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Automation is key to safety in the future of grain handling

POSTED 11/05/2020

With safety being a major concern in grain facilities, automation is becoming a top priority for both new and existing facilities. At Amber Waves Inc., a grain facility manufacturer in Richardton, North Dakota, owners view automation as a way to expand their product offering and reach new customers. One of their customers, Stone Mill, is utilizing LINAK actuators to reduce errors and increase efficiency in their family-owned grain facility.

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After learning about the success of electric linear actuators in other grain applications, the American manufacturer Amber Waves Inc. decided to install electric actuators in their slide gates as an alternative for a cumbersome motor and gearbox with a rotary encoder – so far with nothing but positive results.

“The install went pretty easy and we have not had one actuator cause any problems since we started using the product,” says Brent Swanson, Engineering Manager at Amber Waves Inc. “The actuators do it all in one unit much more cleanly than the motor and gearbox”.

The feedback provided by the electric actuators has given operators the ability to precisely control the slide gates remotely via PLC, saving time and increasing efficiency. Operators at Stone Mill grain facility are using the feedback to switch between fully open and 25% open positions on slide gates. 

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Along with enhanced flexibility and control, Stone Mill has reduced the amount of product loss from spillage created by pneumatic actuators. “We wanted something that moved slower and allowed us a better control of opening positions,” says Josh Reisenauer, General Manager of Stone Mill. 

With electric actuators for both hazardous and non-hazardous environments, LINAK® provides actuators for the specific requirements of grain applications. The LA36, a linear actuator from LINAK, is available as an explosion-proof option with UL1203/CSA C22.2 25-1966 certifications for Class II Division I, Groups F & G.

Amber Waves has utilized these options by ordering actuators for both indoor and outdoor grain applications.

“LINAK sales engineers are very knowledgeable and can get us what we are asking for and even point out options that can help us take the system farther along,” says Swanson.

As for the future of automation, he says that Amber Waves Inc. plans to expand their product offering even more. “Automation is always helpful. We will continue to automate our products for our customers”.

As for Stone Mill, automation is necessary to eliminate human error in the facility. “We will continue striving to improve our processes, decrease our potential for errors, and increase efficiency through automation,” states Reisenauer.