Four Types of Blockage That Can Be Cleared With an Air Cannon

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About Me

Maintaining Industrial Equipment During the school holidays last year, I spent time working at my family's manufacturing plant. They have a lot of industrial equipment, and I spent most of my time shadowing the maintenance manager. It was fascinating to see the amount of care and cleaning which goes into making sure all the machines run smoothly. I began this blog as a way to document the different types of maintenance I learned for two reasons. Firstly, because I aim to take over the family business one day, and also to share my knowledge with others who are interested in running their own manufacturing plant.




An air cannon is a device which blasts air into a blockage that has stopped the flow of materials, freeing them up and allowing a smooth flow. It works by blasting high-pressure air into the blockage, usually for a fraction of a second at a time. It can be used with many types of materials, such as wood or plastic chippings, fibres, aggregates, ash or any other material that needs to flow through pipes, silos or bins. Here are four types of blockage that can be removed by using an air cannon.


In this type of blockage, the material builds up at the exit of the bin until eventually it blocks it completely and nothing else can flow out — just as a plug blocks the exit pipe in a bath or a sink. An air cannon can be used to blast air into the pipe and blow the plug out of the way, allowing the materials to flow smoothly again.


A rathole is formed when the material clings to the side of the bin or the pipe. The material in the centre of the silo falls straight down, but the surrounding material stays where it is, leading to a much-reduced rate of flow, and a hole that appears vertically down the material. The stuck material can be freed with an air cannon, which removes the hole and ensures that the process can resume at full strength.

Bridges and arches

Bridging occurs when the material hangs together above the opening of the bin or silo. It is different to plugging as it leaves an air pocket above the opening rather than physically blocks it, but the effect is the same — the material can no longer flow. An air cannon will be able to break up the bridge and allow the material to flow again.

Arches are similar to bridges, but here the blockage forms higher up, above the sloping part of the silo.


In this kind of blockage, the material begins to cling to the sides of the bin and builds up into a mass that can slow down the rate at which the material flows. This too can be cleared with an air cannon.

All of these blockages can slow down the process, costing time and money to clear. An air cannon is a simple solution that should quickly get the process running again.

For more information on what an air cannon can do for you, contact a company like ESS Engineering.

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