Super Air Knives in Agriculture

I spoke with an international agribusiness that specialized in improving processes with cutting-edge technologies in the agricultural sector.  They started a project with a company to improve their drying process for potatoes.   This company was washing 10 tons of potatoes per hour during 16-hour days.  The potatoes would travel along a conveyor that was 90cm (35.4”) wide after the washing system where they had three blower air knives to remove the water from the surface.  Since the project scope was to increase productivity, the agribusiness company targeted their biggest issue, the blower air knives.

They described the two main problems that their customer was experiencing.  First, the conveyor had to run at a slower rate to remove enough water from the surface of the potatoes before packaging.  Thus, the feed rate into the washing system ran intermittently to not overload the drying process.  The main issue was that the blower system was limited with force.  It could not generate a strong enough air stream to properly dry the entire spud at higher speeds.  Thus, the conveyor system was not at an optimal range.

The second issue was premature spoilage of the potatoes which had to be discarded.  I remember when my family would store potatoes in bunkers under the ground to keep them cool.  This would help to slow the bacterial growth which causes spoilage.  Blower systems generate hot air from the electric motors.  Since bacteria growth is enhanced with warmer temperatures, the potato company was noticing poor appearance and early spoilage.  To increase their profits, they wanted to dry the potatoes without heat.

110236SS Super Air Knife Kit

EXAIR has been manufacturing leading-edge technology since 1983, and we could offer a solution.  For removing water from the surface of the potatoes; the EXAIR Super Air Knife would be the perfect instrument.  This compact system is easy to install; and it does not have any moving parts to wear or need shutdowns for maintenance.

I recommended to replace the three blower-air knives with one piece of a model 110236SS Super Air Knife Kit.  The kit includes a 36” (914mm) 303SS Super Air Knife, a filter, a regulator and a shim set.  The regulator and shim set are specifically designed to control the force requirement and air usage to the Super Air Knife.  So, you can fine tune the correct amount of force to blow around the entire potato for effective drying.  For a stock Super Air Knife, the model 110236SS can generate 5.6 pounds of force (2.55 Kilograms) at 80 PSIG (5.5 Bar); a tough target for a blower air knife.  The agribusiness was excited about the concept and wanted to know more.

Another unique feature with the EXAIR Super Air Knife is the engineered design.  We are able to reach a 40:1 amplification ratio.  That means for every 1 part of compressed air, we can entrain 40 parts of ambient air.  What does this mean?  First, the Super Air Knife is very efficient within your compressed air system as we are using mainly free ambient air.  Second, since majority of the air is ambient, the temperature of the air is not heated; thus, a cooler air stream.   And third, by adding the mass of the ambient air, it gives a stronger blowing force.  So, the Super Air Knife was able to meet both of the agribusiness requirements.  In the end, we were able to cut scrap and increase the production rate by almost 10%.

If you need to dry your agricultural items with cutting-edge technology, EXAIR would be the manufacturer for you.   We are staffed with Application Engineers to find solutions and improvements, and we will be happy to discuss your application.  For this agribusiness company, they were excited to work with EXAIR to get a great result for the company above in the potato arena.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb