The two most common styles of cannabis trimming machines differ significantly in their design. When compared head to head, what yields better quality and is more efficient: batch style or single piece flow?
As growers, there are many considerations when making a Cannabis trimming machine comparison. Aside from evaluating the overall quality of trim and machine efficiency, you should compare this against wet and dry flower conditions, and consider what’s becoming the industry norm.
Engineering & Design: How They Work
A typical batch style trimmer will use a series of brushes rotating inside a large metal drum. The product rolls around in the machine for anywhere from 10-30 minutes. It requires very little manpower while in operation.
Without a tumbler, blade or vacuum, the leaves are brushed up against rotating discs. As the leaves are broken off, the flower becomes more rounded and can have a slightly polished appearance.
The perception around this style of trimmer is that it’s the most gentle, and has previously been a preferred method when exclusively dry trimming, as dried and cured flower is more brittle and fragile than when it’s fully hydrated.
Single Piece Flow:
Single piece flow involves minimal handling time, as the product moves quickly through a rotating tumbler. The flower is pulled against the wall of the tumbler by the force of a vacuum. Leaves are sucked through slots on the tumbler walls and removed by a series of blades on the outside.
In this style of trimming, there’s no downtime. The flower is continuously loaded at one end through a hopper or conveyor and exits the tumbler through either an output chute or additional conveyor.
Conveyors are an accessory exclusive to single piece flow trimming systems. Because conveyors increase the overall efficiency, single piece flow machines are often preferred by large-scale, commercial producers.
With some types of single piece flow machines, multiple machines can be linked together, such as Twister Trimming Systems, allowing for increased capacity.
Single piece flow tumblers provide the most precise trim, least amount of handling, and can allow for the highest output. This style of trimmer is often preferred by growers wanting to run their machines continuously, and scale up the size of their grow or harvesting frequency in the future.
Wet vs. Dry: What Trimmer is Best for Which Condition?
The majority of batch style machines suggest trimming dry and bringing your moisture content to between 5%-9%. Flower this dry will be very fragile and should be handled with great care.
Batch style trimmers are limited to dry trimming because at moisture levels of 9%, or higher the leaves are too pliable and flexible to be trimmed. Untrimmed wet flower needs the suction of a vacuum pulling the leaves against a tumbler and blade.
Single piece flow machines, such as Twister Trimmers can trim under both wet and dry conditions, made possible through a simple tumbler swap. This customization allows you full control over your harvest, as certain strains respond better to trimming under wet or dry conditions.
With Twister Trimmers, the product stays in the tumblers for less than a minute, and you can capture any excess trim with Twister Trim Savers. For the best dry trimming experience with Twisters, we suggest a moisture content of 10%-13% (ideally 11% hydrated).
When using a tumbler designed for wet trimming, Twister Trimmers can handle fully hydrated flower, freshly bucked and harvested.
Quality & Efficiency
During batch style trimming, quality control happens at intervals of every 10-30 minutes. Because batch style trimmers don’t use blades, there may be more stem removal and handling time required after processing, as the brushes won’t remove the hardier part of the flower.
With single piece flow trimming machines, as soon as the first handful of product exits the tumbler, you can begin to inspect the quality of your trim. You can make real-time adjustments to your method, such as the volume, or pace in which the product is being loaded into the machine without any downtime.
The design of single piece flow machines is based on the principles of lean manufacturing. This refers to improvements in workflow, to maximize efficiency and reduce waste (such as excessive handling time). When using add-ons like the Twister Conveyors, you can achieve consistent input and output from your machines, further improving your overall quality and efficiency.
Hands-On, or Hands-Off
Some growers may prefer batch style trimming if they prefer a more hands-off, passive trimming method. They may use the time in between batches for other aspects of their harvest, or personal tasks if they are a home grower.
Using single piece flow trimming machines means being actively engaged in the trimming process. This is a more hands-on approach but allows growers and lead trimmers the ability to keep a close eye on their trim quality, and make adjustments as they go.
Previously batch style trimmers were thought to better preserve the highly valued trichomes and crystallized appearance of trimmed flower. However, at Twister, we’ve worked with over a dozen federally licensed facilities in Canada that have recently converted over from batch style to our tumbler style, single piece flow machines. Each of these facilities utilizes both in-house and third-party testing, and none have ever found a consistent or significant difference between hand trimming, batch style, or tumbler based machines regarding of trichome loss.
With Single Piece Flow, through the combination of tumbler, blade design and vacuum, you’ll achieve a more precise trim - whether you're trimming wet or dry - and greater efficiency due to continuous run-time and no interruptions.
When growing and producing Cannabis is your livelihood, actively paying attention to detail at every step along your production leads to a successful harvest. Real-time, hands-on quality control achieved with single piece flow machines is incomparable.