Pop quiz: Name one consumer product that uses a mechanical cyclone.
Unless you haven’t seen the TV commercials for the last 20 years, there is a good chance you guessed the Dyson vacuum.
James Dyson, a British industrial designer with a penchant for improving everyday products, invented the much-hyped, pricey home appliance about 30 years ago. Dyson decided that the best way to deal with the pain of vacuum cleaners that didn’t suck up debris, was to build one with cyclonic action. The result? A premium-priced, cyclone-based vacuum that delivered consistent performance, even in the most demanding environments (like homes with pets and kids)! Dyson’s design separates all the dog hair, lint, and mystery crumbs from the air that is drawn into the cyclone vacuum at high speeds, leaving a tidy little cup full of filth that’s easy to dispose of. The now-purified air is continuously piped back into the room while the vacuum is running. (Otherwise, the tiny little vacuum container would quickly fill with air and burst — yikes!)
But, you would also be right if you guessed centrifugal juice extractors!
We’re talking the kind with the cone-shaped screen filters that are notoriously tough to clean. These machines use cyclonic separation to squeeze all that juicy goodness from your favorite fruits and veggies, leaving you with two containers: one filled with juice, and one with all the other, non-drinkable bits.
So, Where Else Are Mechanical Cyclones Used?
Mr. Dyson found inspiration at his local sawmill, thanks to their industrial-sized cyclone separator that was used to remove massive quantities of sawdust from the air. This helped guard against combustion (sawdust is super-flammable) and allowed the sawdust to be re-claimed for use in composite wood products like building materials.
Cyclones, a.k.a. cyclone separators, are also widely used in food manufacturing facilities to remove bits of grease from the air — referred to as ‘scrubbers’; in oil refineries to divide oils and gases; and to filter and purify waste water at sewage treatment plants.
OK, How Do They Actually Work?
The Dyson vacuum, just like all mechanical cyclones, is based on one basic scientific principal – Centrifugal Force. Using centrifugal force, centrifugal separation can mechanically divide particles (like dust, dirt, and other solids) from liquids, gases, and air.
For centrifugal separation to work, a few things are needed:
- A narrow, cylindrical container that’s flat on one end and cone-shaped at the other end
- The flat-bottomed end of the cylinder contains either a powerful, high-speed fan or is connected to a high-velocity blower that inputs the air, liquid, or gas into the cylinder
- A trap, filter, or bin at the bottom of the cone to collect the separated materials
When the contaminated air, liquid, or gas is forced into the cyclone separator, it quickly develops a tornado-like, centrifugal pattern of rotation, thanks to the narrow cone end of the container. This causes any materials that are suspended in the air, liquid, or gas to collide against the walls of the container and escape the cyclone. These particles are usually collected in a trap or collection bin at the end of the cone. The purified carrier material (air, liquid, or gas) is usually expelled through a large outlet at the opposite end of the cyclone cylinder.
Since you now know Kennametal is behind those mysterious cylinders at your local sawmill used to filter the air, you should also know that we’re behind the Engine Valve that keeps your car running day after day, too! Oh, and for coffee-lovers, the Crusher Hammers used to grind the coffee you drank this morning had a little something to do with us, too. Think of it this way, our Industry Wear Solutions are everywhere there’s wear.