Think about sugar that sits in a bowl, bag, or another container for an extended period--it begins to stick together and eventually harden. The longer it sits, the more compact it becomes, especially when the environment is humid. Raw sugar has this same tendency to form into hardened clumps and this susceptibility for lumping occurs during prolonged storage and transport. However, it can also occur later in the manufacturing process.
Sugar milling machinery that breaks down these agglomerated clusters of sugar includes lump breakers – or lump crushers – which can prepare sugar by reducing these lumps' size without diminishing the individual size of the grains. These sugar lump breakers are used in food manufacturing plants and industrial bakeries to convey or mix the raw sugar before combining with other ingredients during the manufacturing process.
What is a Sugar Lump Breaker?
Lump breaking is the same process involved in breaking down any raw material, whether it's used to reduce lumps in pharmaceuticals, agricultural products, aggregates, animal feed, or sugar. Lump breakers reduce clumps of sugar so that they can more easily mix with other ingredients. In that sense, there's no difference between a sugar lump breaker and one used for another purpose.
As sugar absorbs moisture from the air, it clumps, particularly when there's insufficient humidity control during storage or transport. This happens especially in situations where the sugar sits for long periods. That's why sugar lump breakers tend to be used at bulk storage silos where raw sugar is stored and at outlets where bulk bags of sugar are unloaded.
This size reduction prepares the raw sugar for processing, reducing particle size so that it won't damage or block up other equipment further down the production line. In this sense, lump breakers protect the whole assembly line. They keep production going by preventing mixer paddles from breaking or keeping feeder chutes and hoppers clear of debris. Lump breakers are also gentle enough to improve the uniformity of sugar particles without making them finer or creating more dust.
The Sugar-Making Process
Sugar occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products as either glucose, fructose, lactose, or sucrose. However, sucrose is the scientific name for what we call table sugar, which is approximately half fructose and half glucose. It's also an ingredient in many processed foods and is usually produced commercially from sugarcane or sugar beets.
- Sugarcane is a type of grass that grows well in tropical and subtropical climates.
- Sugar beets are grown in more temperate climes.
Refined sugar essentially involves breaking down these plants into white granulated sugar-- the process for doing so is very similar for both sugarcane or sugar beets.
White-refined sugar typically comes from sugarcane grown in tropical areas (often in underdeveloped countries) and far from major markets (which tend to be in developed countries). Sugarcane needs to be processed almost immediately after being cut, as it's perishable. In contrast, the semi-processed raw sugar can be stored and transported for longer periods without spoiling. Because of the distance from the market, sugarcane processing usually occurs in stages:
- Raw sugar is partly purified into a brown, crystalline material in factories close to the farms.
- This raw sugar is transported to a sugar refinery located nearer consumers.
- The raw sugar is processed into pure white sucrose crystals, which are then packaged for direct sale or used as an ingredient in other foods.
On the other hand, Sugar beets are usually grown closer to consumers, with more proximate factories that produce white sugar directly from the beets.
Whether made from cane or beets, the principal steps in sugar extraction are essentially the same. Water is used to form a raw sugar solution, after which it's purified to remove suspended solids and impurities. The water is then allowed to evaporate, leaving granulated white grains of sugar.
Using Sugar Lump Breakers During Processing
In the industry, machines for break lumps use various methods to break them down without overworking the material: compression, impact or shear. Lump breakers use impact and shear to gently crush the sugar's brittle grains. However, care must be taken to ensure the material isn't overworked or broken up too finely. Low-speed crushing is used to limit the heat generated in work-sensitive granules, producing granules in the upper size range. The higher the speed, the more destructive the lump breakers are to the material, and the smaller the size of the granules of sugar.
Sugar lump breakers usually have either one or two impact rotors., with single rotor machines used for simpler applications. Twin shaft lump breakers provide self-cleaning action, drawing lumps into a central breaking zone that allows it to break apart denser and larger lumps without clogging. The blades are radially offset to the shaft's center so that they extend progressively, using sliding contact forces and providing the blade's mechanical fixture with more shear strength than tensile strength.
When the sugar granules and powders agglomerate, the lump breakers smash the lumps with these specially shaped blades. On single rotor models, blades rotate through stationary comb-like structures to apply sufficient impact in order to break the lumps of the agglomerated material efficiently. This material is reduced down to a size that allows it to pass through an optional screen.
Solutions for Sugar Lump Breaker Equipment
Prater Industries provides a variety of solutions for processing sugar. Lump breakers, hammermills, and even whole systems for processing sugar are designed for food manufacturing plants and industrial bakeries. Prater offers various modern, reliable, and easily maintained food processing equipment that can meet your needs.