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Drum motors: conveyor system benefits

28 November 2016

Chris Middleton explains why you should consider replacing geared motors on conveyor systems with drum motors. 

Conveyors are the veins that carry the lifeblood of a food facility and is critical that they perform reliably and at the highest level of efficiency. 

The majority of food processing plants still use conventional geared motors in their conveyor systems. However, technological advances has evolved this integral piece of equipment into space saving, sealed for life, maintenance free drum motors.

Despite this, gear motors remain popular because they are perceived as being more cost-efficient. Up front, many gear motors do cost only a fraction of the price of drum motors, but with drum motors being more hygienic, compact and energy-efficient, they actually save companies money in the long run.

For food processing facilities looking to make the switch to drum motors, here are some factors to consider. Traditional gear motors tend to be bulky and have exposures and crevices in their design, allowing water to seep in and bacteria to thrive. To make these motors USDA compliant, manufacturers have sealed the motor, gearbox and bearings inside a stainless steel shell. A well-designed drum motor is encapsulated in smooth outer casing that is conducive to hygiene, can withstand high-pressure hosing and will require minimal maintenance.

Materials are also a critical factor in equipment design. A plant’s equipment must be durable enough to withstand everyday exposure to products as well as routine sanitation programs. Stainless steel is popular among drum motor makers because of its durability and resistance to corrosion.

The best design will be compact in order to capitalise on a facility’s space. Traditional gear motors extend beyond the belt with chains, pulley and guarding. This adds to risk of exposure and also reduces the number of conveyors that can be installed. Conversely, a streamlined design that fits within the confines of the conveyor system will maximise space and increase production.

In the long run, energy-efficient equipment will pay for itself. Drum motors tend to be more energy efficient than conventional motors. Although the savings may appear insignificant, companies could potentially save thousands of pounds in annual energy bills, depending on the number of motors in their factories.

Increased energy efficiency also typically means that less heat is emitted from the equipment, which can translate into lower air conditioning costs and a more comfortable work environment for workers. Another benefit, for companies producing food products that are sensitive to temperature is how limiting heat exposure could help maintain the integrity of the products.

Certain drum motors are also embedded with encoders that can provide data on how many rotations it makes in a given period. This will monitor throughput and can subsequently provide critical insight to increase efficiency during production.

It goes without saying that food companies should be taking the necessary measures in order to be in full compliance with industry standards, such as those set by the USDA and FDA. With the increasing evolution and enforcement of food safety laws, it is important to verify that drum motor certifications on new products are valid and up-to-date.

Drum motors should carry a standard sealing certification, which indicates that the equipment is able to withstand wet and high-pressure washdown applications. It is also beneficial to check whether there are warranties for the drum motor’s components and the drum motor itself.

There are some important factors to consider when transitioning from traditional gear motors to drum motors. While it requires proper research and budgeting, the return on investment can be significant, extending beyond just the bottom line.
Chris Middleton is managing director of Interoll UK.

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