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Urethane Lining in the Grain Handling Industry


  1. Urethane Liners for Equipment Protection
  2. Versatility of Urethane
  3. Pairing Urethane With Common Grain Handling Equipment
  4. Other Applications for Urethane Lining
  5. Not All Urethane Liners Are Equal

The American grain handling industry is a significant economic generator and a core food source for families worldwide. Grain handling creates thousands of jobs for workers directly involved in harvesting, storing and processing agricultural products and provides indirect employment opportunities for those who work with grain storage equipment. One of those support services is custom designing and manufacturing urethane lining products and applications in the grain handling industry.

Polyurethane is the correct term for the pliable and durable materials used to make urethane lining in grain handling chutes, spouts, elbows, valvesgatescushion boxes, hoppers and other accessories.  According to a 2020 report from the American Chemistry Council, the polyurethanes industry operates in nearly 1,000 locations in the United States, directly generating $38.8 billion in output and 57,500 jobs in the manufacture of polyurethane raw materials and polyurethane products. Many of these jobs come from urethane-lined grain equipment.

Urethane Liners for Equipment Protection

Polyurethane is the ideal material for protecting grain handling equipment against abrasion, impact and impingement damage. Corn, barley, wheat, rice and soybeans are exceptionally abrasive when handled in large volumes and under constant motion.

Urethane is a unique material that significantly extends equipment service life in many industries. Urethane in grain handling applications lasts five to eight times longer than bare metal and 10 to 15 times longer than rubber-lined machinery and handling accessories. Urethane liner applications are also more cost-effective than manufacturing grain handling equipment with abrasive-resistant steel or ceramic-coated components.

Polyurethane manufacturing dates back to World War II, when manufacturers developed it as an inexpensive rubber replacement. By the 1950s, urethane production was widespread and particularly useful in reducing friction and protecting against abrasion in grain handling equipment. Today, urethane chute liners, urethane spout lining and urethane-lined hoppers are highly popular. Accessories like urethane-lined cushion boxes and urethane-lined adjustable elbows also make high-performance complements to urethane-lined spouting equipment.

There are various polyurethane forms. Though urethane chemistry can be complex, they’re essentially elastomers composed by reacting alcohol-based polyols with diisocyanates. Varying the type and ratios of polyols and diisocyanates allows chemists to manufacture various urethane products for different applications. These are the most common urethane materials.

  • Coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers: Because of urethane’s elastic, durable and bonding properties, it’s a leading choice for coating, bonding and sealing. For these reasons alone, urethane is the treatment of choice for lining areas of grain handling equipment where intense granular abrasion quickly wears inferior coatings.
  • Flexible foam: Urethane foams are popular for construction products like flooring and insulation. Flexible foams comprise 30% of the North American urethane market, but they’re rare in grain handling equipment applications.
  • Rigid polyurethane foam: Rigid foam is an excellent insulator, making it energy efficient in residential, commercial and industrial buildings and mechanical equipment. It’s also an excellent sound inhibitor and lends itself well to specific grain storage installations.
  • Thermoplastic polyurethane: This complex urethane form is highly elastic and resistant to abrasive wear and temperature fluctuations. Grain handling equipment designers and manufacturers specify TPU materials in specialized components.
  • Reaction injection molding: Many automotive and electrical components use RIM urethane technology. RIM processes work best for stand-alone parts, and they’re rare as anti-abrasive protective coatings.
  • Waterborne polyurethane dispersions: These urethane coatings and abrasive protectors use water-based solvents. As technology progresses, waterborne polyurethane dispersions are becoming standard for grain handling equipment design and manufacturing specifications.

Because the various urethane material forms perform so well for protecting vulnerable grain flow equipment areas such as chutes, spouts and hoppers, they’re highly valuable investments for farmers and others in the grain supply and movement chain. Urethane liners and coatings provide a quick return on investment. Here are some benefits gained by using urethane linings in grain handling equipment:

  • Minimized abrasion wear
  • Reduces friction in machinery components
  • Resists temperature fluctuations
  • Protects equipment from corrosion
  • Shields against ozone and ultraviolet radiation
  • Controls noise
  • Offers “self-heal” ability after damage
  • Is lightweight compared to AR steel and ceramic coatings
  • Bonds to other substrate surfaces
  • Improves clean and repair jobs
  • Extends equipment lifecycle time
  • Reduces maintenance and fair wear and tear

Through benefits for your grain handling and storage equipment, you can also improve the quality of grains for a better product.

Urethane Compared to AR Steel and Ceramic Tile

The grain handling equipment design and manufacturing industry increasingly specifies urethane linings over other alternatives. Two other widely used materials for grain handling equipment linings are ceramic coatings and abrasion-resistant (AR) steel. While ceramics and AR steel products do a decent job of protecting exposed surfaces, urethane linings and coatings are superior. Here are the advantages to using urethane over ceramics and AR steel in grain handling equipment:

  • Last far longer than AR steel
  • More cost-effective over the machinery’s lifespan
  • Extends grain handling equipment service cycle
  • Less expensive than ceramics
  • Doesn’t corrode as steel does
  • Won’t chip as ceramics tend to do
  • Reduces sound emissions that steel and ceramics amplify
  • Fast to install, maintain and replace
  • Easier to clean than ceramic and AR steel linings

Versatility of Urethane

Closely examining the many benefits and advantages of urethane linings demonstrates the value of choosing urethane linings and coatings in grain bins. One of the chief reasons to select urethane as a lining material is how versatile the material is. Urethane linings are flexible, easy to install and cost-effective. This combination of factors makes urethane a reliable resource for all types of grain handling equipment components. Here’s a more detailed look at how adaptable urethane is as a lining product.

1. Flexibility

Because of its chemical properties and specific design, urethane materials used for grain handling applications are highly flexible. They’re not rigid or stiff products like AR steel or ceramics. Flexible urethane linings can bend, twist and stretch. They let components move with minimal friction and stress, reducing wear, extending product life and cutting down on costly maintenance. Flexibility also extends to urethane linings adapting for use in various types of grain handling equipment. Urethane isn’t only suited for making friction-reduced linings in spouting. It’s also ideal for lining accessories such as cushion boxes, valvesflow retarders, gates and adjustable elbows.

2. Easy Installation

Urethane grain bin liners and accessories are user-friendly products. Urethane’s flexible nature lends well to easy installation, which many equipment owners and operators can handle themselves. Urethane is lightweight and places smoothly with few tools or complicated procedures. However, grain handlers with minimal experience are wise to consult their supplier or manufacturer before their first time working with urethane lining products. Leading urethane accessory designers have the product knowledge and procedural expertise to ensure their materials install correctly and stay in place for years of trouble-free service.

3. Cost-Effective

Investing in urethane linings and accessories for grain handling equipment requires long-term vision and appreciation. There is a price associated with urethane lining purchases, and that requires upfront capital. The payback shortly returns in dividends of low maintenance and far longer equipment performance. Urethane liners are also much less prone to leakage, spillage and blocking. They reduce the costly loss of grain products, crop damage and the serious issue of product cross-contamination. There is an excellent value in these benefits, but the bottom-line cost-effectiveness in urethane liner investment is the damage reduction to sensitive grains. Urethane liners significantly reduce shock to grains caused by inevitable impact forces that occur as the organic products travel through a grain handling system and reduce crop damage.

Pairing Urethane With Common Grain Handling Equipment

Grain handling equipment forms a system of multiple components designed and built to store and distribute agricultural products. In America, the most widely grown grains are corn, soybeans and wheat. These kernels and husks are highly abrasive and quickly erode unprotected handling equipment surfaces. Oats, rye and rice are also common but don’t put quite the strain on handling systems as the other three accomplish.

Those experienced in the grain handling industry know to pair their equipment with compatible components that suit the specific types of grain or grains they typically handle. Smart operators also partner with professional equipment designers and manufacturers who understand the value of urethane liners and coatings. This team approach proves to be a successful pairing for grain facility design that saves farmers and grain movers untold amounts in lost product, worn machinery and expensive downtime.

Fortunately for grain handlers and farmers, today’s technology involving urethane liners and equipment accessories offers simple savings solutions that apply to the bottom line. Urethane is a flexible and cost-effective product that’s easy to install, provided you know your products and specific applications. Here are current grain handling products that pair well with urethane-equipped systems.

1. Urethane Spout and Chute Liners

Grain handling spouts and chutes take the brunt of erosive forces. As bushel after bushel of grain slides, slurs or augers through the system’s series of chutes and spouts, their abrasive action takes a harsh toll on inner surfaces. There are two primary spout and chute designs — square or round. Each has specific applications, and each system operator has their preference. Regardless of their arrangement, chutes and spouts paired with urethane liners will outlast bare or galvanized steel. Urethane spout and chute liners also outperform AR steel and ceramic liners for longevity and return on investment.

2. Cushion Boxes Using Urethane

Cushion boxes are one of the most reliable and cost-effective components paired with a leading-edge grain moving system. Cushion boxes have revolutionized the industry. The DBAR Adjustable Cushion Box by LCDM is a patented device that reduces grain damage during system movement by more than 50%. In some cases, the DBAR cushion box eliminates grain product damage. It accomplishes this through a unique internal code with an adjustable baffle that collects and cushions grain from energetic impact. Urethane is a standard liner option in DBAR cushion boxes as it is with other system pairings.

3. Urethane Lined Transitions, Valves and Elbows

Other grain handling equipment pairings that benefit from urethane coatings are transitions, valves and elbows. Transitions allow one component to seamlessly integrate with another. They tie systems together and perform well when urethane coated. Valves control the grain flow at the discharge point, which is a strategic position to outfit with urethane treatment. Elbows allow direction change in grain handling equipment. They can be a choke point and slow down production by causing friction. Urethane lining solutions quickly rectify elbow restriction problems.

4. Urethane-Lined Hoppers

Hopper bins are generously sized storage containers or bulk materials holding components, or, occasionally, the input funnels to a grain handling system. Regardless of terminology and purpose, hoppers benefit tremendously from urethane lining treatment. Urethane hopper liners excel at three things:

  • Decreasing wall friction when loading and unloading grain products
  • Controlling wall loss from abrasion erosion
  • Corrosion prevention

An overall high-performing grain handling system should require urethane hopper lining.

5. Sump Savers

sump saver can break up frozen and clumped grain, allowing for smooth grain flow. It minimizes the need for entry into a grain bin and the subsequent safety risks that come with it. When you place a sump saver and its sturdy urethane lining next to an above-floor auger mouth or over a bin auger intake, the equipment uses rotating fingers to break up the grain before it enters the auger. If there’s an issue, you power it on by hooking up the hydraulic pumps from safely outside the grain bin.

6. Silo-Level Monitoring Systems With Urethane-Lined Paddles

silo-level monitoring system uses a sensor with rotary paddles projected at the chosen checkpoint. When there is no grain at that point, the paddles can spin freely, but if the grain reaches that height, its weight will prevent the paddles from turning. The sensor uses this information to determine the grain level and send it back to you via wireless communication for 24/7 monitoring.

The paddles of these sensors have a urethane lining for additional durability, allowing you to keep bins at the right levels and track inventory with various grain types. If you’re looking to upgrade your grain handling system to something a little more technologically advanced, a bin monitoring system is a wise choice.

Other Applications for Urethane Lining

The agriculture industry isn’t the only beneficiary of investing in urethane treatment. Other organizations and businesses have discovered how urethane products can dramatically reduce abrasion and extend their material handling equipment lifespan. Combined, these high-volume American industries increase their profits through a return on urethane investment. These are other commercial and industrial applications using urethane coatings.

  • Mining: Open pit and underground mines employ urethane to make abrasive ore transfer smoothly.
  • Concrete: Cement producers and concrete places find urethane liners perfect for reducing friction-related problems.
  • Industrial: Urethane is the ideal solution for handling corrosive materials in the oil, gas and refining sectors.
  • Pipe lining: Every industry using pipes to transport products benefits from urethane protection.
  • Automobile: The auto industry uses urethane for body and upholstery components.
  • Truck bed liners: Protecting truck beds with urethane lining is tremendously popular for damage control.

Not All Urethane Liners Are Equal

Like all products, urethane lining products are not identical. Since many different industries and applications require urethane protection, it isn’t possible to have a universal urethane blend or a one-size-fits-all solution. Grain handling is only part of the growing demand for quality urethane protective products.

However, grain handling equipment is a specialized field. Therefore, it’s only prudent to involve a specialty company when designing and building urethane liners and components destined to move American grain. That American specialist is LCDM.

LCDM has four decades of experience in designing stock and custom grain handling equipment. We work with valued customers like you to develop innovative solutions for grain flow equipment that help increase your efficiency and reduce overall costs. The design and support services offered through LCDM maximize your performance and deliver the best value available in the industry. Part of that return comes through investing in urethane liners and treatments.

To discuss how LCDM can partner with you for an outstanding return, call our knowledgeable and professional staff. Our engineering and layout team will review your project and evaluate your options through SolidWorks 3D software that transforms your concepts into reality. You can call us at 888-963-9145 or reach us anytime through our online contact form.

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