With Experience Comes Innovation.

Published: October 31, 2016

Transporting and conveying dry bulk solids is never a straightforward task. Many in the industry would go as far as saying success takes a mix of “black magic”, science, and engineering. Indeed it can be difficult, but the reality is that it takes many years of experience to have some reasonable guarantee you’ll get it right. Even then, perfection can be fleeting!

The characteristics of dry bulk solids are endless, so there is no all-encompassing solution for every application. It doesn’t matter if it is a silo, sieve, sensor, conveyor, or feeder. With solids, an “out of the box” solution is often not possible. This is why Vortex offers such a wide range of slide gates, diverters, and loading solutions for handling nearly any type of dry solids, from fine powders to heavy ore. In fact, approximately 60% of products manufactured by Vortex has some type of engineering modification.

Over the past 40 years as an engineering partner and supplier to the dry bulk material handling industry, you could say that Vortex has acquired a lot of that “black magic” in the form of experience. As painful as the occasional misapplication can be, it is a part of that learning curve we all face in the industry. 

Most importantly, from experience comes innovation. At Vortex we take great pride in developing new products that take care of problems our customers face. Always asking ourselves how it can be done better, especially from the end user’s perspective. The following case histories highlight how experience leads to innovation and an ultimate solution.

Dustless Loading Spout

Case Study #1

Dustless Loading Spout Handling Hybrid Seed

A hybrid seed producer expanded its operation to include rail load-out for its corn products. The company knew it was important to locate and install a loading spout that could perform efficiently, but also to keep the facility dustless and safe for the employees. After consulting with several industry professionals, the producer realized that the maintenance friendly features on Vortex’s loading spouts were uncommon in the industry.

By engaging in a conversation with a local Vortex vendor, the customer found out that the spout would also help reduce maintenance costs, spare parts expenses, and lost production time because of Vortex’s four-cable lifting system that provides added support during the lifting and lowering procedure.

The Vortex spout was ordered with a handheld pendant to control the spout, and an auto-sensing kit to avoid overfilling the rail cars. The auto-sensing kit was important to the customer because it could eliminate unnecessary staff hours of visually watching the loading process. Also, Vortex recommended that the spout’s interior stacking cones be constructed of abrasive-resistant plate to address wear from the product being loaded.

Case Study #2

Flex Tube Diverter Handling Chili Powder

A spice company was considering a new blending and mixing station, much of the emphasis for the project was placed on increasing output with additional production efficiency.

Previously, the company had experienced issues with valves and diverters within an older system. The diverters were cross-contaminating the product recipes causing the expensive chili powder to be wasted. Also, the chili powder leaked to atmosphere creating an airborne health hazard to the employees’ eyes and skin and a slippery floor safety hazard for employees.

The new system incorporated a Vortex Flex Tube Diverter to eliminate product cross-contamination and Vortex Roller Gates to shut off and seal material at the bottom of dry blenders and mixers. Production was impressed with the performance of the Vortex valves as well as the maintenance friendly features each one had to offer.

Case Study #3

Aggregate Diverter Handling Cement

The primary diverter valve in a cement facility handled an average of 60 tons of material an hour, 24 hours a day, five days a week, plus two 12-hour shifts during the weekend.  The previous diverter experienced a variety of problems including extreme wear to internal parts, leakage of material to the off leg, and difficulty actuating the bucket.  The diverter was removed and serviced on a monthly basis (sometimes in the middle of a product run).  The wear was so severe that the diverter had to be replaced every 3 to 4 months.

A Vortex Aggregate Diverter solved the problem.  The diverter was equipped with many features to address product wear and abrasion:

  • Dead pocket deflector – to minimize wear through the inlet.
  • Honeycomb bucket and Leg liners – applied in extremely abrasive applications where cross-contamination of material is not an issue.
  • Durable rubber bucket seals – placed out of the path of the material flow stream.  This feature aids in sealing material across the closed bucket chute.

In addition, the Vortex Aggregate Diverter included a removable access panel that facilitates diverter inspection or maintenance.  Only minor maintenance has been performed since its installation nine years ago, saving the company production time and money of replacing the diverter every three months.  

Vortex Standard Modifications

Although each manufacturer will have their own standard products, some may or may not offer extra features.  Here are a few standard product modifications that Vortex offers to enhance performance across varying applications. 

Abrasion Resistant Liners – Abrasion resistant liners on the inlet of the gate address potential wear issues from either the volume or the abrasiveness of the material being handled. The liners are replaceable when needed.

Abrasion Resistant Blade -The gate’s blade can also be manufactured of abrasion resistant steel. The combination of the abrasion resistant blade and liners are important in providing a gate that offers longevity and an exceptional life-cycle cost.

Adjustable Rollers – Externally-greased steel adjustable rollers are used to keep the blade dust tight.

Bonnet Purge – The optional bonnet purge is utilized to keep material out of the body of the valve and in the material stream.

Displacement End Pocket – A pocket displaces the material at the leading edge of the blade as the blade closes. Rather than the blade jamming and packing this material into an end seal, the blade stops part way into the pocket. Material falls away from the blade and re-enters the material flow stream area. This feature can increase the valve’s service-life and reduce downtime costs related to maintaining and replacing end seals.

Optional Configurations – Available in straight leg and wye line configurations.

Replaceable Seals – Seals reduce interior valve dusting and can be replaced while the valve is inline.

Return Pan – A return pan can be added to seal fine material internally or to atmosphere. With this feature, material that enters the bonnet of the valve is returned to the material flow stream, thus reducing material leakage to atmosphere.

Wear Compensating Seals – Pressure loaded, polymer bonnet seals offer a dual purpose. They act as a wiper for material that may be on the blade as the blade retracts. They also seal material from entering the bonnet area of the gate. The “live load” on the back of the seal strip continues to apply pressure to the seal even as it wears. At a certain wear point, seals may be accessed and replaced from the outside of the gate, while the gate remains inline.

Wear Reducing Material Deflectors – Material deflectors are placed around the inlet of the valve and protect it from the material flow stream. By deflecting material away from the hardened steel rollers and blade seals, this feature significantly reduces wear and downtime keeping the valve in service longer.

Wear Resistant Bucket Design – A wear resistant bucket constructed from durable abrasion resistant steel and an optional ceramic liner can be added to reduce potential wear to the bucket. For even more durability, the addition of an optional honeycomb liner allows material to abrade on itself instead of the bucket.

Vortex has engineered well over one billion variations of slide gates, diverter valves, and loading spouts.  There are times we can take one of our standard products and make some minor modifications to fit the applications.  There are other times when the only thing left standard on the product is the Vortex logo. Vortex’s design philosophy is to develop products that compensate for wear, require minimal spare parts, provide in-line maintenance, and maintain a longer service life than market alternatives. We’ll keep innovating solutions for you.