'Unique' milling facility opens

by World Grain Staff
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Kansas State University unveils its new U.S.$10 million Hal Ross Flour Mill

by Arvin Donley

A truly one-of-a-kind flour mill is now operating on the Great Plains, giving milling science students at Kansas State University (KSU) and others in the flour milling industry a chance to learn in a state-of-the-art teaching facility.

The Hal Ross Flour Mill officially opened on Oct. 20 on the KSU campus in Manhattan, Kansas, U.S., with representatives from some of the biggest names in flour milling — Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Buhler AG — addressing a gathering of more than 400 during an hour-long mill dedication program.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony followed, and once the purple ribbon outside the front doors of the mill was severed, those in attendance finally got to look inside the new U.S.$10 million facility.

"This flour mill is totally unique," KSU President Jon Wefald said during the mill dedication. "There is no flour mill on any college campus anywhere in the world like this. This is going to be such an important teaching and research facility and laboratory for students, not just at Kansas State but from all over the world when they come here to get certification."

Although its flour production capacity (400 cwts per day) is relatively modest, the 22,000-square-foot, five-story slipform concrete structure includes the kind of modern equipment found in most commercial mills.

"It is all full-scale equipment," said Fred Fairchild, a professor in KSU’s Department of Grain Science and Industry who spearheaded the effort to obtain equipment donations.

The mill includes about U.S.$2.7 million of equipment donated by 30 milling industry equipment manufacturers. Fairchild, a professional engineer and project manager for all facilities being constructed in the new Grain Science Complex, said the mill was designed through a joint effort of KSU’s milling science faculty and engineers from Buhler, which will use the facility for customer training.

Kendall McFall, a KSU mill science professor, said one of the most exciting aspects about the new mill is that it will give students the chance to mill hard wheat, soft wheat and durum. The mill that students had been using at Shellenberger Hall the last 35 years was designed only for hard wheat. Another major difference between the two mills is that the new mill is computer controlled.

"It is automated, but you can manually override it to stop the mill and do whatever you need to do in a teaching situation with students," McFall said, adding that the new mill will also allow KSU professors to conduct certain types of research that wasn’t possible in the old mill.

While the new mill is similar to a commercial mill in many respects, a close examination of the mill flow diagram reveals that it is designed first and foremost as a teaching facility. A number of valves donated by Salina Vortex Corp. were installed, allowing faculty and students to experiment with the flow of wheat and flour.

The cleaning house, for instance, is designed so that any piece of equipment may be run independently of the rest of the equipment in that section of the mill.

"We can continue to recycle dirty wheat through," McFall said. "We can take out the dirty material and put it right back in so that students can work with one piece of equipment or a given series of pieces of equipment for a couple of hours without running 10,000 bushels of wheat through the system."

In commercial mode, the mill flow is fairly conventional. Unloaded wheat passes through a Bunting Magnetics Co. magnet before being moved into the cleaning house by a Tramco, Inc. bucket elevator. The wheat then flows through an InterSystems automated sampler and Carter Day International Inc. separator before arriving in one of five storage bins. Wheat may be blended from those bins using Buhler flow balancers. McFall said one of the unique aspects of the mill is that sonic valves were installed on Kice Industries’ pneumatic system, which allows one blower to supply air for several lines rather than having a blower for every line. The pneumatic system then moves the wheat past a Bunting magnet and through a Buhler Combicleaner.

"From there, we can start making choices," McFall said. "We can go through either disc separators or Buhler indent separators before sending the wheat to the tempering system. We can blend before tempering and we can blend after tempering. We can temper different classes of wheat independently."

Before arriving at the roller mills, the wheat can be sent through a number of specialty systems, such as a Sortex color sorter and Buhler DC-Peeler, as well as Buhler scourers and aspirators.

The milling system is almost exclusively composed of Buhler equipment, including the purifiers, bran dusters, impact detachers, drum detachers and Nova sifter. At first and second break and first and second midds are Buhler double-high roller mills, which hadn’t been available to students at the mill in Shellenberger.

After passing through Great Western Mfg., Co., Inc. sifters, the flour moves pneumatically through Buhler scales and Great Western agitators on its way to three flour storage bins. The flour then passes through Essmueller screw feeders and into a Buhler mixer, where a Research Products microingredient feeder may add vitamins and minerals to the product.

Besides the cleaning house and milling sections, the mill has a third bay that has been left empty for the purpose of adding equipment in the future.

"We don’t know what the future holds," McFall said. "Ten years from now, we could decide that there is a totally different way to mill wheat. At Shellenberger Hall, there was no way we could make a change because everything was shoehorned into that space. In the new mill, we’ve got the third bay and panels where we can crane equipment in and out. The shell of the building may (stay the same) for 100 years, but inside we will be able to have various configurations."

In addition to donating much of the equipment, Buhler made a U.S.$500,000 commitment to establish an industrial milling faculty chair, a position that is being filled by McFall. Although the curriculum for the new industrial milling program hasn’t been finalized, it will involve continuing education courses that will span roughly eight to 10 weeks.

Traditionally, KSU has offered a twoweek short course targeted at international management and two one-week courses that have been held cooperatively with the International Association of Operative Millers. "We are working with the International Association of Operative Millers to design a series of seminars designed to of- fer professional miller certification that will include correspondence training along with hands-on training at Kansas State," said Virgil Smail, head of KSU’s Department of Grain Science and Industry. "The milling industry should benefit greatly from this program.

"We are targeting about 20 people per certification course. In certain instances, milling companies in the United States and beyond hire engineers as operatives who have not had a formal milling education. They teach them milling on the job. It isn’t an efficient way to train. They don’t learn the principles of particle reduction, mill rolls or pneumatics. Now they can send them here for our 10-week course. We’ve seen particularly great interest from overseas."

One of the benefits for Buhler and other companies is that they can bring clients to the mill and show them how their equipment works in a mill setting, something they aren’t able to do in a commercial mill.

Calvin Grieder, chief executive officer of Uzwil, Swizerland-based Buhler AG, said at the dedication ceremony that it was during a conversation with Fred Merrill, chairman of Cereal Food Processors Inc. and 1949 graduate of KSU, three years ago that he became convinced a Buhler-KSU partnership would benefit both organizations.

"We are proud to be a part of this and hope we’ll be able to show you that over the years we have developed good technology, and we hope we’ll be able to do that in the future," Grieder said.

The mill is named after Hal Ross, one of the project’s major donors and a graduate of KSU’s milling science program. Ross, who spent many years in his family’s flour milling business, said he was inspired to give back to the university and the milling industry, which both have been good to him. "Today, in this mill, we have the very best facilities for training new students," Ross said. WG

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