An air blaster is a tool to facilitate bulk materials handling in storage containers like silos and bins. It releases blasts of air to free trapped buildups of material and force them to flow. Numerous companies manufacture air blasters along with sonic cleaning systems that use a different mechanism to loosen materials held in storage. Catalogs are available through manufacturers for members of the public with an interest in installing an air blaster system to streamline their operations. This equipment can be installed on a new storage container or retrofitted after the fact as necessary.
The air blaster includes a canister of compressed air attached to a nozzle, and typically charges from the surrounding air. When activated, the nozzle shoots air into the container, loosening materials in the way of the nozzle. A storage container can have several externally mounted air blasters, all of which point inside at different regions to provide complete coverage. Technicians can activate the devices when they need them, although there may be a short waiting period between charges.
The two most common issues found in containers like silos are rat holing and bridging. In bridging, material becomes wedged across the outlet and will not move, blocking outflow. With rat holing, the central column of material collapses through the outlet, while materials remain stuck to the sides and do not flow. Air blasters can cut through the buildup, loosen the tension, and allow the materials to pour naturally again.
These tools can also be useful in edged containers, where materials tend to drift to the corners and get stuck. The air blaster can shoot into the corners to loosen the material, acting almost like an explosive to shake it up and force it through the outlet. This eliminates the need for a technician to bang on the container from the outside, or to crawl in to loosen materials, which makes the working environment much safer and more pleasant.
Activation systems can vary, depending on what type of air blaster is installed. The devices are generally easy to use. Maintenance tasks can include checking the mounts to make sure they are secure, clearing the air inlet so the device can easily recharge, and checking the alignment of the nozzle to make sure it has not moved out of position while loading and unloading materials from the container. Also known as air cannon, these devices can be suitable for handling a range of materials, including concrete mixes and grains.