Increasing drive reliability for the food processing industry

Paul Boughton

From its base in East Anglia, one of the UK’s major agricultural areas, Ambit Projects Limited design and manufacture high quality automation equipment for handling, preparing and processing all types of foodstuffs with machines that are tailored to individual customer needs.

NORD Drivesystems’ UK subsidiary have recently been working with Ambit Projects, supplying several drives that feature the industry-unique surface protection system that the German drives manufacturer has developed for hostile and high hygiene environments.

Designated NORD Severe Duty or nsd tupH, the drives were used for a major upgrade and line expansion of a celery cutting and packaging machine for a regular Ambit customer and one of Europe’s fresh produce growers and suppliers. These durable long-life aluminium IP69 rated gear motors replaced the previous drive suppliers’ units on the upgrade part of the machine, and were preferred for use across the additional processing line to solve a problem with paint peeling and corrosion due to the wet process environment.

The machine processes freshly harvested celery; removing its root and flag then washing, inspecting and packaging the produce in a continuous operation.

The constantly wet environment, regular washdown and foaming agents used on the machine had caused the old drives, although prepared with a high specification paint process, to split and peel over time with a danger that paint debris might contaminate the celery produce. This was particularly prevalent for conveyor drives close to the washing process where turbulent flushing water is used to remove soil and stones from the produce.

While trays and covers had been used to prevent such contamination and shield the drives from splashing water, Ambit Projects looked for an improved solution that would cost-effectively remove the need for further protection.

NORD’s Severe Duty solution takes fully machined aluminium castings for both motor and gear unit components and applies an electro-chemical process which changes the surface properties of the aluminium to render it corrosion free. Unlike paint systems, no coating is applied but the surface itself converted. The finished result is a stainless steel-like surface that is unaffected by blows or scratches and is up to seven times harder than the original aluminium - and up to 1000 times harder than paint. The treatment complies with FDA Title 21 CFR 175.300 and yields much reduced maintenance and a significantly extended life.

All NORD nsd tupH drives include food-grade stainless steel fixings and shafts, and the motor and gear unit housings also feature smooth surfaces where dirt and debris cannot gather in crevices and cause a contamination hazard as with many standard gear motor designs.

Unlike stainless steel motor variants, which are much more costly, the aluminium motor housings do not affect the performance of the drive as no de-rating is necessary - allowing compact and lightweight high performance drive solutions.

As NORD Severe Duty or nsd tupH surface treatment drives are based on standard aluminium gear motors, they are available throughout the range from 21Nm to over 3300Nm in hollow and solid shaft designs with foot, face and flange mounting. NORD Clean Drive nsd tupH drives are available for even more demanding ambient conditions and are supplied to IP69K protection levels in packages complete with drive electronics up 22kW.

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