When Should You Choose an Air Cannon Versus Vibration Equipment for Materials Flow?

Materials flow refers to how quickly and easily materials can be emptied from a rail car, silo, or other such holding bin. Materials flow can sometimes be a problem, as certain raw materials may stick to each other, cling to the walls of a holding bin, or clog the chute or hopper as they're being emptied. You can typically use vibration equipment that is attached to the sides of such bins in order to shake loose the materials, or use an air cannon that blasts a quick shot of air in order to break up such blockages. How do you know which is the right choice and, specifically, when an air cannon should be chosen over vibration equipment? Note a few factors to consider that can help you decide.

When the hopper or chute gets blocked

If your materials are somewhat heavy, you might note that you often have blockages at the hopper or chute versus any other location. Vibration equipment may not help with breaking up this blockage and may actually make it worse. Vibrating a bin of some sort may help materials to settle at the bottom so that they simply create a greater blockage. This vibration might also not do enough to clear a blockage at the bottom of the bin; if the walls are vibrating, this vibration might not reach the chute itself and the blockage is not cleared.

An air cannon, however, can be positioned near the chute or hopper and directed at the area with the blockage in particular. It can also force materials to move up and out of the way of the chute, so they don't settle at the bottom but will instead allow for greater and easier flow.

When heat is an issue 

Not all bulk materials can or should be exposed to heat; certain raw materials may start to change their chemical composition when exposed to even the slightest heat, and may become even stickier or may actually gel together. Vibration equipment may not necessarily create heat itself but by vibrating the bin, this can actually create small amounts of heat and it may circulate any heat that is trapped in the bin. In turn, your raw materials may be damaged or ruined, or may become even more blocked. An air cannon doesn't produce heat and can work without making heat in a bin worse as it can be directed at a blockage itself rather, than shaking an entire bin and circulating that heat.