Case Story: What can happen when an agitator problem is ignored?
A high-volume pet food processor utilized a Mixer/Cooker in their operations which produced 45-minute batches. The application called for 28 RPM and mixing cold product at 35 – 45 degrees. During the process of loading different ingredients into the Mixer-Cooker, a Vmag buggy fell into the mixer, causing damage to the agitator.
The processor made repairs to the bent shaft and paddles and was able to get the Mixer-Cooker back online into full production.
Many processors assume that if the paddles do not rub the side of the tub, that the agitator has had a successful repair. But in many cases (and in this case), there was extensive damage and over time the shaft began to flex, causing the agitator to break. This failure completely stopped production.
There are a few choices to stay ahead of agitator care:
Preventative Maintenance: Partner with Mepaco Services to inspect agitators to ensure the shaft is straight and look for stress and other damage.
After Event Care: Processors may be able to fix the shift to continue production, but contract with Mepaco Services to inspect the shaft and straighten if necessary.
Most importantly, processors should avoid emergency maintenance, causing down-time and lost production.
It is not uncommon to have dropped tools into Mixers, so prepare for the event if it does happen. Consider an audit to assess the life of the agitator and consider ordering a replacement so you can have duplicity for uninterrupted down-time.
Delivery of agitator replacements are 3 – 6 months out due to the availability of stainless material. Mixers, Blenders and Grinders are the work horse of the processing system, so be sure that agitator care and component availability are part of the maintenance program.
Mepaco Services offer on-site audits, training, and service contracts as well as emergency repair.
The type and viscosity of food product, thermal processing technology, desired texture, and cooking/processing cycle times are considered when specifying the agitator solution. Primary consideration for mixing or blending agitator solution begins with the ability for the food product to self-level. Agitator configurations also include scrapers with indirect cooking applications.
In some applications, the agitator itself may not significantly affect throughput improvement, but the overall solution does. The driving forces for throughput in batch processing is cycle times, loading, and discharging.
However, the wrong agitator solution will not mix or blend the product well. Solids need to be homogeneous and remain intact during processing operations. Further, the product must remain in a mixed state throughout the process and discharge operations.
During project discussions, Mepaco’s application team defines mixing as adding ingredients for the correct mix and consistency, while blending provides a change of the food product's properties.
The thermal processing solution is customized to the specific application. The PLC is programmed to include agitator speeds, pauses, and direction changes for the desired results. Further, the Mixer or Blender equipment will be sized for the batch volume required along with options (vacuum, cooling, searing, caramelizing) to meet the batch cycle times, quality and throughput goals for the processing solution.
Visit Mixers or Visit Cookers
Tom Hoffmann, Director of Mepaco Sales, gives a tour of a lab mixer at Process Expo. The lab mixer was engineered and manufactured for UW-Madison's new meat science lab. The equipment is being donated for their new facility and educational center opening 2020.
This video is part of a series called "Ask the Experts" to highlight the equipment at the Process Expo.
This 8000 lb. Mixer Blender is equipped with vacuum and CO2 injection, required for downstream forming and packaging operations.
Mepaco's Mixer Blenders are engineered to specific application parameters. These industrial mixing solutions are code-stamped and ASME rated, with high-pressure dimple or stay-bolt jackets. Cooling jackets or injection systems, like in this Mixer Blender, are also available with applicable solenoid controls, manifold, injectors and exhaust covers. Designed to produce homogeneous blends quickly and efficiently, Mepaco's Mixer Blenders provide results in increased productivity and yields.
This unit has a hatch in the cover for access to sanitation and to manually add ingredients. It also features dual paddle agitation and discharge. The interior was polished to a 32RA and the exterior is passivated.
For more information, visit Mepaco's page on Mixer-Blenders.
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