In many industries, gravity is the main driving principle implemented to drive the flow of materials from one location to the other. In some solid handling industries, however, sometimes gravity alone may not be sufficient to implement continuous and reliable flow of the material. If you operate in an industry that particularly handles granulated and fine-particle materials, for instance, you will need flow aids to move the material from feeders to other troughs without the material caking, agglomerating, or simply adhering to the sides of delivery channels. This is because fine particle materials react adhesively to pressure within systems and can hamper continuous flow by coming together rapidly and forming large chunks – which can be a negative for production and quality in many of such industries.

There are primarily two common flow aid categories that can be implemented in various industries depending on the materials handled. These are the aeration and vibration techniques. The following are some considerations you ought to make when deciding on either of these techniques as your main partners when it comes to flow aids.

Vibration techniques

Vibration is commonly used in various industries to separate materials and aid continuous flow through a system.  Vibrators can be powered electrically, hydraulically, or even pneumatically to disrupt the negative flow state assumed by adhering particles. Vibrators can be installed on the sides of a bin or chute or even on beds to facilitate break up of chunks and increase rate of flow. When using vibrators, however, there are several considerations you ought to bear in mind.  For a start, vibrators should not be used with pressure sensitive materials. So, if your material is likely to be squeezed easily into "snowball" state, vibrators won't help much when the material collects again in the bin and resumes self-adhesive tendencies. You may want to consider the collection point of the material if you really have to use vibrators with such materials. Perhaps have the materials collected on a moving platform to minimize interaction with each other as they fall off the flow aids. Vibrations may also hamper the integrity of the structure and, therefore, always consider your bins and chutes before installing vibrators.

Aeration techniques

Aeration is also a common flow aid category used in many particle-associated industries. In aeration, a pressurized jet of air is propelled on the material which, in turn, prevents the material from sticking to the sides of the chutes and itself, to an extent. Aeration setups are sometimes referred to as fluidizer flow aids. With aeration, the high pressure jet of air may result in minute changes in some chemicals. You should therefore ensure that the material does not react to pressurized air instantaneously. Alternatively, you can use inert gases or relatively low reactivity gases such as nitrogen.  Aeration is mostly suitable for use with silos and bins that present trouble with arching. Another problem that may be encountered with aeration is that the fluidizer pads installed can, in time, become flow deterrents. You should ensure they are installed properly to minimize their obstruction of the material flow within the system.