Tag Archives: Unloading

Sterling Systems & Controls: customized Bulk Bag Unloading and Filling Solutions

Sterling (IL), United States Sterling Systems & Controls, Inc. have announced the availability of its line of bulk bag handling systems. These include customized unloading systems and also customized bulk bag filling systems.  Bulk bag unloading systems can include bulk bag discharging, material weighing and batch dispensing, along with the controls required for automatic operation. Continue reading Sterling Systems & Controls: customized Bulk Bag Unloading and Filling Solutions

Sterling Systems & Controls: Bulk Bag Unloading and Weighing System

Sterling (IL), USA – Sterling Systems & Controls, Inc. is pleased to announce the availability of its line of bulk bag unloading systems. These customized unloading systems can include bulk bag discharging, material weighing and batch dispensing, along with the controls required for automatic operation. Just such a system has been successfully operating at the site of a leading manufacturer of sugar free and no sugar added baked desserts.

Continue reading Sterling Systems & Controls: Bulk Bag Unloading and Weighing System

Heyl & Patterson: Battling Frozen Material with Hammermill

Battling Frozen Material with H&P’s Hammermill

Icy temperatures across the Midwest and Northeast pose a concern for those who can’t afford to let a little chill stop them in their tracks.

These subzero environments can cause a strain on the efficiency of many rail unloading operations as bulk aggregates tend to freeze, clump together and refuse to make their way through the grate of a grizzly during the rotary dumper unloading process.








To combat the cold, many operations utilize thaw sheds; gas powered enclosures that are often only slightly larger than the railcars themselves. The purpose of the shed is to heat the cars contents enough to thaw any frozen material to ease the dumping unloading.

Heyl & Patterson’s alternative to thaw sheds packs a bit more of a punch; literally. H&P’s Hammermill design utilizes a series of 30 pound hammers to ‘delump’ biomass, iron ore and coal products by shear force. The hammers are pivot-pinned on a rotary shaft that cuts through frozen material with ease. There are several drives for the rotary shaft and traverse drive, enabling the hammermill to travel in either direction below a rotary dumper.









The Hammermill can move more than 30 feet per minute in normal conditions and 3 feet per minute when battling a worst case scenario. Many of our cold climate customers trust the hammermill to keep them on track throughout the winter months.  

Stay warm this winter season and remember if you’re slowing production due to frozen material, stop! It’s hammer time.

Download free Hammermill Brochure

Heyl & Patterson Celebrates 125 Years in Business

Pneumatic Unloaders: Problems to Avoid

Terminals and factories, receiving their (raw) materials by ship, operate unloaders.

One category of unloaders is the pneumatic unloader.

Although the unloading does not belong to the core business of the company, it can be considered as an umbilical cord to the company’s process or trade.

Without incoming materials there will be no end product nor sales.

A stevedoring company will even stop to perform immediately.

Owners of such installations should be aware of the possible impact on their day to day operations and possible risk in case of failures and therefore should evaluate the offers for their installations with great care.

Purchasing under quality- or under designed and built units will create unpleasant problems (and costs) later on.

In those cases where a pneumatic unloader does not fulfill the specified expectations, the following causes are possible:

  1. Installation does not reach the design specifications
  2. Frequent breakdowns

Ad 1) Installation does not reach the design specifications

In case the capacity is not reached, this could be influenced by:

  • Pneumatic design
  • Product properties
  • Pipe size and – configuration
  • Air volume
  • Pressure / vacuum
  • Back pressure silo or flat storage
  • Kettle outlet configuration
  • Nozzle type

In case the energy consumption is not reached, this could be influenced by:

  • Pneumatic design
  • Type of vacuum pump or/and type of compressor
  • Drive system (electric, diesel or diesel electric)
  • Average rate of product feeding
  • Skill of operators
  • Down time

Operational influences affecting the performance could be caused by:

  • Type of ship
  • Reach of arm
  • Maneuverability of arm
  • Use of auxiliary equipment for nozzle feeding
  • Ship unloading procedure (shifting holds)
  • In case of floating equipment: stability of pontoon
  • Maintainability in case of breakdowns
  • Availability of spare parts
  • Noise level (work place, environment)

Ad 2) Frequent breakdowns

  • Equipment failures
  • Arm failures

Design specifications :

The design specifications are the values against which the performance of a pneumatic shipunloader has to be compared.

The design specifications are the result of a set of considerations in terms of:

Economic basis:

  • Types of commodities
  • Expected annual throughput
  • Future lifetime
  • ship size of import/export
  • Unloader operational properties

Environmental basis

  • Dust generation
  • Noise limits (day or night)
  • Labor conditions

Technical basis

  • Quality
  • Strength
  • Lifetime
  • Dock loads
  • Stability

Capacity / energy consumption

Pneumatic design

Based on the required capacity and pipe routing, a pneumatic design is made to determine:

  • Air volumes
  • Pipe sizes
  • Filter sizes
  • Capacity at different pressures
  • Energy consumption at different pressures
  • Bend forces
  • etc.

These calculated data are then used for additional calculations:

  • System capacity at different pressures
  • System energy consumption at different pressures
  • Expected maximum- and average capacity at maximum- and average pressure
  • Expected maximum- and average energy consumption at maximum- and average pressure
  • Strength calculations of pipe supports
  • PLC program
  • etc.

Before a definitive pneumatic design is accepted, several alternative pneumatic designs can be made.

The parameters (capacity, air volume, pipe size, pressure) can be combined in many ways, with many different overall results.

An installation can be designed for maximum capacity or minimum energy consumption.

As these two parameters will not be possible at the same time, a choice has to be made between those parameters or for a combination of the two.

The consequence of a choice is in most cases:

Maximum capacity design –> lower investment cost –> higher energy consumption per ton

Low energy consumption design –> higher investment cost –> low energy consumption per ton

Investment costs are fixed costs and will be shared by every handled ton during the lifetime of the installation.

Energy costs are variable costs, which will be imposed on

every handled ton during the lifetime of the installation.

As the pneumatic design calculations are the basis for the further design of the installation and for the economics of the operation, it is imperative that these have to be thoroughly and extensively evaluated and executed.

The physical design of the installation is important in order to achieve the designed performance of the unloader.

The most important component, in this respect, is the pressure kettle outlet configuration where the product is mixed with the conveying air in the right loading ratio.

If the mixing capability is to low (not enough product is mixed into the air) the maximum loading ratio is not reached and therefore the maximum designed capacity is not reached

This will result in a lower pressure (or vacuum) than designed.

The application of extra active fluidization of the kettle cone can improve this situation.

Also the loading ratio control of the kettle outlet must be fast and accurate in order to maintain maximum loading ratio and prevent blockages of the pipeline at the same time.

Energy consumption

A given pneumatic design determines the energy consumption per ton conveyed.

As there are various types of air compressors, using different types of compression principle.

Screw compressors with internal compression require less energy than f.i. a water-ring compressor.

The way of power generation also influences the energy consumption per conveyed ton.

F.i. a diesel direct drive is more energy efficient than

a diesel – electric drive.

Operational circumstances s.a. nozzle feeding, operator’s skill and down time influences the energy consumption, mostly by increasing the time that no-load power is demanded while

no product is conveyed.


The type of ship to be unloaded is of influence on the time being used to unload..

Box type ships with straight and vertical walls are easier to unload than f.i. a bulk carrier with narrow hatches, many holds and open frames.

The unloading arm is designed for a ship size in dwt of average dimensions.

In reality the ship to be unloaded will be of different main dimensions, s.a. width, depth, hatch size, ballast draft, etc.

The reach of the arm will therefore not always be optimal, causing delay in the unloading by increasing the amount of cleaning up in the hold.

This also occurs when a ship is chartered, bigger than the original design was meant for.

A considerable part of the unloading time is spent on the cleaning up of the holds.

The clean up equipment used determines the rate of cleaning up and thereby the time used.

Bigger equipment will speed up the cleaning operation and will save time and energy.

In case a break down of equipment occurs, the time used for correction is depending on the possibility of easy repair.

The accessibility of the equipment is then very important.

Also the skill of the maintenance engineer and the availability of spare parts is crucial to minimize the down time for repairs.

For the diagnosis of the malfunction, it is necessary to have extensive and clear diagrams, drawings and manuals available.

Also the PLC program should have an extensive alarm diagnosis function.

Other operational parameters s.a. noise levels and vibrations are to be coped with by the proper application of normal standard technology.

Frequent breakdowns

Equipment failures

Equipment failures should not occur frequently.

If equipment failures do occur, than it than it can be caused by :

  • Not designed for existing ambient operating circumstances
  • Inferior technical quality of used components
  • Accuracy of assembly not sufficient (f.i. alignment, bad welds)
  • Vibrations
  • Lack of maintenance. (oil change not in prescribed intervals)
  • Improper use of components (f.i. operating at higher pressure than designed for)

Arm failures

Damaging the arm by external causes does not often happen and is mostly caused by improper operation or use or accidents.

Unloader arm failures often occur during operation due to improper design in respect to fatigue.

The load on the arm during operation and thereby the material stresses are to a great extend alternating and subject the material to fatiguing.

If the design does not incorporate fatigue calculations and the construction of the arm is such that there are points where stress rising can occur, the arm will fatigue and eventually crack and break.

This phenomenon is, when unnoticed, very dangerous and constant visual checks should be executed at a regular interval. (f.i. between each unloading)

As soon as fatigue cracks are discovered, corrective action must be undertaken.

Not only should the crack be repaired and strengthened, but also the affected area should be redesigned (if possible) and changed to prevent future fatiguing.

Further causes of arm failures are:

  • Hydraulic hoses, cables, hydraulic valves, etc. in vulnerable places
  • Insufficient control properties
  • Inferior technical quality of used components
  • Lack of maintenance. (lack of greasing)
  • Improper use of components (f.i. operating at higher hydraulic pressure than designed for)

To avoid or even prevent the above scenarios, the technical departments of the operating company should be given the assignment to write an extensive specification with clear descriptions of the required performance and quality of the unloader.

Also the appropriate responsibilities in case of not fulfilling the requested specification must be clearly defined.

Also very important is that the operators of existing unloaders are consulted for their experience.

Teus Tuinenburg

July 2008


Good day to all,
I just joined the Bulk-Blog and take the liberty to introduce myself to you.
Living in The Netherlands and having reached the age of 65 years, I am entitled to retire. So I did.
My working career always took place in ports and on the water.
After and during my studies, Electrical Engineering, Mechanics and Shipbuilding, I was a Rhine barge sailor, dredging equipment designer, dredging equipment surveyor, shipyard draftsman, project manager of a stevedoring company in Rotterdam, project manager of a pneumatic unloader manufacturer and technical manager of a stevedoring company again.
In those jobs, I travelled to various regions in the world.
During the last 30 years, I was involved in pneumatic unloading and spend a lot of thinking and evening hours and spare time on figuring out, how does pneumatic conveying function mathematically, how to calculate and how to design.
In the Bulk-Blogs to come, I will try to share experience and knowledge and to bring some logic into the general perception of pneumatic conveying.
Any suggestions or remarks from your side (even now already) are very welcome.

Expecting fair, sophisticated, strong and to the point communication.

Take care,
Teus Tuinenburg