Innovations Keep Food Processing Conveyors Flexible
Luckily for food manufacturers, conveyor technology has not stood still. A number of vendors have introduced innovations this year that move the technology that moves your products.
By Bob Sperber, Plant Operations Editor | 08/08/2011
Depending on the tubing size — diameters range from two to six inches — throughput ranges from 75 to 1,240 cubic feet per hour, moving product at an average speed of 100 ft. per minute for a "low-speed but respectable throughput where more traditional systems might damage materials," Seidel says.
The AquaPruf Stainless Steel conveyor platform from Dorner Manufacturing, (www.dornerconveyors.com), Hartland, Wis., offers a convenient, sanitary option for plants that use curves in a wash-down environment. It's primarily used to optimize available space in the processing area, where curves reduce the number of transfers, as well as to move product in and around equipment, pillars and other obstructions.
"The use of curves reduces the number of transfers required and therefore reduces the potential for product loss as well," says Mike Hosch, director of new product development.
The design of the curve sections is an improvement over traditional designs that use fasteners to remove the plastic chain hold-downs from the curve and this — combined with the platform's tip-up tail, clean-out windows and hygienic design — allows for fast and effective sanitation. "The chain simply lifts out of the curve," says Hosch, adding, "Access to the inside of the conveyor frame is literally only seconds and requires no tools."
The "no tools" feature is a speed and sanitation claim to fame for this design. In operation, Dorner's belting is held down on the outer edge and slides along a guide strip on the inner edge. Tools have been eliminated because this design provides just enough tolerance to allow the user to push the chain from the inner edge toward the outer edge. This eliminates the need for fasteners to be used, which, in other designs, need to be in place during operation, and removed for cleaning or maintenance.
At the end of the line is the bottom line. Food processing users must calculate their return on investment based on factors unique to their own operations. In doing so, it's important to look well as beyond the mechanical footprint of the conveyor itself.
"In some applications, customers have calculated saving 30 to 40 production hours a year by incorporating AquaPruf Conveyors into their processing facilities," says Hosch, adding that complex applications can also lead customers to consider water, energy and the chemical savings during sanitation.
"Recently we've been sourced by some of the largest processors of almonds, peanuts and cereal globally," says Seidel. "This has occurred after a lot of testing, trouble-shooting and responding to requests made by these processors. Obviously this is where a combination of close attention and customization come into play." He notes that Procter & Gamble installed a system in Mexico and reported that "the system paid for itself in electricity costs alone within the first year."
Another aspect to factor into specifications is flexibility. In addition to specifying the right systems, options and add-ons, processors must consider how a unit will effectively serve upstream and downstream production today and into the future. In this respect, conveyor sellers as a whole have been doing a good job of following a trend toward modular equipment and controls as well as mechanicals. No matter the need, there's always a system to suit today's needs while flexing to meet tomorrows product, package and line configuration requirements.