You are on page 1of 4

Batch vs.

Continuous Processing
Owner [Pick the date]

Horizontal Continuous Mixer

Batch Processing vs. Continuous Processing Batch mixing provides flexibility in batch size, composition and process parameters. However, this trade off for more control usually results in larger equipment with a higher capital cost compared to continuous processing.

Continuous mixing typically requires volumetric or loss-in weight feeders or pumps for each ingredient. While feeders add cost and complexity to the mixing process, this added cost is sometimes less expensive than the batch mixer alternative. Continuous mixers are good for high volume productivity of products that do not change. Some products such as food, beverage and pharmaceuticals require precise tracking of batch information for regulatory and safety reasons. However, batch processing is used primarily by roughly 4 out of 5 processors in the processing industries because it provides more opportunity for complex mixing functions compared to continuous processing. Some industries such as chemical, petrochemical and recycling use continuous processing extensively. Other industries in food, chemical, plastic and mineral may use continuous processing as some part of their operations such as purifying air and water or treating waste products. Continuous processing is ideal for recycling of chemicals and minerals and many biomass and biofuel applications involving a repeated process in bulk volumes with an unrestricted discharge process flow. Choosing the best process for your application is not a complicated decision. As a mixer manufacturer our goal is to create the best end product at the least expense. There are a few dynamics however you should consider when determining which processing method is best for your product such as: 2

Product Retention Time – With batch mixing you can retain product in the vessel for (hours) rather than (minutes) in the case of continuous mixing. Because material flows steadily from an upstream process into the mixer with continuous mixing, it is retained in the trough for a specified mixing time and discharges at the same flow rate for downstream handling. Residence time is the amount of time required for the product to travel from the feed inlet to the discharge outlet. This measurable metric is called rate per moment (RPM). Typically the range of time for rate per moment in continuous mixing in a horizontal agitator mixer is from 30 seconds to 3 minutes (4 minutes maximum). Beyond that time you risk the occurrence of product “short- circuiting” where the material becomes disproportionately distributed among the agitator blades (paddle or ribbon) depending on the process. This results in an uneven product mix or blend. There is more flexibility with batch mixing to control this function. Heat/Cool – With batch processing you have the ability to temper the heat from (0-600°F) for a prolonged period of time. With continuous processing you have a variance of (Δ5°F). The ability to provide a substantial heat/cool element in the processing stream may be a deciding factor in your decision to go with a batch or continuous mixer. Coating-Drying-Mixing – Both processes can adequately coat materials with few constraints. However, batch processing provides a greater degree of drying due to flexible batch controls over continuous mixing. Both processes offer a thorough product mix, however with continuous mixing the mix output is contingent on the input devices. If there are inconsistencies or fluctuations in the upstream input of the materials there is greater risk in the control of the material volume in the vessel. In other words, if the material input is added by a conveyor or metered hopper and the machine becomes erratic, the mixing process likewise will be adversely affected to the extent it may buildup and overflow the vessel or produce undesired product. Strategic placement of controls provides the key for mixing stability in continuous processing. For example, the mixer shown below was designed for a colored rubber, landscape application. The input conveyor is censored and metered to control the material input and colorant for the exact mix preventing material waste and cost. When the system senses an irregularity, the control modulates the mix preventing loss. <becker image>

Chemical Reactions – With batch processing, chemical reactions are more conducive due to the time the materials can be retained in the vessel. Continuous processing can accommodate some chemical reaction mixing functions but with limitations. Premix - Premixing, also known as master batching is a method of handling minor and micro ingredients. It may be used with both batch and continuous mixers. A master batch, or premix, is a pre-blended feedstock of minor and micro ingredients that enhances uniform dispersion of those ingredients by 3

treating them as a single ingredient added to the main mixing process. Master batching is typically done in batch processing because it is usually more economically feasible with less risk. Consider this example; your product calls for (2) minor ingredients at ratios of (2% and 10%) =12% premixed and added to the remaining major ingredient of 88% = 100% total ingredient mix. Cleanability – Industries where sanitary conditions are required such as food, beverage, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and certain chemical insist on stringent cleanability control that is more suitable with batch processing. Some regulations mandate complete periodic wash down or machine disassembly between product batch cycles. Continuous processing mixing may violate certain sanitary certification requirements if the machine is run for a prolonged period of time between clean out s. Flexible Production – Continuous processing provides bulk volumes of the same or repeated process to run in some cases 24/7 on smaller equipment. There is a lower labor cost as well as limited human intervention. However the control costs and risks are higher. Batch mixing provides more flexible control with better measures for quality control. However, with batch processing you are limited to the possible constraints of the upstream and downstream equipment. There is always at least one component that limits the mixing process. It is typically in packaging (bagging). If the packaging line slows down the upstream mixing process slows down. Likewise if the upstream input process slows down so does the mixing process. If you have continuous upstream process and choose a batch mixer there are ways to handle the continuous flow. For instance: • • • You can collect the material in a hopper and discharge it in batches to the mixer. You can use multiple match mixers that are sequenced to handle the continuous flow. You can use a hybrid continuous-batch system in which surge hoppers hold material from a continuous upstream process to allow rapid batch mixing without lengthy downtime for material handling.