On March 5-6, PCI Publisher Donna Campbell and I had the opportunity to attend Bühler Inc.’s Open House and Technology Seminar in Mahwah, NJ. During this two-day event, Bühler showcased its new combined facility (merger of Bühler Grinding & Dispersing and Draiswerke, Inc.) and gave a broad overview of topics for all aspects of wet grinding and dispersing of materials across a wide spectrum of industries. In addition, the event featured special presentations delivered by industry and process technology experts and hands-on demonstrations featuring new concepts, processes, technologies and equipment.

The event kicked off with a presentation by Steve Jacobson, General Manager, Grinding & Dispersing Technologies North America. Jacobson explained Bühler’s unconventional acquisition of Draiswerke (first Draiswerke GmbH in Germany in 2003, then Drais Inc. in Mahwah, NJ, in 2010). He stressed that Bühler is capitalizing on the team and structure located in Mahwah, and that it believes in North America and in U.S. manufacturing. In general, research and development is a top priority for Bühler. According to Jacobson, 50% of sales are for products that were developed only over the last four to five years. The company wants to bring the R&D in close collaboration with customers through trials and analysis – thus the opening of the newly created Regional Application Development and Education Center (RADEC).

Day One of the event included a hands-on tour of the RADEC. This newly merged and re-vamped facility is centrally located and easy to access for many of Bühler’s customers. The center includes Bühler’s latest technology and a full range of lab-size process and analytical equipment. With this new facility, customers will be able to develop and optimize their current production processes or develop and test new processes to help them increase their success and profitability. The first trials were scheduled to begin the week of March 12, and prior to opening, the facility was already booked up with trials through April.

During the facility tour, the group of 70 attendees was divided into small groups and rotated around to different 15-minute demonstrations. Below is a list of just a few of the stops on the tour:

 • The MicroMedia™ annular mill for nano processing. This small-volume agitated bead mill was designed to fill the increased demand to work with smaller beads (it is suitable for beads from 20 to 500 µm). The particular unit that was part of the demonstration had a clear cover over the processing chamber, so that we could see the beads concentrated in an eddied outer ring layer through which the product flowed. This mill also features a new screen design, which minimizes the transfer of beads from the outer process area into the inner cooling duct and allows for high flow rates, even with the smallest beads.

• The Trias™ three-roll mill. The Trias features extremely high roll speeds and a closed cooling circuit, providing excellent cooling properties for temperature-sensitive products. A very wide roll pressure range can be used: from almost 0 N/mm
up to 80 N/mm. The unit’s automatic control of roll pressure and gap allows for constant and repeatable product qualities. Products previously produced in gap operation can be processed in low roller pressure range (5 to 10 N/mm).

• The analytical lab. Here, customers can immediately analyze particle size and viscosity on various testing equipment. Adjacent to the analytical lab is a private conference room for customers, featuring a large screen and video link. With this feature, customers can hold meetings with others not able to be present at the facility, enabling everyone to see and discuss the testing results first hand.

• The warehouse. This portion of the facility is divided into two sections – one for new equipment builds, and one for reconditioning of old machines and parts storage. New equipment is usually assembled overseas and then shipped to this location for it to be “Americanized” to local standards and requests. Quality control is done here as well. The facility also has a second warehouse, which will become available as the business grows and expands beyond its current capacity.

Day Two of the event featured technical presentations on the latest advancements in grinding and dispersing technology. Norbert Kern, Head of Process Engineering, Grinding & Dispersion, Bühler AG, gave a detailed presentation on the three-roll mill. Dr. Steffen Pilotek, Director Business Development North America, Nanotechnology, Bühler, Inc., gave a presentation on nanoparticle dispersing. And Samuel Schaer, Vice President, Advanced Materials Division and Head of the Grinding & Dispersion Business Unit, Bühler AG, gave a presentation on the fundamentals of wet milling in agitated bead mills.

The overall goal for this event was to inform customers about Bühler’s new Mahwah capabilities, which will help them better capitalize on improvements to existing equipment or develop ideas for investment in new growth markets. For PCI, it was a great learning experience. 

The RADEC’s analytical laboratory.

Steffen Pilotek’s presentation.

Hands-on training with the Cenomic™ 3 bead mill.