Technical profile: mill spout cleaning and fumigation

by Teresa Acklin
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The "scale" of the problem

   Contributed by suppliers, technical profiles feature new technology, products, specific applications or proprietary concepts. This article was prepared by Tube Tech Ltd., Basildon, Essex, U.K.

   Once seen as a task to be undertaken on a yearly basis, or as and when blockages occurred, tube and pipe cleaning has now become an integral part in the regular cleaning schedule of many manufacturing industries.

   In these difficult times, few companies can risk the loss of production caused by contamination or sporadic blockages of process lines. Increased awareness of and compliance with recently imposed food hygiene regulations has ensured the cleaning of tubes and pipes is a vital constituent in the overall cleanliness of the modern factory. Indeed, tube and pipeline inspection and cleaning now has become a specialist industry in its own right.

   In the flour milling industry, scaling inside the spouts is not only unhygienic, it can also cause uneven throughput of product and causes ineffective fumigation.

   Flour spouts can be between 8 and 20 centimeters in diameter and run for up to 18 meters from the sifter to the roller mills. They can become lined or scaled with anything from a light build-up of flour that has adhered to the spout wall to a total blockage of hard, condensated flour, which also can harbor bacterial and insect infestation.

   Current methods of pipe cleaning include a nylon or wire brush attached to a long rod, a rubber hammer, or a nylon brush with a weight on the end, which can be pushed or dropped down the spouts.

   These methods have minimal success when light, moderate or heavy scale is encountered, so the standard alternative is to disassemble and clean the pipe. As an example, a 6 meter to 20 meter length of scaled pipe may take 30 minutes to clean. This time span does not include allowing the pipe to completely dry out if water is used in the cleaning process.

   These methods are far from satisfactory. One company at the forefront of tube and pipeline cleaning and inspection technology is Tube Tech. In its search for a fast, safe and efficient method of cleaning flour spouts, Tube Tech has taken a basic principle and completely redesigned it.

   The PCD-3 is based on a rotating flexible drive unit. This is rotated in a food-safe, wear-resistant sheath, turning at variable speeds, that can be powered electrically or by compressed air.

   The company's pigging system is essentially a bullet combination of a sponge, coated in nylon bristles, that is fired down the spout. It has been designed for straight lengths where there are seals in the pipe and long runs with very poor access.

   The greatest advantage of these systems is their versatility and the length of time for the whole cleaning process. In an eight-hour shift, a two-man team can clean all the spouts in the entire mill from the sifter floor to the roller floor. Traditionally, mills could clean only a few spouts at a time and in stages during the year. Now it can be done in one day!

   Tube Tech has supplied Spillers, Rank Hovis, Allied Mills and a range of international mills. The introduction of this unique system has received tremendous response worldwide, and we are actively looking for respected agents in numerous countries.

   Tube Tech's key to success is its versatility and drive towards providing a complete quality service and is at present assessed to the BS 5750 quality standard.

   The cleaning of spouts is not our only activity. The company is able to clean any tube or pipe from 3 millimeters to 7 meters. This includes other processes, whether inside or outside of the milling environment.

   Tube Tech offers a range of more than 25 different systems, each of which can be designed and adapted to the needs of each particular application.