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The application of Flexicon stainless-steel screw conveyors and a range of bulk bag unloaders have helped manufacturers of Maranatha organic and natural nut butters to increase productivity.

The original production line gave the company a processing capacity of just 20 to 30 jars per minute, since it relied on bucket-type conveyors to move peanuts, almonds, cashews and sesame seeds to various production areas throughout the plant.

This conveyor design, with its many hundreds of buckets, was also detrimental to productivity, since each had to be dismantled and thoroughly cleaned between product changes to retain Class 1 allergen classification – a process taking around two hours.

As demand for the all-natural almond, peanut, cashew and macadamia and sesame tahini butters escalated, the company realised that it needed to boost output by increasing production rates while reducing sanitation downtime between batches.

This necessitated an entirely new bulk-handling system.

To improve in-line performance, the company invested in Flexicon flexible stainless-steel food-grade (finished to 3A standard) screw conveyors; two 4.6m-long flexible screw conveyors featuring stainless-steel tubes were installed in the roasting areas to convey raw products, such as nuts and sesame seeds, to the roasters.

Here, stainless-steel outer tubes were preferred because of the ambient heat.

There are another three conveyors used in other areas, another 4.6m-long unit feeds peanut, almond and other nut products to an industrial line, which processes materials and fills pails or barrels.

Two other screw conveyors that are 7.5m long convey raw product to the manufacturing line where it is processed and eventually placed in jars for retail sale.

Each flexible screw conveyor consists of a stainless-steel spiral inside an enclosed tube driven by an IP65 motor located at the discharge end.

Maranatha specified other food-grade features, including stainless-steel hoppers and flexible screws.

Sanitising the Flexicon screw conveyors has proven less time consuming, overcoming the lengthy downtime between product changes.

A removable clean-out cap at the intake end of the conveyor tube allows for both reversing of the screw to evacuate any residual material and removal of the flexible screw for sanitising and flushing of the conveyor tube in just 45min compared with two hours for each bucket-style conveyor.

To maximise the efficiency of the new in-line screw conveyors, five Flexicon bulk bag dischargers were also installed as part of the production upgrade, allowing bulk raw supplies delivered in bags to be discharged and held in a hopper in readiness to feed its associated stainless-steel screw conveyors.

Flexicon produces a variety of models; for the Maranatha site the most appropriate was the BFC Series dischargers with cantilevered I- beam, electric hoist and trolley for loading and unloading of bulk bags without the use of a forklift.

Two units have been installed in the roasting rooms and are equipped with Spout-Locka clamp rings that make an air-tight connection between the clean side of the bag spout and the clean side of the equipment, preventing contamination of the product and plant environment.

The clamp rings are located at the top of Tele-Tubea telescoping tubes that maintain constant downward tension of the bag spout to promote complete evacuation of the bag as it empties and elongates.

Immediately above the clamp rings are pneumatically actuated Power-Cincher flow-control valves that cinch the bag spouts concentrically, allowing retying of partially empty bags with no leakage of the nut fines.

The other three unloaders are in the production room; they utilise conventional iris valves instead of the clamp rings and telescoping tubes described above because a sealed connection between the bag spout and the hopper is unnecessary.

To operate, the bag outlet spout is pulled through the open iris valve, the valve is closed, the bag spout drawstring is untied and the access door is closed.

The valve is then opened slowly to prevent uncontrolled bursts of material into the hopper, reducing the escape of dust.

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