Automation in the terracotta industry: a tailored dryer for enhanced productivity and energy efficiency

Imagine a heart surgery performed while the heart continues to beat and carry out its function. This metaphor perfectly encapsulates the challenge we faced during the installation of a fully automated industrial dryer for a leading terracotta production company.

In their quest to modernize their facilities in line with Industry 4.0 principles and optimize space management, the company entrusted us with a project to replace an outdated dryer with a new, tailor-made solution aimed at maximum automation and energy efficiency. And all this had to be done without halting factory operations, to ensure uninterrupted production.

It was a complex undertaking, demanding meticulous planning and adaptation to the available space. Placed just 1.5 meters away from other equipment and 2 meters from a pit, the dryer’s installation required a phased approach, completing one part before moving to the next.

Moreover, the previous dryer had a production capacity of 200 quintals per day. In the same space, we managed to install a technologically advanced system with a production capacity of 1,000 quintals per day, achieving the dual objective of space optimization and increased productivity.

The new dryer: a beacon of industrial automation

Our solution, a fully automated industrial dryer, fulfilled the client’s desire to automate the loading and handling phase during the drying process.
From clay extrusion to finishing, every step in terracotta vase production is now seamlessly automated, eliminating the need for manual intervention. More specifically, the making of a terracotta vase starts with extruding a cylinder from clay, which then moves to the press where the shape is formed. At this stage, the vase is taken and subjected to finishing to remove excess clay. After the finishing operation, the vase is placed on the transport line until it reaches the loading point on the dryer’s platform. The system we installed ensures that all these actions are carried out automatically, without the intervention of an operator, but thanks to a manipulator or a robot. Using a robot provides an additional advantage over a manipulator because the pieces are not picked up with a gripper but with a pad that avoids contact with the external surface of the vase. This eliminates any defects related to the handling phase and consequently reduces production waste. In other words, we introduced a robotic system for handling, ensuring delicate vase surfaces remain pristine, thus minimizing production defects and waste. But we didn’t stop there. We proposed automating the unloading and loading onto carts. The idea was well received, and the dryer has already been prepared for this development, further streamlining production and freeing up human resources from manual tasks, thus enhancing work quality.

Controlled by two electrical panels strategically positioned for optimal wiring, the dryer’s operation logic prioritizes efficiency and simplifies maintenance.

Overall, the operating logic of this terracotta dryer was designed to ensure maximum efficiency of the system and facilitate maintenance. To safeguard components from the hot, humid environment inside the dryer, susceptible to damage and challenging maintenance, all control and automation elements are externalized.

Heat recovery and energy efficiency: cornerstones of our ceramic dryers

Beyond automation, our dryer is custom-designed and energy-efficient, tailored precisely to the company’s needs. Operating on a counterflow principle compared to the product flow, warm air is introduced from the bottom, traversing the dryer chamber, where it cools down and absorbs moisture, ensuring optimal drying tailored to the material type being dried.

Notably, the dryer harnesses excess heat from furnaces, which would otherwise dissipate, delivering both environmental benefits and significant cost savings for the client.

Innovation, efficiency, and sustainability converge in our drying solutions.

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