The five main advantages of pneumatic conveying vs. other methods of transfer (e.g. manual and mechanical transfer methods) are:
1. Operator and Environmental Health and Safety
Operator ergonomics is intentionally the first item on our list because worker safety should be the primary concern for any company. A process that involves the handling of a hazardous material introduces increased safety risks to the operating personnel. Contained transfer of powders effectively decreases the manual handling of solids, therefore reducing operator exposure to the product being transferred. Additionally, the pneumatic transferring of powder into a vessel versus manually dumping heavy containers eliminates the risk of operator back injury. There can also be cost saving realized, since it is no longer necessary to purchase expensive personal protective equipment (PPE) given the high level of containment that can be achieved.
From an environmental perspective, the closed system that is created via contained transfer provides a dust-free atmosphere. In the case of powders with a chalky consistency, this helps to maintain cleanliness of the facility, but even more important, in the instance of products containing carcinogens or materials with sensitivity to oxygen, the inert environment that is made possible helps to promote the health and safety of the work environment as a whole.
2. Cleanliness of Plant and Equipment
Pneumatic transfer can help to establish good housekeeping practices in a production facility. The equipment is typically much easier to clean than mechanical equipment. The closed system that is achieved eliminates exterior contaminants, substantially reducing equipment and facility clean-up.
3. Process Efficiency
The efficiency of a process plays an important role in determining variables such as transfer capacity, rate, and distance, all of which can positively or negatively affect batch time. The improved agitation due to controlled material addition significantly decreases batch time. Additionally, contained transfer provides the ability to charge powder into a vessel under pressure or vacuum, or with liquids (including solvents) present in the vessel. This capability enables the safe handling of hazardous and toxic products including carcinogens, oxygen or skin sensitive materials, and even explosive powders. Less manpower is required to charge the vessel, freeing up employees to manage other important work tasks. Additionally, pneumatic conveying equipment is more streamlined, so hoists and handling equipment over the reactor are no longer required.
4. Equipment Life
Being able to keep a vessel closed while introducing powder into the process is an ideal practice to follow in any application (general rule of thumb – keep the manway closed whenever possible!). Pneumatic transfer eliminates the need to open the manway, preventing the risk of damage and deterioration. Since the charging of material is carefully controlled using this method, the agitator and seal system remain protected from deflection or damage that can sometimes occur when solids are overcharged during mixing or when the agitator is started in excess solids. Overall, equipment maintenance is substantially reduced as a result of the closed system that is created.
5. Product Quality
There are numerous advantages to pneumatic conveying related directly to product quality. This aspect is extremely important in pharmaceutical applications where product integrity is critical. A closed environment effectively diminishes exterior contaminants which can otherwise jeopardize the purity of an entire batch. Depending on the product, a contaminated batch could be a very costly mistake. It is important to note that product quality through contained transfer can be accomplished at any product phase – raw ingredients, intermediate powders and/or finished products.