Many industries that use hoppers utilize heat trace to aid in material flow. Hoppers are elevated storage containers that contain and dispense granular materials. Commonly used in agriculture hoppers are also used in industries such as plastics, chemical, pharmaceutical, energy, and construction. Despite being used to hold and dispense different types of materials they all function the same way and face the same issues.
The main issues with hoppers focus on the material flow. These issues include aspects related to material sticking together or accumulating on the walls of the hopper. This is commonly caused by the particle structure of the material or the presence of moisture. There are many ways moisture can enter the system, these can be caused by environmental conditions or by water or chemicals being applied to the material in the process before being placed in the hopper.
Major environmental factors that can introduce moisture into the hopper material are temperature and humidity. One way to mitigate this is to install a heat trace system onto the hopper. This controls the temperature of the hopper and material avoiding drastic temperature differences which could cause condensation to form on the inside of the hopper.
The application of water or chemicals to the material or the hopper for dust prevention, cleaning or as a step in the production process add moisture to the material. Moisture such as this should be accounted for in the design and selection of a hopper system to insure proper flow. However, despite accounting for this added moisture in the system variable conditions can still cause flow problems. One major problem for hoppers with chemicals or water added is freezing. Material freezing in a hopper can cause the material to clump together or freeze to the walls, causing a blockage or flow problems. This can cause production to be shut down until the material can be thawed or it is manually cleared out. The presence of a heat trace system in these cases will avoid the freezing and allow the material to flow in a predictable manner, avoiding costly shutdowns or disruptions.
There are many pieces of equipment that can be added to a hopper system to aid in the material’s flow such as augers and vibration units, but to combat the effects of variable environmental impacts a heat trace system should be included.
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