Understanding Some Basic Terminology When Buying an Industrial Air Cannon

An industrial air cannon is often used to clear materials that get stuck in silos and other large bins, and they can also be used to help empty railcars that are delivering bulk materials. Some materials may get soft or sticky or otherwise become difficult to empty after having traveled any distance in a rail car or because of long-term storage, being exposed to weather extremes, humidity, and the like. When you're ready to buy an industrial air cannon, it might be helpful to understand some basic terminology so you know what to look for and ensure you get the right type for your facility.

1. Types of blockage

When choosing an air cannon, you might be asked about the types of blockage you usually experience in a silo or railcar. This can include ratholing, bridging, plugging, or buildup. Ratholing refers to when material sticks together except for one small hole down the center, decreasing the rate of flow. Bridging is when material sticks together across the width of the silo or bin, forming a bridge that blocks material above it. Plugging may occur anywhere but especially near the dispenser of the silo, and buildup is when material clings to the walls.

It's vital to know these differences as the type of air cannon you choose will be determined by these common problems. If your material tends to bridge, you want a large, wide dispersal of air to reach the width of that bridge. If there is plugging or ratholing, you may need a smaller section of air but with a stronger pressure to break up this concentration of material.

2. Pressure vessel and lining

The pressure vessel is the part of the air cannon that exerts the forced air, and it is usually lined to allow for maximum air flow. Because the pressure vessel is under so much pressure when in use, you want to ensure you choose an air cannon with a high-quality material used for the vessel itself; stainless steel may be best. Plastic may be more affordable but may not be as durable, and you may wind up replacing the pressure vessel more often.

This is also true of the lining; opt for a vessel with a high-quality material for the lining that encourages air flow, such as vinyl, ceramic, or a polymer. These smooth surfaces will work optimally with the flow of air from the air cannon while still being strong enough to resist scratching or other damage.