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Keeping it clean and cool

01 July 2019

Electrical enclosures and cooling equipment may appear to be a very small part of any production process, but they can make a significant contribution to maximising efficiency as they have a major role to play in keeping both planned and unplanned production downtimes to a minimum, says Christian Westwood

Today manufacturers in the food and beverage sector are faced with the challenge of improving production efficiency – not only to reduce their own costs, but also to help ensure that a growing global population is fed. 

In hygiene-critical production situations longer downtimes are often unavoidable because of the amount of cleaning that is required. In meat-processing plants, for example, machines can be at a standstill for up to 40% of the time to allow essential cleaning work to be undertaken.  

Hygienic design
Typically, industrial wall-mounted enclosures and standard enclosures for machines and plant do not support the requirement for fast but effective cleaning. Their basic design, as well as their various nooks and crannies can make cleaning more difficult, which can result in them becoming dirt traps and therefore providing a good breeding ground for germs.

Hygienic design stands for one principle above all: it provisions for the simple and thorough cleaning of everything that could come into contact with foods – from the machine to its enclosure.  It is particularly important to remove the aforementioned ‘dead spaces’ or undercuts of any kind as well as joints without radius, because any such areas will be particularly prone to product residue accumulations, which in turn represent an ideal substrate for microbial contamination. For the same reason, surfaces with recesses such as the uncovered threads of screw connections, or screw heads with internal hexagons or Torx screws are not allowed. Corners and joints must be smooth, gap-less and cleanly rounded. 

To ensure that sprayed water is able to run off the surfaces of housings and enclosures in spray and wet zones, appropriately angled drain slopes must be provided. 

Specially designed enclosures from Rittal – the Hygienic Design (HD) enclosures – meet all of these hygienic requirements.  In addition to terminal boxes and compact enclosures in common sizes, Rittal also has a comprehensive product portfolio that ranges from enclosures to operating housings for safely accommodating electrical equipment. 

The HD range has been specifically designed to meet the requirements, regulations and guidelines for food and beverage production. All the external parts are made entirely of stainless steel, which offers a high resistance to chemicals, cleaning agents and disinfectants.

The enclosures meet the IP 66 protection category in accordance with IEC 60 529, as well as the NEMA 4X protection class, which means they can be cleaned with a high-pressure cleaner without any impact on their internal contents. 

The door seals are made of silicone instead of polyurethane (PU foam), which is more resistant to all kinds of detergents, and dyed blue to make it identifiable as a foreign object in the event of any mechanical damage. 

Keeping cool
A hygienic enclosure is only part of the solution. It can prevent damage to delicate electrical equipment from dust and water ingress, but can do little to combat high temperatures. Whether the enclosure is located in a hot environment, contains equipment that produces heat, or both, a cooling solution appropriate for the application decreases the risk of components tripping or even failing, once again reducing costly interruptions to production. 

The most hygienic cooling method for enclosure climate control is an air/water heat exchanger. If cooling water system is not available, then the water for individual heat exchangers can be provided via chillers which can be installed remote from the open process. 

For smaller systems, the one-off procurement costs for heat exchangers, chillers and piping are generally slightly higher than the costs of classic wall-mounted cooling units. However, a heat exchanger is the system of choice for hygienic environments and could quickly offer a return on investment through reduced maintenance requirements and lower energy costs. 

Christian Westwood is food & beverage industry manager at Rittal.

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