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Gearing up to reduce HACCP risk factors

04 May 2020

Yasar Yüce explains the growing popularity of stainless-steel geared motors in the food & beverage industry. 

Compact and energy efficient geared motors offer a good solution to drive stirrers, agitators and conveyors in food and beverage processing applications. However, while standard designs offer the performance parameters required by the average food manufacturer, the strict hygiene regulations mean that in many applications, specialist motors are preferable.

As a process for on-going improvement Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) requires manufacturers to continuously evaluate each process in its production line to identify possible hazards and minimise risk at critical points. 

Understanding the process of analysing risk in the production line and making improvements helps to explain the evolution in geared motor technology that is favoured by the industry. Looking to the past, geared motors were always recognised as a favourable drive system as they are efficient and reliable. However, as regulations surrounding hygiene became tighter, it became necessary to source more specialist solutions – for example aseptic drives for washdown applications. 

Drives are typically painted using acid- and alkali-resistant coatings, which can withstand chemicals with a pH range of 2 – 12 to allow them to withstand the cleansing solutions and disinfectants commonly used in the food industry. 

So, aseptic drive solutions deliver all the performance benefits of a standard geared motor, while eliminating some of the hygiene risks. However, with a HACCP system in place, a further risk assessment may identify that the coatings on these drives are prone to damage, exposing the surface of the motor to corrosive chemicals and risk the food product being contaminated with paint fragments. Therefore, many in the industry are now specifying stainless steel solutions. 

Stainless steel geared motors meet all of the regulations set out by organisations such as the FDA and NSF without the need for specialist coatings. As a base material, stainless steel is inherently resistant to corrosion and chemicals and if it is scratched, it does not compromise the corrosion or contamination resistance of the motor.   

Stainless steel geared motors are designed so that a fan and cooling ribs are not required, allowing for a smooth outer casing with a non-drive end which is sealed. This allows the motor to be offered with high IP. The elimination of venting elements creates a smooth outer surface, which offers greater cleanability of the motor casing and prevents re-infection of the local environment caused by air movement from a cooling fan. 

A dairy solution
For dairy company, Rücker GmbH, reducing HACCP risk factors is a key approach for all developments along its production lines. The company has progressed from the use of standard geared motor technology, through aseptic solutions and now empployes stainless steel geared motors. A 60m long coagulator, used for cheese curd processing, features several stirrers that keep the milk moving as the whey is removed from the curd. Each stirrer moves along a section of the lane; once it reaches the end of its section, the stirrer is lifted out of the curd and moves back to the starting position. Engineers identified that integrating the brakes into the housing of the geared motor would increase cleanability in the system and therefore reduce risk. Shortly after, the company began upgrading its geared motors to aseptic drives to take advantage of the improved hygiene ratings. Now the first of the aseptic drives have been replaced with stainless steel units from Bauer. These drives offer the same integrated brake feature from the original unit, but now with the added hygiene performance and mechanical resilience of a stainless steel housing. 

Yasar Yüce is product manager at Bauer Gear Motor, a brand of Altra Industrial Motion Corporation.

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