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Supporting your small or delicate products

14 January 2018

Food Processing takes a closer look at a lightweight conveyor belt that is designed to handle small or delicate products and which can offer a host of benefit within the food production environment. 

A food manufacturer was experiencing reduced belt life when running at high speeds (60m/min). The belt was found to be failing at its welded links, sometimes after as little as four weeks.

A solution was found when the company spoke to Wire Belt, which suggested trying its CompactGrid conveyor belt which has an open mesh design that is suited for use in high speed processing operations. It has no welded links, reducing the chance of failure or contamination of product. The belt also runs quiet and offers a good solution for hygienic applications. Since installation the CompactGrid has, to date, had a life of four months running 24/7 at 65m/min with a target life of six months.

“CompactGrid is a stainless steel belt conveyor used primarily in the food industry for applications such as cooking, cooling, draining, enrobing and freezing,” explained Wendy Thrower, marketing coordinator at Wire Belt Company. “It is one of our newest innovations, designed specifically to handle smaller, delicate products while offering a lighter weight, open mesh belt design. It has already found applications in bakery, poultry, meat, snacks and confectionery production applications.

Improving efficiencies?
CompactGrid can help improve efficiencies due to its flow through capabilities, which reduces the time needed to heat up or cool down a product. This can, in turn, reduce energy costs. It has a 70% open surface area giving optimal performance in processes where product coating, drainage, and liquid or air circulation are issues that need to be addressed. “We have performed controlled tests that confirm CompactGrid has five times less resistance to flow through than most plastic modular belts, giving optimum performance in drying and cooling processes,” continued Thrower. “Made of stainless steel CompactGrid won’t slip, droop or catch fire. Its rugged open design makes it a good solution for cooling products in high volume, high throughput production processes.” CompactGrid’s lightweight design has also helped solve belt surge problems due to the weight of the belts on long Lines. For one customer, replacing the original heavy belt with a CompactGrid stopped troublesome surging on entering and exiting an individual quick freezing line. This has helped to reduce production line downtimes.

CompactGrid has a 10 x 10mm nominal square opening designed to handle small and delicate products. The tight mesh of the belt allows for optimal product support while giving the ability to handle heavy loads. For one customer, using the CompactGrid belt for a chicken battering application has helped increase product quality as it causes fewer defects than other mesh belting during the battering process.

“Replacing plastic modular types of belt with CompactGrid stainless steel belting can increase food conveyor hygiene standards by at least 10 times,” said Thrower. “In some cases by more than 100 times, especially in high-usage and difficult to clean areas.”

CompactGrid has more open area providing effective cleaning where hygiene and ease of sanitation are important, especially in areas where accessibility and extended production runs present cleaning problems. Typically, it does not need to be removed from the conveyor system for cleaning; its openness allows visual inspection of drive shafts without the need for dismantling, eliminating the need for clean out of place tanks and reducing maintenance downtimes.

“Our food industry customers need to meet stringent industry standards and look to us to be able to provide a product that will meet those standards,” concluded Thrower. “CompactGrid fulfils those needs and has USDA approval. One customer, for example, installed it to make cleaning easier on its bread production line. The consistency of the dough was very soft and the previous plastic belt allowed the dough to seep into the belt. The maintenance team had to remove the belt every night in order to properly clean it. Replacing the original belt with CompactGrid eliminated this lengthy procedure and has saved time for the maintenance team.”

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