How do you handle delicate things? Well gently, of course! And that is precisely what the innovative and aptly named piGENTLE™ technology does in Piab's vacuum conveyor piFLOW®t, offering careful conveying of delicate food and sweets.
Candy, nuts, seeds, nutraceutical tablets and capsules are difficult to handle in processing plants. More fragile than most other products or ingredients of the food industry, they are easily cracked and need to be treated with care to keep waste at a minimum. So far, many within the food industry have solved this problem either by handling their most fragile products or ingredients manually, often involving production staff lifting and emptying heavy containers, or by asking conveyor suppliers to modify their equipment to be better at careful handling. However, neither of these alternatives are ideal and both will lead to compromises for the producers as well as for the working environment.
Not content with providing modifications of standard conveying equipment, Piab decided to develop conveying equipment dedicated to automatic gentle handling of fragile goods. piFLOW®t is the world's first dedicated conveyor for delicate ingredients and products in automated industrial settings, where it can replace either standard equipment or laborious manual procedures.
Three main design features are the keys to Piab's success – controlled low speed, guided product entry into the conveyor, and the elimination of any sharp edges in the conveying pipeline. Each of these features has been designed specifically with fragile products or ingredients in mind.
The key to gentle handling is speed. In order to keep goods intact throughout the entire conveying system it is vital to maintain a controlled low speed. The innovative piGENTLE™ technology was designed to enable a low and constant speed for the transfer, regardless of the amount of material in the pipeline. It is also independent of the size, shape, or weight of individual nuts, sweets, tablets, etc.
Patent pending, piGENTLE™ regulates the feed pressure of the pump by sensing the vacuum level in the system. A low start pressure enables goods to be picked up at low speed. As the material fill the pipeline, the vacuum level will increase, which in turn will trigger piGENTLE™ to increase the feed pressure. The feed pressure is regulated between 2 and 6 bar (29 and 87 psi).
The delicate material is gently guided into the conveyor through a specially designed flow guiding flap offering maximised tangential entry. This enables a smooth transition between the conveying pipeline and the conveyor inlet module. Flaps are made in nitrile or silicone.
Mounted on the inlet pipe, the flow guide is easy to remove and clean, and it is independent of the shape, size and weight of individual items. The flow guiding flap is manufactured in a material which is compliant with US and European regulations (No 1935/2004 EC FDA).
In the entire piFLOW®t conveying system there are no sharp edges against which fragile ingredients or products can get chipped and cracked. This is an important design feature which ensures that the conveyed material is handled as carefully as possible. The smooth edges of the conveying system will help keep the conveyed goods safe, guaranteeing better yields and less waste.
The conveyor is fully configurable in all its parts, which allows it to be adapted to suit any application, individual products, and producers. It can be used either as a stand-alone conveyor or as a pre-separator with a remote motor.
A single stand-alone conveyor incorporates piGENTLE™ and the flow guide. However, when there is a need to separate dust from the products, or when a minimal building height is required due to limited space, the conveyor can be used as a pre-separator with a remote engine. This configuration also offers very simple cleaning, as it has no internal filter.
A modular system made up of few parts, the piFLOW®t is very easy to clean and to maintain. All parts can be disassembled without tools. It has been designed according to hygiene standards in dairy guidelines set by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The conveyor is also compliant with US and European regulations (No 1935/2004 EC FDA), and it is ATEX certified.
The conveyor can easily be fitted into space-restricted areas. Configured as a stand-alone conveyor, it has a diameter footprint measuring either 255mm (10") or 380mm (15") and a height of around 700mm (27.5"). Its low weight of around 25kg (55lbs) is another clear advantage.
Used as a pre-separator solution, it requires even less space, the diameter footprint being 255mm (10") and the height around 500mm (20"). The weight will then be distributed equally between the pre-separator itself and the remote motor, each weighing around 15kg (33lbs).
piFLOW®t is an extension to Piab's popular and high quality range of piFLOW® conveyors for powder and bulk materials that is specially developed to meet the stringent demands regarding operational safety and hygiene within the food (piFLOW®f), pharmaceutical (piFLOW®p), and chemical (piFLOW®i) industries.
With the innovative piGENTLE™ technology at its core, piFLOW®t sets a new world standard for gentle conveying and promises to revolutionise the automated handling of delicate food, sweets, and nutraceutical tablets and capsules. The dedicated conveyor will safely transfer fragile ingredients and products between various processing units, such as tablet presses, coating drums, and packaging lines.
A complete solution, Piab's piFLOW®t conveyor promises to minimise the scrap rate and downtime. Additionally, it will improve the productivity in processing plants whilst providing a better working environment for the production staff.
The conveyor and the incorporated piGENTLE™ speed controlling technology have been rigorously tested at Piab's in-house experimental facility in conjunction with some of the company's customers. Excellent results have been obtained for several different types of delicate goods handled by the food industry, including roasted coffee beans, whole nuts, coated candy, and nutraceutical tablets and capsules.