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A sweet solution for ice cream plant palletisers

14 September 2020

Find out how one ice cream plant has increased productivity of its ice cream production line by replacing pallet lifting chains which could not cope with such adverse and demanding operating conditions. 

Ice cream plants need to be designed to operate with high efficiency to maximise profits per unit, these facilities rely on equipment that can operate in an application environment that, in many places, is well below freezing and laden with moisture. For example, ice cream is cooled to a holding temperature of around -25°C for storage and this presents increased corrosion and fatigue risks to engineered equipment.

These conditions can be exacerbated by the seasonal demand for ice cream. During the winter months demand for ice cream usually dips. To reduce surplus, some facilities will scale back operations during this period. However, in summer, demand rises, which will cause facility operators to maximise available production capacity to capitalise. The inherent challenges of the application environment and the yoyoing of production intensity can cause equipment to fail prematurely. This risks facility uptime and profitability. Standard chains installed at ice cream plants are especially susceptible, so a specialised solution is needed.

One German ice cream plant increased its production schedule from five to seven days a week to meet summer demand, engineers on-site noticed the service life of the chains installed on the pallet lifters was adversely affected. The pallet lifters were operating in a sub-zero ice cream storage area, moving heavy loads across the facility.

Lifting loads
The nickel-plated, 16B-1 roller chains were designed to lift loads of up to 800kg. The lifter itself was driven by a 1.5 KW motor at 32 rpm. Over a five-day production schedule, the lifetime of each chain averaged to around two years before replacement was required. However, as production was moved to a seven-day schedule, the average service life of the installed chains fell to just six months. The inner links of the chains were breaking due to increased fatigue, a result of the combination of intense duty requirements and the cold application environment. This resulted in palletisers requiring increased maintenance work, which was reducing efficiency and increasing repair costs.

To overcome this problem, engineers contacted Tsubaki, to see if it could offer a more robust chain for the application.

After an initial inspection, Tsubaki engineers worked closely with the engineers at the plant to specify a new roller chain that would maximise reliability and reduce maintenance. The RS16B-1 Neptune chain was selected, which offered a 20% maximum allowable load (MAL) compared to the original chain. The Neptune chain offers inherent resistance to corrosion with a specialised coating that provides protection against the debilitating effects of condensation in the low temperature storage area.

The Neptune chain was able to improve chain service life during the high intensity production period, eliminating premature link breakages. Maintenance requirements for the palletisers were consequently reduced, minimising repair costs and maximising uptime. Specifically honed for hard operation in a low temperature environment, the Neptune chain allowed the German ice cream plant to effectively capitalise on summer demand.

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