Conveyors reduce physical demands and improve powder distribution for CCFF.

The fruits of their labor

Founded in 1986, California Custom Fruits & Flavors (CCFF) provides fillings and fruit preparations to a number of industries, primarily in the bakery and dairy markets. Among the company's most popular products are its fruit preps, which are inserted into yogurt as well as fruit filling for nutritional bars.

The PIAB pneumatic vacuum conveyors enable CCFF to efficiently and evenly blend its starches, gums, pectins and flavors. Source: PIAB.
Among the most pressing challenges the company faced was how to ensure the ingredients in its formulations were evenly and efficiently blended. "When we blended the ingredients by hand, it was sometimes difficult to control the flow," says Ralph Roseli, CCFF's maintenance manager. "If you introduced ingredients too quickly or in slightly inaccurate proportions, the mixture would clump."

For CCFF, clumping equates to waste. In fact, the addition of a product at the wrong time or in the wrong quantity could cause anywhere from 8 to 20 percent of the batch to be wasted. "At that point, we would have to either rework the mixture or simply dump it," says Roseli. "The extreme thickness of some of our products also contributes to the challenges in proper mixing. But the thickness is often crucial to the product's quality."

Further compounding the problem were worker safety issues. "Our people had to manually scoop out raw ingredients with buckets from large containers and carry them over to a filler machine," says Jack Miller, CCFF's director of operations. "This was not only time consuming and labor intensive, it also created a situation where workers could hurt their backs lugging around these heavy loads."

To improve the process, CCFF enlisted the help of PIAB Vacuum Conveyors, which provided the company with three vacuum conveyors. Powered by pneumatically driven vacuum pumps, the PIAB conveyors transport up to 10-15 tons/hour of powders and granules. Constructed of stainless steel AISI 316L, the units are designed to handle harsh conditions.

The vacuum in the conveyor is generated by a compressed air-driven vacuum pump, which can be controlled automatically. The bottom valve is closed and vacuum is raised in the container and the conveying pipeline. From the feed station, each ingredient is drawn into the conveying pipeline and then into the kettle. A filter prevents dust and fine particles from being drawn into the pump and escaping into the surroundings. When the material container is full, the vacuum pump is stopped. The bottom valve opens and the material in the container is discharged. All of the ingredients are then mixed in the kettle, cooked, cooled and packed in drums, stainless steel totes or buckets.

"When we were hand dumping, it would take 10 to 15 minutes but it wasn't distributing properly," says Roseli. "Now, although it takes a bit longer, the PIAB conveyors ensure the powder is properly mixed. We can control the amount of powder, which translates into fewer lumps. Plus, the physical demands on our workers are greatly reduced."

For more information:

Michael Tuohey, PIAB USA Inc.,

Achieving the ‘far-best' in quality: Compact vibratory screeners help processor meet competitive pressures and critical just-in-time delivery.

It pays to be right. When your custom manufacturing services include specialized dry blending, particle sizing and sifting, and sophisticated blending capabilities, effective and efficient screening becomes imperative. Farbest Brands, a manufacturer of proteins, sweeteners, preservatives and other specialty products, knows the importance of successful screening all too well. After experiencing occasional equipment breakdowns such as screen tearing during high-volume operations and the difficulty of cleaning some screens to meet stringent hygiene requirements, Farbest sought a new solution.

Farbest Brands uses Russell Finex compact screeners for scalping (the removal of large contaminants) from its products and to prevent product agglomeration. Source: Russell Finex.
"We needed to efficiently screen food powders and liquid slurries to ensure product quality," says Dennis Cowles, Farbest maintenance manager. Farbest imports ingredients from all over the world for distribution or further manufacturing in its plant in Columbus, OH. The ingredients it produces are designed to mix or blend based on customer specifications. As such, screening is an important part of the process. "When it comes to flat screening, we have to move large volumes of material through rooms with limited space," continues Cowles. "It's important to have vibrating screeners that are not too large, not easily damaged and easy to clean."

Farbest chose a high-capacity, 36-in. vibratory compact screener from Russell Finex. Although the plant uses other screening and separation equipment, Cowles says he was looking for a system that fit into an area with limited headroom. He felt the compact size of the Russell Finex screener would be beneficial. "We don't have much space in our production rooms and they are often filled to capacity by stacks of material in bags. The compact screening equipment enables us to use more of the room for material and eliminates the need to have a costly conveyor to transport material from one room to another," he says. The size and mobility of the screener also enables the Farbest production crew to relocate and set up the equipment in a new area quickly, if necessary.

The plant uses the screeners to remove large contaminants and prevent product agglomeration so that it mixes well with other products. Material is often screened before it goes into a mixer. "We don't want any particles that are greater than a certain size so that we're sure they will work for our customers when they make their end products," says Cowles.

Durability was another key factor, according to Cowles. "These screeners use wire mesh screens, so we don't have to worry about the screens tearing or pulling loose," he says. "Sometimes that can happen and you're not aware of it until you see some paper or other foreign object after the screen, which could require you to re-screen the material that has been processed since your last quality control entry."

The new screeners have further helped Farbest meet high quality, hygiene and safety standards as well as competitive pressures such as critical just-in-time delivery schedules. "The design of this screener is really simple, which makes it easy to knock down and clean to our stringent requirements," says Cowles. "It also has an electropolish finish that not only makes it easier to clean but also sanitary, which is very important in our business."

For more information:

Shaun Edwards, Russell Finex,

Weigh batching system

The Flexicon weigh batching system uses low-profile flexible screw conveyors configured with motor drives at the inlet end of the conveyor to reduce height and weight requirements at the discharge end. The automated system is comprised of eight low-profile conveyors fed by roof-mounted storage vessels, with each of four conveyors feeding either of two gain-in-weight hoppers that gravity discharge through the mezzanine floor to a ribbon blender at ground level. It can handle products ranging from sub-micron powders to large pellets, according to the company.

Flexicon Corp.;

Bag dump stations

Featuring 316L stainless steel construction, the bag dump stations from VAC-U-MAX offer continuous polished welds, gas-assist door springs, a removable bag break grate and a dust hood with an 8-in. dust collection port or an integral dust collector. For non-free flowing materials the units are fitted with a live bottom bin to keep material moving. They range in size from 5 to 40 cu. ft. and are USDA-accepted.


Tube frame freeder

Engineered with tube frame construction, Hapman's PosiPortion feeder provides a convenient platform for component stacking without the need for auxiliary supports. Product flow into the dosing screw is achieved by opposing paddles that massage the walls of the flexible hopper. The feeder offers access for cleaning, maintenance and changeover, according to the company. Gravimetric electronics provide weightless calibration and remote diagnostics.


Bag dumps

Airlanco's bag dump stations include a large collection hopper covered by a hinged door, a pulse jet filter equipped with polyester cartridges and a powerful fan. When the door is opened for filling, the fan automatically starts to draw dust through the filter. Programmed reverse air pulses dislodge the dust that collects on the cartridges and allows it to fall into the hopper, where it can enter gravity or pneumatic lines. The manufacturer says the stations help eliminate the labor, waste and hazards associated with the spillage and dust normally present in areas where bagged materials are mixed or conveyed.


Laser transmitter

Featuring an all-digital design, the LaserTrak 80 from ASI Instruments measures position at distances up to 500 feet and can measure level at distances up to 100 feet. The company says the unit's advanced timing system and self-correcting signal processing functions enable it to make measurements even in harsh conditions. The unit can compensate for color differences in the materials measured and can measure the position of moving targets over long distances.

ASI Instruments;

Size reducer & disperser

The Comil model U3 offers scalability, repeatability, low heat and dust, tight particle distribution, easy-to-clean design and versatility, according to Quadro, the manufacturer. The unit is lighter than Quadro's U5 model and handles batch sizes as small as 100 g. It features a standard NEMA 4X enclosure and emits low noise.

Quadro Inc.;

Bulk bag & box filler

Material Transfer & Storage says its Master Powerfill bulk bag and box filler features the industry's first rotating and traversing bag fill carriage. When filling, the bag support carriage and fill head lower to a programmed operator height, extend towards the operator, then rotate for "reach-free" bag strap and spout connection. A tool-free stainless steel box fill adaptor allows easy filling of containers and a densification system ensures maximum fill volume and bag stability.

Material Transfer & Storage;

Vibratory tube conveyors

Engineered to convey fragile agglomerated, instantized and standard powders horizontally, Nu-Con's vibratory tube conveyors provide quiet operation, between 60-75 DBA. The units are totally enclosed and dust free. Nu-Con says product degradation is virtually eliminated because material never comes in contact with moving parts. The tube can be dry cleaned manually through end-inspection covers or changed-in-place with spray ball fittings.

Nu-Con Equipment;

Flexible screw conveying

FlexFlite flexible screw conveyors from Cyclonaire use steel augers and flexible tubes up to 100-feet long to move materials at rates up to 3,600 lbs. per hour. Readily portable and designed for conveying product from bags, bins, hoppers or weigh stations, the conveyors are available in three models offering rated capacities of 100, 300 and 400 cu. ft. per hour. The spiral auger is the only moving part that contacts the conveyed material. It is coreless to minimize clogging and has an oval cross-section to ensure positive movement of material through the delivery tube and metering accuracy.

Cyclonaire Corp.;