Take, for example, National Oats. The Cedar Rapids, IA, plant has been processing oat cereal and flour for decades. Prior to 1985, conveyance of these materials from outdoor storage tanks to indoor blending vessels was handled the traditional way, using an 8-inch pipeline with ceramic sweep elbows everywhere the line turned.
Now, National is serious when it comes to oat production. The material passing through that line was traveling at a rate of 90,000 pounds per hour. At that rate the grain acted like an abrasive inside the line, especially at the sweep elbows where the line changed direction. This abrasive action wore completely through sections of the sweeps over the course of several months. Line shutdowns were required five times a year — almost every two months — so worn-out sweep elbows could be repaired with patches of plate steel or replaced completely. Shutting down the line for repairs is the last thing a profit-making industry wants to do.
In an effort to promote its innovative solution with industry, HammerTek offered National three Smart Elbow deflection elbows in 1985. HammerTek even offered a money-back guarantee that the Smart Elbow units would outlast the traditional sweep elbows currently in use. National had been seeking a solution to the maintenance problem for years and agreed to the offer.
The secret to the Smart Elbow deflection elbow is its patented Vortex Chamber, a nearly spherical chamber located at the back of the bend where traditional elbows fail. The chamber’s patented shape allows the formation of a slowly rotating ball of material which, instead of creating eddies or other pockets of turbulence, redirects and smooths the flow of material into its new direction. This eliminates elbow wear, helps save energy in pumping costs, and increases product quantity and quality by improving material delivery rate and flow.
National noted an immediate increase in elbow longevity. Elbows were now lasting years instead of months. But the industry noted additional, measurable benefits. Because of the decrease in line turbulence, National estimates that it is saving between $800 and $1,200 per year in electricity costs on the conveying system. Engineers at the plant are reporting less oat breakage and a more uniform particle size because of the improved material flow and reduced elbow wall impact. And, not surprisingly, the replacement of three sweep elbows with Smart Elbow units has increased conveying rate by 11 percent from 90,000 to 100,000 pounds per hour.
Today, the formerly high cost of elbow maintenance and replacement has been eliminated, and the company has installed additional Smart Elbow models on its lines. Bob Williams, National Oats’ chief project engineer, summarizes his Smart Elbow deflection elbow satisfaction succinctly: “Cost-effective, Compact, Convenient and Durable.”