How Matcon used a closed manufacturing process to minimize risk during the mixing of refractory cement and powder pigments.
The client: A global manufacturer of paint pre-mixes and paint pigments for refractory coatings. The manufacturing process for these products involves formulating a mix of sand and cement then adding a range of colour pigments.
The complications that our client was experiencing:
- Materials were difficult to handle and were creating complexity in the mixing process.
- The hazardous nature of the materials meant they should not be inhaled or touched by operators.
- The material needed to stay dry throughout the process, as moisture ingress would result in damaged, wasted materials.
- The variety of particle sizes (from each different ingredient) created complications at the discharge stage, leading to blend segregation.
- Finally, the pigments used were prone to staining equipment and can cause cross-contamination issues when the same equipment was used for multiple recipes/batches.
The clients’ existing process used manual handling of big bags and was not contained. As the dry pigments were easily exposed during open processing, there was a significant risk that operators may ingest or inhale the hazardous materials. In addition, the leaked powders caused visible stain damage to equipment, increasing the chance of cross-contamination and time-consuming, extensive cleaning.
The need for change:
The client decided that improved quality and safety controls were needed to protect operators, materials, and equipment. In addition, all equipment was required to meet ATEX Certifications. As part of the new plant development, the client also aimed to increase capacity and throughput. Due to the hazardous nature of the process, the manufacturing was taking place at night which was reducing the achievable output. In summary, the client needed to:
1. Improve safety
2. Reduce cleaning
3. Avoid powder segregation
4. Reduce waste
THE SOLUTION - A Safe, Effective Powder Handling System
Because of the material risk, the manufacturing process needed to be contained from formulation to packing. A closed manufacturing process means that no powders escape the containers during formulation, blending, discharge and packing.
Matcon installed an IBC System comprised of the following equipment which was able to deliver a safe and waste-free closed manufacturing process from start to finish.
- R-Series Polyethylene IBCs were used at the formulation stage. Raw material ingredients of sand and cement are stored in these IBCs on a formulation street or a Flexibatch Module. These then automatically dose into a stainless-steel IBC which runs below collecting up the batch. Finally, the colour pigments are included at the end of the process.
- S-Series Stainless-Steel IBCs manufactured for the chemical industry offer excellent resistance and protection against corrosion and external agents, as well as being highly efficient for parallel processing.
- An IBC Tumble Blender was installed to blend the powders. This also removed the need for mixer cleaning, as the IBCs containing the powders become the blending vessel. This again reduced manual handling and provided a fully contained processing of materials. No product can be spilled or leaked, thereby removing the risk of cross-contamination.
- An IBC Wet Wash System was used to clean the IBCs after use. This removes sand, cement, and colour pigments, reducing the risk of cross-contamination when the IBCs are used again.
The Stainless-Steel IBCs provided a simple solution to the transport and storage of formulated and blended materials. They also protected against temperature changes and maintained the properties of the chemical product inside. By adopting a closed manufacturing system the client was able to benefit from many improvements to the process, including:
1. Improved equipment maintenance
The significant reduction of airborne particles means the equipment is easier to maintain and lasts longer.
2. Improved blending process
The blended product inside the IBC discharges into sacks efficiently without segregation and any requirements for mixer cleaning was removed.
3. Improved operator safety
The blended powders can be discharged automatically without the risk of blockages, eliminating the need for risky manual intervention. The contained design of the whole system also prevents any risk of encountering hazardous materials.
4. Increased production schedule
Production can now be achieved during the daytime, and additional shifts can be added in without risk to operators.
5. Expanded product lines
Improved production times has now allowed the manufacturer to add additional lines and product variations.