Equipment & Technology

Oli Vibrators goes with the flow

Flow obstruction in silos come in all shapes in sizes, from plugging, to bridging, ratholing, or hang-ups. Each can halt material flow and cut into productivity. Oli Vibrators has a solution.

Flow obstruction in silos come in all shapes in sizes, from plugging, to bridging, ratholing, or hang-ups. Each can halt material flow and cut into productivity. Oli Vibrators has a solution.

The causes of these problems are as varied as the materials that get stored. Lime, for example, is hydroscopic and tends to pack under its own weight. Dew that forms on the interior of the silo’s walls can cause caking, which can lead to blockages.

Mark Thompson, Managing Director of Oli Vibrators, says unfortunately, not all silos are suited for every product, and this can cause issues that may require costly redesigns or modifications.

“Things like bulk density, the material’s moisture content or even the loading temperature can lead to a reduction in flow,” he says.

“In some circumstances, these flow problems can become dangerous. If you’ve got bridging high up in a 30-tonne silo and then it’s suddenly let go, the forces mean the silo can be jeopardised, potentially risking collapse.”

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One practice to get material flowing again is to strike the silo or hopper with a hammer or heavy piece of wood, to shake up the blockages. However, this not only does damage to the asset but can also increase the chances of flow problems by creating misshaped areas in the silo.

“Every time you hit a vessel with a hammer, it creates a potential hang-up point for the material. I’ve seen silos with ‘hammer rash’ where people have been constantly belting it. Seeing a bin or hopper with hammer rash is a sure sign there is an area in the process that needs addressing,” Thompson says.

Because silos can be quite tall, this swinging may need to take place at heights, adding additional hazards to the process. Over the long term, it can also cause muscular-skeletal or hearing injuries.

Oli’s solutions to these productivity blockers are its range of fluidisers and industrial vibrators. The company specialises in breaking the friction that occurs between the walls of the silo and the material itself.

The company works with its customers to determine what flow aid works best with the material and application. In a cement plant, fluidisers will often be used as the particle side is small enough to be percolated with air, creating a barrier between the material and the silo wall.

Fluidisers are installed in the cone of a silo, running through a programmable logic controller to turn off and on where appropriate to save energy. Granular products aren’t conducive to air, as the particle size is often too large or jagged. For products like seed, grain, mung beans or rubber crumb, vibrators are used.

The company has operated in Australia for more than two decades and has built up expertise in providing the right tools for the job. Thompson says Oli Vibrators’ staff are knowledgeable about its products and know how to apply them to all kinds of situations.

“Our staff have worked with silos and materials handling for years and we have enough case studies under our belt where we can use previous experiences to find new solutions,” he says.

“What sets us apart are the high-quality materials and precision engineering that goes into making each of the vibrators. The company is based in Italy and imports its products from overseas where they must meet rigorous Australian and International quality assurance standards.

“They’re also virtually maintenance free and easily replaced. Once fitted, they go about their business based on the operation. They can be programmed to work in conjunction with the process and are energy efficient.”

Oli Vibrator’s mission statement is ‘when you need it, where you need it’. To deliver on that, the Australian business keeps plenty of spares on hand if required and can call upon all 22 of the global company’s trading subsidiaries.

Each product also comes with a two-year warranty, which includes full replacement or repair of the product.

Thompson says fast after sales support is critical to many of its customers, who are have a limited timeframe to work in.

“That’s why we offer around the clock support. If a process fails in a food manufacturer’s production line in the middle of the night, we can get a solution sent over to get everything working again by morning,” he says. 

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