Particle size reduction can mean different things in different applications. One of the most overlooked areas of particle size reduction is automated lump breaking. The reason it’s often overlooked is that many powder processors use a manual process of breaking up clumps and sheets using a dead blow. In other words, powder processers utilize a lump breaker, but the lump breaker is a person, not a machine.
In any case, using a lump-breaking machine saves time and labor, and reduces the safety and sanitary problems of having a worker banging with a hammer for hours.
Lump breaking is typically used before a process like milling or mixing. Industrial mill equipment can suffer a tremendous amount of wear and tear if the incoming particle size isn’t below a certain threshold. Mixers aren’t designed to break up the particles, so the mix ends up lumpy if there isn’t a process before or after mixing.
So what kinds of applications should be considering a lump breaker and why? Lump breakers typically make sense in the following three types of applications:
* Powders that have picked up moisture in transit and have stuck together in large lumps. This is typical of materials like sodium bicarbonate, where the lumps become quite hard and large. Sometimes the entire 25-lb bag turns into one big solid lump.
* Trays of minerals like zinc and magnesium, which are dried to form chelated material. The dried mineral forms a solid sheet, and then a manual process is used to break it up before mixing or milling. For nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals, manual processes can be problematic from a sanitary as well as an efficiency perspective.
* Fruits, vegetables, and other types of sticky materials used in mixes. Fruits can stick together either before or after being added to a mix, such as muffins, breakfast cereal, soup, or pet food. A lump breaker helps get the particle size consistent for an aesthetic and appealing food product.
Different types of lump breakers are available on the market, but generally speaking, high-quality lump breakers push material through a mesh, so that the particle size is consistent coming out of the machine. Processors can choose the size mesh that is appropriate for their application. Unlike the manual hammer method, using a lump breaker ensures uniform particle size. For both mills and mixers, having a consistent incoming particle size ensures a higher quality output.
The benefits of using a lump breaker include:
* Improved throughput
* Reduction in wear to mills and mixers following particle size reduction
* Consistent particle size within a narrow band
* Minimum generation of dust and fines
* Higher employee safety: elimination of physically dangerous and demanding work
* Adherence to sanitary requirements
* Consistent, high-quality mixes resulting from lump separation
To conclude, lump breakers provide tremendous return on investment both in terms of protecting the downstream equipment, faster throughput, and higher safety to both staff and consumers.
Erik Boyer is national sales director, Marion Process Solutions. He has extensive experience in the food processing industry, supporting numerous Fortune 1000 customers throughout the US and abroad.