Prater Industries has been providing solutions to promote efficiency in manufacturing since its founding in 1925. Today’s advanced assembly lines process all manner of bulk materials – from lumpy to granular to powdered forms – in their processes, sometimes called “high-efficiency manufacturing.” While much has been intimated about the trends toward digital manufacturing, manufacturing 4.0, and smart manufacturing, the efficiency necessary to promote 21st-century processing operations is, in fact, more fundamental.

The foundation of this movement towards ever greater efficiency is what drives sustainability in industry, which is at the root of modern manufacturing methods. As a business, Prater actively supports these goals to conserve resources, not just because it makes the world a better place but because it makes sense from an economic perspective. It comes down to the fact that the more efficient the processing machinery, the higher the profits a manufacturer will realize. Prater provides a range of separation and particle size reduction equipment that supports this high-efficiency manufacturing, which has become a worldwide goal for sustainable manufacturing enterprises. 

Which Machine Do I Need?

Prater’s Particle Size Reduction Equipment

For any material processing solution implemented to increase efficiency, it’s important to consider particle size reduction equipment first. Whatever the material or application, it will require breaking down the bulk material’s overall particle size. Particle reduction range includes lumps up to 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) to fine powders with constituent parts measuring a fraction of a micron (about 1/25,400 of an inch).

Equipment made by Prater for reducing particle size includes lump breakers, hammer mills, air classifying mills, and fine grinders.

Prater’s particle size reduction equipment includes: 

  • Lump Breaker: Simply designed and compact, Prater’s lump breakers (also known as Flake Breakers) are often used for breaking apart bulk materials that agglomerate naturally when shipped or stored. Used for processing chemicals, cereal, fertilizer, filter cake, pasta, pigments, salt, and sugars, Prater also makes a Quick-Clean Lump Breaker that makes maintenance and cleaning easier.
  • Hammer Mill (G-Series): Prater’s full-screen design for a hammer mill is a well-proven machine, providing efficient operation, high throughput, and uniform particle size. Reduction equipment like Prater’s G-Series can be used for a wide array of materials, which include ammonium nitrate, bran, clay, plastic scrap, sodium phosphate, and wood flour.
  • Mega Mill Hammer Mill: For minimal heat buildup with uniform particle size, reduction equipment like Prater’s Mega Mill offers ease of maintenance accessibility and cleaning due to its shaft and bearing arrangement. It proves the ideal machinery for materials like animal feeds, cereals, grains, hemp, and spices, among other products.
  • Prater Fine Grinder (M-Series): Designed for grinding dry material that flows freely to an extraordinarily tight distribution of particle size, reduction equipment like Prater’s M-Series Fine Grinder can achieve reduction to as small as 37 microns (about 400 mesh). These machines work well for materials like powder coatings or resins that are sensitive to heat, with several models available between 3 to 250 horsepower.
  • CLM Air Classifying Mill: Prater’s air classifying mills use two stages in a closed circuit to reach very narrow particle distributions when processing materials down to an extremely fine particle size. Reduction equipment like Prater’s CLM mills utilizes air classification to separate materials by size after grinding to achieve ultra-narrow particle distributions. Air classification works well for hard-to-grind materials like activated carbon, boron nitrate, charcoal, corn starch and meals, limestone, wheat, and zinc oxide.

Additionally, Prater can customize machinery and whole material processing systems to ensure they work with the highest efficiency possible for the application.  

How Separation Equipment Supports Particle Size Reduction

While there’s a bit of crossover between particle size reduction equipment and machinery used to separate materials, as with air classifying mills, Prater also manufactures equipment specifically used to separate materials.

Prater’s separation equipment includes: 

  • Rotary Sifter: Also known as rotary sieves or centrifugal sifters, Prater’s copyrighted Rota-Sieve® is made with lightweight components. Using centrifugal force to accelerate and fluidize material across its screen, rotary sifters can sift and scalp for larger and smaller production runs. Prater’s rotary sifter comes in several models that prove cost-efficient in handling agglomerates, granules, powders, and other free-flowing bulk materials.
  • Minisplit Air Classifier: Developed initially for testing and small-scale applications, Prater’s Minisplit Air Classifier offers the perfect choice for smaller workplaces. With its compact size, it’s also highly portable, with a flexible design that allows for laboratory applications while also sufficiently robust to meet the demands of smaller production runs. Made from stainless steel, the Minisplit’s design encourages a dust-free environment while offering increased lifespan and lower maintenance costs. Highly customizable, some of the many materials it can process include aluminum oxide, diatomaceous earth, gypsum, maltodextrin, oat flour and groats, pinto beans, and silicon dioxide.
  • MAC Air Classifier: Used for processing dry materials like calcite, carbon black, cocoa powder, dry nonfat milk, fritted glass, metal alloys, and vanilla beans, Prater’s MAC Air Classifiers process to a uniformity and fineness that depend in part on how material is fed. With multiple feed variations, it separates between 3 and 150 microns and can be used as part of a closed-circuit milling system or independently by combining its use with feeders, fans, and collection equipment. While it utilizes a vortex for separation by particle size, reduction equipment like Prater’s MAC ensures coarser particles are recirculated until they reach the desired size.
  • Vibratory Screeners: These machines help remove oversized particles for further processing and fine particles from the process stream while separating particles by size. Vibratory screeners can be used to screen abrasives, cement, dairy products, industrial waste, oils, plastics, slurries, and other materials.

While helping to control particle size reduction, equipment used for separating also aids in the removal of impurities, sediment, and any other unwanted substances within bulk materials. As with its particle size reduction equipment, Prater can also customize separation equipment and incorporate it into production systems.

Prater Solutions for Promoting Efficient Production

To promote high-efficiency manufacturing of bulk materials, Prater offers many solutions, though one of the more innovative is Prater’s test laboratory. These days, manufacturing relies on a certain understanding of the physical sciences and applying that knowledge to create highly efficient machines. Whether looking at customizing separation or particle size reduction equipment to meet a client’s specific needs, Prater’s test lab offers a means to determine the most efficient solutions for processing materials. Prater can help determine the most effective solutions for a manufacturer’s processing system using various particle-analysis techniques and directly testing machinery for specific applications. 

Examples of Industrial Applications of Prater Equipment

As with any company that’s been in business for almost a century, Prater Industries has plenty of success stories to share. Now, let’s look briefly at a few case studies showing how Prater’s engineers resolved various issues.

Grinding Bran

The hard outer layer of cereal grains like wheat, oats, or barley is called bran, which contains significant nutrients and fiber. Bran was traditionally removed from whole grains as its oil content made flour spoil, though this removes much of the nutritional value from the flour. Additionally, most flour millers grind multiple types of grains, each requiring its specifications for particle size reduction. Equipment used by millers must then balance nutritional value with flavor and texture.

Prater’s solution involves the CLM Air Classifier Mill, which works extremely well for processing bran and other fibrous materials requiring narrow particle distributions.  It begins with an initial mechanical grinding stage, after which it goes through an internal air classifier wheel, with additional air arriving through a secondary inlet. This additionally provides cooling for the product, with oversized particles directed to a third, separate area on the grinding rotor where it’s reground before exiting the mill.

Fine Grinding of Pet Foods

A specific customer that makes pet food ground dry material to a fineness of 75 microns (200 mesh), with a very tight particle size distribution. Using Prater’s M-Series Fine Grinder, they saw an increase in component wear on the stationary grinding surfaces. Suspecting the flow system and a recent change in raw materials used were causing the extra wear, Prater engineers looked at the precision tolerances on these surfaces. Also called “jaws,” their lifespan had been cut in half from three months to a month and a half. In response, the material from which the jaws were made was changed, with very positive results.

This redesign of Prater’s particle size reduction equipment achieved: 

  • Increased Rockwell hardness, with machinery able to be machined to the matching precision tolerances without deforming.
  • Jaws only requiring replacement every four months.
  • Lowering customer’s costs for jaws by 17 percent annually.

As a result of this redesign to Prater’s M-Series Fine Grinder, the facility began operating at an even higher efficiency, with added productivity and better profit margins.

Sifting Cocoa 

One of the largest North American cocoa processors sought advice on addressing a new processing concern. Already using Prater’s Rota-Sieve® in their operations, a new customer required sifted cocoa to be packaged in bulk. Typically, the manufacturer sifted powdered cocoa into bags containing 50 lbs. (about 22.7 kg), but this new customer needed bags that could hold 2000 lbs. (about 907.2 kg). The challenges this presented involved reconfiguring their entire handling and packaging system each time they produced powdered cocoa for the customer. Not only was this very time-consuming and added considerably to their labor costs, this changeover also resulted in excessive dust, considerable downtime, and safety issues when heavier parts of the system required moving. Additionally, it resulted in considerable waste during the packaging process.

Prater’s engineers determined the best way to deal with this would involve optimizing the entire production line. The reconfiguration involved adding automated controls throughout the system, along with a specific model of rotary sifter and a heavy-duty rotary airlock valve. Prater both designed and installed the system, which included a dual filling station for bulk bags. The new design allowed the manufacturer to increase how much sifted cocoa powder the facility produced while addressing safety and dust issues. Along with reducing downtime from reconfiguring the system, this solution additionally lowered labor costs by eliminating the need for cleanup and made the whole operation more efficient.

Screen Designs for Powder Coating 

In this case, a leading powder coating manufacturer had a new customer for whom they developed a new line of product. The manufacturer found that Prater’s Rota-Sieve® allowed oversized particles into the final product, resulting in powder coating imperfections. This occurred even with screening to 200 mesh (about 74 microns), though the manufacturer determined problems were unrelated to either the product’s new chemistry or processes leading up to the rotary sifter. 

Time was of the essence, as delays could threaten the manufacturer’s opportunity with this new customer. They asked Prater, who sent a representative that same night to assist in finding a solution for the sifting problem. After examining the problem meticulously, it became clear that certain parts had worn to allow oversized particles through. In response, Prater’s engineers designed a custom fix to enable production to go forward. Additionally, this led to modifications to the overall design for Prater’s rotary sifters to make them more efficient.

Advantages of Prater’s Solutions 

Prater is a leading supplier of separation and particle size reduction equipment and feeding and metering solutions. Prater provides some of the most innovative material processing solutions to manufacturers worldwide on an à la carte basis, and the company also designs and builds systems for bulk and powder solids. Through their adaptability and durability, Prater’s products allow small and large companies to achieve high-efficiency manufacturing along with our top-notch customer support and preventive maintenance program.

To achieve better productivity and efficiency, the material processing industry must focus on solutions that bring people together to solve problems. As a maker of some of the most versatile and diverse processing solutions on the market, Prater looks at what will increase efficiency and productivity in every corner of the material processing industry. To learn more about what Prater can do to promote high-efficiency manufacturing in a specific sector, contact Prater’s expert team today.