If this sounds like you, we can help. There are a lot of different machines, features, methods, and several companies who all manufacture great particle analysis equipment or shakers.
There are machines that cost over 20,000 dollars and some that cost as little as 1,200 dollars. There are electronic machines and mechanical machines. And we can’t forget that there are all kinds of industry standards to follow.
We wrote this article to help you make your decision and buying process a little easier. We hope that after reading this you have a better understanding of what you will be facing when you go to choose equipment that is right for you.
1. Size Range and Material
It’s probably no surprise that the first thing we are going to address is the type and size of the particle you are analyzing. While there are tons of machines out there that will work for the same type of particle or size, this is going to be the minimal information that you must have to be able to find what works best.
It is important to not just identify the average particle size, but the full range of sizes in the distribution.
It is important to establish the characteristics of the material that you will be sieving. Here are some questions you likely will want to ask yourself when you are looking for a sieve shaker:
Is my material
- Free flowing/dry?
- Water Soluble?
- A fine powder?
- Less or more dense?
Knowing the answer to these questions will help when looking at descriptions of machines or talking to customer service reps about the equipment you are considering.
There are also going to be some immediate distinctions you can make based on this information, as some machines will be ruled out completely depending on your responses to the above questions.
2. Type of Sieve Shaker
There are 4 main types of sieve shakers on the market. We aren’t going to get into the nitty-gritty of every single machine and model, but we are going to talk a little bit about each type of shaker to help you narrow down which might be right for you.
Regardless of which type of machine you decide to choose, it is important to perform an “end of sieving” analysis on any new sieve shaker. This test will help you determine the right run time for the method you have chosen. You can read about this process in our latest article all about how to do an end of sieving analysis.
Mechanical Sieve Shakers
These are the most commonly used and popular type of sieve shakers.
These machines use a motor and separate particles with either orbital or circular motions. In a lot of the mechanical sieve shakers, a hammer also taps the top of the sieve stack to help particles find the openings in the sieves. The hammer units are recommended for finer particles.
There are mechanical sieve shakers out there that don’t use a hammer, and simply oscillate or vibrate to separate the particles. These will work for larger particles that are free-flowing and that are easily sieved.
These machines have to be mechanically secured because they can move a lot. If they aren’t bolted to a table or workbench, they can walk themselves off the table - literally.
The W.S. Tyler Ro-Tap falls into this category. It has two motions, both oscillating and tapping from a hammer, hence the name “Ro-Tap”. These actions combine to help the particles seek the openings in the sieve stack. If you are interested in the Ro-Tap you can learn all about it in our article: What is the Ro-Tap Sieve Shaker?
Electromagnetic/Vibratory Sieve Shakers
Sieve shakers that use electromagnetic energy to agitate the particles are sometimes called vibratory, electronic, or electromagnetic sieve shakers. These types of sieve shakers are newer innovations on the traditional mechanical shaker.
An even, or fluid, bed of the sample is created by a smooth vibration sensation that allows particles to be analyzed. Pause intervals can be set to allow less dense particles to settle through the openings.
There are notable bonuses to using this type of shaker. They are quieter than a tapping or oscillating machine, and they usually offer some more controls and customization of the sieving action.
We have a few models of electromagnetic shakers and you can check them out on our website: Ro-Tap E Sieve Shakers.
Sonic Sieve Shakers
A sonic sieve shaker uses acoustic energy and air to separate particles. A vertical column of air is created to oscillate through a sieve or stack of sieves.
The motion of the air alternately lifts the sample and then assists it through the sieve apertures. These shakers still use sieves, but they are encased in a steel housing, typically with clear doors through which to view the test.
Sonic sifters can separate material as fine as 5um. You can check out more about them on Gilson Global’s website.
Air Jet Sieve Machine
The Air Jet Sieve Machine is intended for particles that have low density and are very fine such as powders, like flour. Even though flour is technically made up of small grains, it clumps together and needs to be deagglomerated to be measured correctly.
In an air jet sieve machine, a vacuum is used to create a stream of air that disperses the particles on the sieve. The air allows the fine particles to pass through the openings in the mesh and be measured accordingly.
For more info on the air jet sieve and how it works, you can go to Hosokawa's website and check it out.
It is no surprise that budget made this list. We include this because it might surprise you to learn that you can get particle analysis equipment for as little as 50 dollars or you can pay all the way up to over 50,000 dollars.
Now, there are a lot of differences between those machines and methods, but they are out there. While it is important to work through the other considerations we have listed, your budget is still an important one.
If you find you are at the lower end of the budget, there are still going to be many options in that range you will be able to choose from.
The cheapest method of sieving is to sieve by hand. This means that you use a sieve and a brush or another tool to push the particles through the sieve. This is still a valid and widely used method of sieving.
One problem with this method is that there is a lot of room for human error. By using a sieve shaker to do your sieving for you instead of by hand, you can eliminate a lot of the chance for human error and you will gain repeatability.
Of course, to use a sieve shaker instead of a sieve itself, you are going to be increasing your cost.
When it comes to cost, we think you should find a range that suits your needs. If you are sieving a material like sand that requires a lot of tests per day, you may want to consider a more reliable and speedier method, like a Dynamic Image Analysis System. One of these machines is going to cost quite a bit more than a sieve shaker, but it could be worth the investment for you.
If sieving is not as critical to your process, and you are sieving only once or twice a day, maybe you want to go with just test sieves or a sieve shaker and spend 5-250 dollars for a sieve. A sieve shaker will cost you around 2,000 - 5,000 dollars depending on model and make. This is much more cost effective purchase, but as we said before, it increases your chances of human error and reduces repeatability.
There are a few different concerns that all fall into this category including sound/noise, space, and accessibility.
“How much room do I have for a sieve shaker?”
There are a lot of sizes of sieve shakers. There are mechanical shakers that go inside of a sound enclosure cabinet which can be as small as 35” wide by 24” deep by 29” high.
There are huge sieve shakers such as a tray shaker, which can be as large as 107” wide by 48” deep by 106” high.
An air jet sieving machine has a relatively small footprint on a tabletop, but you must have room for the vacuum.
If you are looking to get a sieve shaker that will fit into a very small lab, an electromagnetic unit might be your best option.
“Will people be working nearby the sieve shaker?”
Noise is a factor mostly when it comes to mechanical shakers. Many of the shakers on the market are designed to minimize the noise of the machine. Sound enclosure cabinets are available for most models to further control the inherent operating noise.
To be clear, mechanical sieve shakers like the Ro-Tap are used in labs all over the world. If you are concerned with noise on a mechanical shaker or want to find out more you can check out our article: Reasons My Sieve Shaker is Noisy.
5. Industry Standards
Depending on the material you are looking to analyze, you can probably find an industry standard to advise you on the recommended sieving method.
Sometimes industry standards are required and although we can’t tell you what yours are, we can help you figure out where you can look.
ASTM Standards are available for material ranging from coarse aggregates and plastics to pharmaceuticals.
API Standards for sand and ceramic proppants are available for reference as well.
You can also find a wide range of Standards through ANSI.
To Sum It Up
If you take nothing else away from this article we hope that you at least are aware of some of the type so information and choices that you need to be able to select the right solution for your processes.
We also hope that you realized that there are tons of options available to you when it comes to sieve shakers and although it can seem overwhelming, it means you have a good chance of finding the best machine for your particular needs.
Whether you purchase one of our Ro-Tap Sieve Shakers or our Computerized Particle Analyzers, or look elsewhere for your machine, we want you to be an informed buyer.
If you want to explore more information about our Ro-Tap Sieve Shaker you can learn all about it in our article: Everything you need to know about the Ro-Tap sieve shaker.
If you have any other questions about our machines or particle analysis in general, feel free to reach out to us.