For coffee roasters and processing companies with high-value product susceptible to damage, material breakage and loss is a costly problem that can damage the bottom line. Tubular cable conveyors can significantly reduce product damage, maintenance, energy use, and noise. Even a difference between 1% and 5% waste can mean the difference between profit or loss.
To convey such a delicate product, processors should avoid conveyors that may force fragile material through stressful phases during transport that could impact its integrity while still meeting high throughput requirements. Given this need, some coffee processors are reconsidering conveying sensitive, high-value product using high-velocity airpower through tubes bends, or sweeps before it is transferred into bins or containers.
Nippon Coffee Trading Co., headquartered in Osaka, Japan, sought a solution for delicately conveying its green coffee. Since its founding in 1953, Nippon Coffee has remained committed to providing its customers with the world’s highest quality coffee. In 2015, the company reported sales of $86.7 million. With demand continuing, Nippon sought out a conveying system that offered more gentleness, flexibility, as well as lower maintenance than the conveyors it had relied on in the past. Nippon Coffee installed a cable conveyor system in 2015 and discovered the technology provided a solution that met its requirements for gentleness, flexibility, and low maintenance, as well as food safety.
“Before 2015, we used bucket, pneumatic, and belt conveyor systems to transport coffee at our facility,” says Mr. Taro Takeda, President of Nippon Coffee Trading Co. “With cable technology, we’ve enjoyed a high-performance system that offers great flexibility and required very little maintenance expense over the years.”
Nippon Coffee gently transports approximately 600 – 800 kilograms of green coffee beans every hour. Food safety is also a high priority for Nippon Coffee and its Japanese consumers. In this regard, the system’s enclosed tubing eliminates opportunities for elements within the environment to contaminate the beans.
Tubular cable conveyor systems move product through a sealed tube using a coated, flexible stainless-steel drag cable pulled through on a loop. Solid circular discs (flights) are attached to the cable, which push the product at low speed through the tube without the use of air, preserving product integrity and minimizing waste.
Coffee processors can decrease product damage down to 1-2% with this slower process, where product is gently transferred at low speed, so there is minimal to no damage. This gentler approach to handling coffee products also extends equipment longevity, reducing required maintenance.
The tubular cable conveyor systems can convey up to 2000 cubic feet per hour (56m3/hr.) of delicate product with numerous layouts using multiple inlets and outlets.
Since pneumatic systems convey product at high velocity, this typically requires larger, power-hungry motors that run fans, blowers, and rotary valves. In certain systems, a pressure tank requiring compressed air consumes additional power.
In terms of noise level, pneumatic conveying systems also generate considerable noise. Aero-mechanical systems, running at high speed, generate considerable motor and disc noise as well. Given that smaller motors are used, tubular cable systems are quieter overall and utilize much less energy. In regards to energy, they utilize about one-tenth that of pneumatic systems. The electricity savings by using a tubular conveyor can be sizeable, with a 1-year ROI in some cases.
by Karl Seidel