Dry Ice Feeding for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Equipment for dispensing dry ice into insulated containers holding COVID-19 vaccines had to be designed and produced by this OEM in just eight weeks.

Pellets of ice move down the central “pant leg” and arrive on left and right electromagnetic vibratory feeders for discharge into insulated containers.
Pellets of ice move down the central “pant leg” and arrive on left and right electromagnetic vibratory feeders for discharge into insulated containers.

Material Transfer & Storage is a leader in the custom design and manufacture of bulk bag filling, conditioning, and discharging systems for dry powders and bulk solids. When they were called upon to design and build customized equipment that would dispense dry ice into insulated containers carrying COVID-19 vaccines, the MTS team worked faster than ever before to meet the tight deadlines and compliance requirements of this vital project. Leveraging the talents of its experienced, committed staff and trusted vendors, MTS produced the dry ice discharging systems in just eight weeks.

“Designing and building customized equipment this rapidly involves a level of knowledge and experience we are fortunate to have on our talented team,” says MTS President Scott Nyhof. “It’s also good to have suppliers like Eriez that we can trust.”

When it came to vaccine distribution, MTS needed to maintain ice pellet size consistency, meter ice evenly to protect each vaccine, and monitor ice discharged during packaging—and the process had to be automated. The integrated process MTS came up with includes a crusher, a scale system, and customized feeder and controls required to report diagnostics to the vaccine manufacturer operating the system.

An essential part of the success of the MTS dry ice unloading/feeding system is the integration of a vibratory feeder, the Eriez 65B Electromagnetic Feeder. The rush to move the vaccine to distribution centers around the globe demanded that Eriez respond swiftly and effectively.

Eriez created engineered drawings and CAD models for MTS within days. They delivered a custom-engineered solution to meet the demanding timeline for the project. It helped tremendously that MTS and Eriez have a long history of success together.

The Eriez feeder was required to handle the sub-zero of dry ice to protect the new vaccine, and precise feed control was critical. Just as vital, this feeder model handled the specific capacity and proprietary requirements of this special application.

“The customization includes an over-tray electromagnetic drive configuration for maximum clearance below the feeder tray and closed-loop control to maintain precise tray vibration under temperature conditions that are cold but not exactly constant,” says Rob Yandrick, Eriez Product Manager-Vibratory/Screening, “The Eriez feeder design also provides excellent vibration isolation, that is, its vibration does not transfer to the other important components of the overall MTS system.” Considering that there are other things going on—like load cells measuring weighments—it’s good to keep the vibrations of the Eriez unit isolated from these other critical activities taking place in the overall system.

Eriez feeders and solid state controls integrate readily with MTS’s master controller, which is supplied by Rockwell. According to Yandrick, electromagnetic feeders as opposed to those more mechanical in nature that are driven by motors are ideal for packaging applications because they can be rapidly cycled on/off and feed material quickly, evenly, and consistently.

MTS custom-built a system that also includes a customized touch-screen control panel to monitor system performance and send diagnostic reports back to the vaccine manufacturer.

“We have always held ourselves to a higher standard, believing that doing things right and serving others well are the most important things that we do,” says Nyhof. “We are humbled to play a role in delivering the COVID-19 vaccine to millions of Americans.”

PACK EXPO Las Vegas and Healthcare Packaging EXPO (Sept. 27-29, Las Vegas Convention Center) will reunite the packaging and processing community. With over 1400 exhibitors, no other event in 2021 will bring together a more comprehensive gathering of suppliers offering new products, technologies and solutions. Attendee registration is now open.


   Read about how beverage suppliers are facing post-COVID challenges and opportunities.


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