth and salt. Among synthetic abrasive particles, glass and some types of oxides are also well known.

How the pneumatic transport of abrasive products works

When designing a pneumatic conveyor system, the chemical composition of the abrasive material needs to be taken into account since it will affect its behavior when in contact with another material.

If you need to handle an abrasive powder, besides choosing a low-speed transport with full pipeline, you can also opt for specially designed curves, made of suitable alloys to prevent wear over time.

Francesco Pozzi
R&D Manger at Air-Tec System

Find out more about dense phase pneumatic transport:

read the advantages.

Metal powders pneumatic conveying: how to best handle them

Metal powders pneumatic conveying: how to best handle them

Pneumatic transport applied to the recycling of used batteries

When you choose metal powders pneumatic conveying you using a technology that can guarantee safety and efficiency.

When disposing exhausted batteries, you need to handle lithium, cobalt or other substances that may be potentially harmful for the environment. For this reason, it is important to follow every step of the disposal process to ensure compliance with legal requirements. These substances cannot be released out in the environment and they need to be handled with caution since they are highly corrosive powders.

How the pneumatic transport of powders in recycling batteries works

It is only in recent years that dense phase pneumatic transport for powders has been applied to the disposal of exhausted batteries.
In fact, it is with the increased use of electric cars and electronic devices in the last decade, that the recycling market of metal powders has become more and more important.

The recycling process of metal powders recovered from exhausted batteries involves the separation of each substance, which will be further treated in order to be reused for the benefit of electric mobility and the environment.

Why choose dense phase pneumatic conveying system?

Because it delivers a great deal of benefits!

The metal powders pneumatic conveying is composed of a completely closed structure able to avoid the dispersion of material into the environment.
In our dense phase pneumatic conveying system of powders, safety is essential.

Recycled metals powders from exhausted batteries represents over 40% of the total production of lead in Italy and 37% of the national demand for metal (Source: automazione-plus.it). This market presents good opportunities.

As far as the abrasiveness of these powders is concerned, thanks to the low speed of a dense phase pneumatic conveyor, the wear of the pipes is reduced to a minimum. In this way high performance levels and reduced maintenance costs are assured.

Do you want to know how dense phase pneumatic transport works
of lithium, cobalt and other metal powders?

Visit our technology page.

Pneumatic conveyors: what materials do they handle?

trasportatori pneumatici

Pneumatic conveyors: what materials do they handle?

Bulk handling materials technology

Pneumatic conveyors: meaning and wich materials can be handled

Pneumatic conveyors allow bulk materials to be handled within a closed pipe system by means of a gas (usually compressed air or nitrogen).

Pneumatic conveyors are used primarily for granules and powders. This type of conveyor is extremely flexible in terms of routing and length of the pipeline.

Working of pneumatic conveyors

The material is loaded onto a pressure vessel, where high pressure leads the material inside the conveying line to its destination.

The system is totally enclosed within a pipeline, where differences in pressure on either side cause a flow of product.

This pressure differential can be made via increasing or decreasing the pressure on either side of the tube.

Dense phase pneumatic conveying vs. dilute phase pneumatic conveying

With dense phase conveying, comparing to dilute phase, the flow of air is not around each particle.

Instead, granular agglomerates (in the shape of dunes) and plugs are pushed by compressed air at a low velocity and a higher pressure through the conveying pipe.

Pneumatic vacuum conveyor: fields of application

The main application fields of pneumatic conveyors are feeding operations of:

  • mixers;
  • reactors;
  • packaging machines;
  • every similar application that requires to handle powders, granules, flakes, and dry bulk.

Pneumatic conveyors: advantages

Pneumatic conveyors main features:

  • simple construction;
  • low initial costs;
  • require little space (pneumatic conveyors have much fewer moving parts than other conventional conveying systems);
  • prevent the dispersion of dust;
  • best suited for smalldrylow bulk density products (such as wheat, sugar, cement powder, sands, and other aggregates) but also heavy bulk density products, abrasives (salt and the like, blended products, plastic pellets, and other fragile materials).

Do you want to know the Air-Tec System solution in detail?

Visit the page dedicated to Pneumatic Transport or book a meeting for more information!

How to choose the best technology for handling pet food

trasporto pneumatico pet food

How to choose the best technology for handling pet food

What makes dense phase pneumatic conveying the most suitable method for handling animal feed is the flexibility of application.

Nowadays the supply of feed ranges between different formats and consistencies of product based on the animal species for which they are intended.

Feed may include raw materials of plant or animal origin whose main objective is to meet the nutritional needs of the animals. Often these products include derivatives of industrial transformation or are obtained by mixing raw materials and additives.

The processes of each type of feed, however, have one thing in common, that is, the movement of raw materials according to the different production phases up to the storage stations or packaging machines.

Animal feedstuffs are fragile products and often tend to be damaged during transport. The high percentages of fat that compose them can represent a difficulty in handling and subsequent sanitizing of the line. It is therefore essential that the transport technology is able to guarantee both the integrity of the product and high operating performance in order to optimize the production process.

A crushed pellet or croquette is no longer marketable. Frequent blockages in the pipeline or plant shutdowns are not economically convenient.

The dense phase pneumatic transport of pet food is able to avoid these problems. It is suitable for fragile materials and mixtures. Thanks to the low operating speed, it preserves the integrity of the product and prevents its deterioration. It also allows easy sliding of the material within the lines and offers the possibility of rapid sanitization of the lines.

But what makes dense phase pneumatic conveying the most suitable method for handling animal feed is the flexibility of application.

If you have already used mechanical transport systems, you know that they are not suitable for complex layouts, with vertical and curved sections. On the contrary the pneumatic conveying systems are distinguished from the previous ones by the closed pipes and the possibility of covering even long distances. They have few moving parts and require less maintenance, precisely because they allow less wear.

Our goal is to provide you with a solution designed according to your needs, whatever the path required. We take care of your product and make sure it arrives intact to the destination you require.

There are many solutions for the transport in dense phase of pet food. But the design of our engineers and the customization of our systems makes the difference.

Check out our Case Studies!

Gravity Conveying Systems with Fluidized Motion


Gravity Conveying Systems with Fluidized Motion

How to handle large quantities of materials at a low cost.

Most of the innovative conveying systems offer the possibility of being stopped and restarted during operation. This does not happen with many conventional mechanical systems and could generate considerable inconvenience in clearing pipelines, if this is necessary.

Therefore, for plants where a pipeline clearing phase is required, more innovative systems would be well worthwhile considering. These latter solutions offer further advantages, since they are capable of handling large quantities of materials with a reduced quantity of air. Consequently, operating costs are lower than other types of pneumatic transport.

Fluidized bed conveyor systems are generally not recognized as pneumatic conveying solutions because they use very low pressure air and the material does not flow through a pipeline. In any case they are not part of the mechanical transport systems. Their driving force is gravity so that they are able to operate only with an inclination downwards, although at a very low angle.

Air-assisted gravity transport: the fluidized motion conveyors 

In situations where the flow of a material is directed downwards, air-assisted gravity transport has numerous advantages compared with pneumatic conveying systems. The costs of the plants are significantly lower as well as the operating costs are lower; in addition, a wide range of materials can be handled at a very low speed.

Gravity conveyors consist of a channel divided longitudinally by a continuous porous membrane on which the material flows, as shown in the figure above. The operation of these systems is based on the introduction of a small amount of low pressure air through the membrane.

The fluidized conveyors are able to move bulk material up to 100 meters and are suitable for flow rates up to 300 m3. In general, materials with a particle size from 40 to 500 µm and a density between 1400 and 5000 kg / m3, are the easiest to transport and will flow very smoothly down shallow slopes.

In our specialized, fully-equipped laboratory, we conduct complete and detailed powder analysis to verify the feasibility of a gravity conveyor system.

Are you looking for an air gravity conveying solution?

Visit the dedicated page!