Full steam ahead - Hillebrand’s new heater pad revolutionizes flexitank heating

Hillebrand is home to some extra-ordinary people. People who lay awake at night, examining the technical or physical challenges our bulk liquid customers face, when moving their product internationally. It’s those people who pioneer advancements in our equipment’s ability to safeguard product.  And, it’s those people, who have done it again!

I’ve been chatting to Sergio Parenzee, the brain behind the new recyclable and reusable heater pad design. Only available at Hillebrand!

Sergio, why do some products travelling in a flexitank need heating?
Without being too technical, it’s because when the temperature of the product reduces, it either thickens or solidifies. Products like Palm oil, tallow, stearin and distilled fatty acids. Solidifying during transport isn’t detrimental to their quality.  It just means that in order to get them out of the flexitank, they need to get back to the ‘pumpable’ / ‘fluid’ state at which they were loaded into the flexitank.

What’s the difference between this new heater pad and others in the market?
A lot! Physically, traditional heater pads are made using a combination of metal and rubber tubes. The Heater pad sits underneath a flexitank, inside a container. Steam supply pressure needs to be carefully regulated into these systems to limit the risk of burning the underside of the tanks. The heater pads transfer heat from the tubes to the flexitank and subsequently its contents. The efficiency of the traditional heater pad is determined by factors such as heating surface area, diameter of tubing, maximum steam supply pressure, tubing wall thickness and even the consistency at which steam flows through the entire system.

Our new flexitank heater pad is entirely manufactured from polymers. There are no metal parts, making it 100% recyclable.  What’s more, it maximizes conductive surface area and utilizes multiple heat transfer mechanisms, thereby fully optimizing the heat energy contained in the supply steam. This allows more heat to be transferred to the contents of the tank over a shorter period of time, outperforming the currently claimed ‘best heater pads on the market’. By removing the metal parts from the design, you can beginning the heating process at ‘full steam’, whilst traditional models require you to do it gradually. A term called throttling, which is to allow the steam (& then temperature) to gradually build.  If you try to heat at full power using a traditional heater pads with metal pipes, you’ll risk scorching or burning both the flexitank and product.  This is not directly detrimental to the product, but it can release a burnt odor (from the scorching) that can taint the products taste or smell.

What else is unique/advantageous about your design?
A lot! Our strategy was initially to tackle two problems with traditional heater pad systems:

  1. Eliminate the need for a physical thermal blanket. It gets placed on top of the flexitank to try to retain the heat generated by the pads. The cold air gap between the top of the flexitank and the ceiling of the container counteracts the productivity of the pad.
  2. Minimize heating and discharge time.  Heating thousands of liters from warm pipes underneath the flexitank is a lengthy process. Especially if the product is highly viscous or has a high melting point.

Our solution to these problems:
Our heater pad distributes steam evenly, since it is not a closed loop system.  We’ve added a vertical element to the design too, which releases the steam above the flexitank as well. This steam fills the cold air gap between the flexitank and the container celling, speeding up the heating process.  A natural thermal blanket if you think about it. By speeding up the heating process, you speed up the discharge process.  This saves money on labor costs which is usually a by the hour rate.

What are the new heater pads green credentials like?
The design means the surface contact of the heat on the flexitank is far superior to others you’ll find in the market. We use multiple sources of heat transfer (the pad and the steam that warms the air gap) and this means we can then limit the amount of heat loss from the surface of the flexitank by containing it inside the container. So we’re extracting the maximum amount of energy created by the steam making it more energy efficient.  Overall, meaning less steam energy is required to heat a product over a shorter period of time.

Its polymeric material is lightweight and compact in design too.  So when we ship a pack of heater pads to a customer, we can now send them three times more pieces of equipment in one package compared to traditional models. This is reducing the energy it takes to position equipment.

Being completely recyclable and reusable (traditional ones are not!) completes the circular economy we strive for, in all in-house manufactured equipment.


Find out more about how we approach sustainability here

Interested to know more?
Speak to your local Hillebrand bulk logistics expert or contact us

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