July 25, 2017

26/07/2017: Measuring up the options for grain, flour and starch: Solids flow meter or mass flow feeder?

by Christopher D. Lewis, Eastern Instruments, USA

In every industry, including the milling and grain industry, there are locations where a process can benefit from some sort of control, an optimisation or fine-tuning that will adjust the function of the process just enough to make it more efficient, more cost effective and more reliable

The CentriFlow® Meter from Eastern Instruments is a gravimetric style meter which gives a true measurement of the mass flow of product when forced around the curved measurement pan.  
Image credit: Eastern Instruments USA

Often, this control can come in the form of a flow measurement or control system. Ideally, this flow measurement/control system would include a measurement of the input and output of each micro process in order to understand, for instance, the optimal input for a mill, the best ratio for mixing ingredients and ultimately, the best way of maximising output while minimising cost over the entire macro process.

When determining the correct flow measurement/control system for your process, it is prudent to keep in mind exactly what you are looking to accomplish because that will help determine whether you are really looking for a flow meter to measure the flow of your grains, flours or starches, or whether you are actually looking for a flow control device that will control the flow of your product. When, then, should you measure flow and when should you control it?

Solids flow measurement

Flow Measurement offers you a window into your process. A proper flow measurement, for example, will allow you to see how much ‘dirty’ grain you are receiving and how much flour or milled grain you are able to produce from it. You will be able to see how well optimised your dryer is working or how efficiently your mill is performing.

Often, flow measurement devices are used to measure incoming ‘dirty’ grains during ‘load-in’ as a way to verify the weight of product coming in from railcars or trucks. Product is typically just being unloaded at this point so control of the flow is not necessary.

In fact, a mass flow feeder may actually slow the process by limiting the flow at which the truck/railcar is being unloaded, thus making the process even more inefficient. In other locations, flow measurement devices can be used in order to verify the proper function of particular pieces of equipment.

In many instances, stoners, rolling mills or separators work most efficiently at a particular flow rate. Flow meters can be used at the intake of these devices to ensure the consistent flow rate of material into them. At the same time, flow meters are used at the discharge of these devices to verify the output of them.

This is particularly useful when talking about equipment such as dryers that will change the physical properties of the product that is run through them. As grains move through the drying process, moisture is removed and the result is a loss of mass.

A good way of ensuring that the dryer is working as efficiently and consistently as possible is to measure the product both entering and exiting the dryer to ensure that the moisture loss (and thus, the drying process) is consistent over time.

If the comparison of the intake flow versus the exit flow from the dryer is inconsistent, that may be a signal that the dryer is working incorrectly or that there is a problem with the process. Whether milling grains into flour, cleaning seeds, or making feed pellets from raw grains, measuring your finished product is just as important as measuring your incoming product at the beginning of the process.

Measuring your finished product allows you to know exactly how much product your system is producing which is important in its own right. By measuring the incoming product and the finished product in conjunction, however, you get the added benefit of being able to compare the two measurements so that you can gauge how efficiently your entire process is running. You can also watch for changes that may signal process concerns such as breakages in equipment or wear issues.

Read the full article, HERE.

Visit the Eastern Instruments website, HERE.

The Global Miller
This blog is maintained by The Global Miller staff and is supported by the magazine Milling and Grain
which is published by Perendale Publishers Limited.

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