Q&A Can Composites Replace Bronze Plain Bearings?
If you’re a regular reader of Tech Talk, it will be no surprise that we’re big fans of composite...
The Food and Beverage Industry is large, diverse, and full of specialized machinery. It’s one of the oldest industries on the planet, but still full of innovation. From new products to higher-volume, lower-cost production techniques, this industry is always looking for new ways to produce the food consumers want at the best possible price. And vital equipment is there every step of the way. From simple ovens and conveyor belts to complex bottling and packaging machines, the food and beverage industry depends on equipment for industrial-scale food production.
In this article, we provide a brief overview of this essential industry and look at the unique challenges its equipment presents for components like bearings. Finally, we take a look at how TriStar has used our materials expertise to solve engineering pain points for Food and Beverage companies. Advanced polymers and composites are a powerful solution for clean, greaseless operation in food processing and packaging facilities.
The Food and Beverage Industry includes all the companies involved in transforming raw agricultural goods into consumer food products.
The overall industry supply chain includes food processing, packaging, and distribution. It does not cover raw food production, which falls into the closely related agriculture industry.
This industry includes fresh food, packaged food, and beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). From food sold at the grocery store to cooked meals served at restaurants, institutions, and events, this industry serves a huge variety of retail outlets.
All of these processes come with urgent packaging and distribution timelines, often with an imperative to complete the process, with processed food out the door, in under 48 hours from receiving raw food from the farm.
While different food categories require very different production processes, some challenges are broadly shared in the industry.
The food and beverage industry is tasked with solving some unique business challenges:
For packing and processing equipment alike, better equipment performance has real business value for food and beverage companies. First, downtime can be extremely costly in this time-sensitive industry: reliability is essential. Second, efficiency matters for this competitive, margin-sensitive industry. Faster, higher-volume machines are important for a wide variety of food processors. Third, a failure to stay compliant with regulations can result in lost production, fines, or even legal liability.
When looking for increased performance for its equipment, this industry has to pay attention to some unique environmental concerns. These concerns are especially important for key mechanical components like bearings.
Bearings (along with related components like bushings and wear pads) are essential components within food industry equipment. They’re a great example of a crucial component that needs to carefully address each of the pain points listed above while helping equipment operate as effectively as possible.
Traditional metal bearings need to be regularly lubricated with grease. This lubricant presents both a regular maintenance demand, a magnet for particulate matter, and a chronic risk for contamination. Meanwhile, the wrong plastics can deteriorate quickly in the face of caustic cleaning agents.
TriStar has had extensive success using our advanced materials to address all of these issues. Our self-lubricating design puts an end to messy grease. And, we offer a wide variety of materials that are capable at a range of operating temperatures.
TriStar materials used in the Food and Beverage Industry include Rulon, CJ, Ultracomp, and Ertalyte. For a broader overview of bearings, how they fail, and why picking the right material matters, please see our Bearings 101 page here.
Below, we highlight some of the functional advantages that have made these materials so valuable to food processing and packaging companies (TriStar works with both food manufacturers and equipment OEMs to find problems for our offerings to solve).
This industry uses a huge variety of specialized equipment to turn raw food into food products at scale. Because there are so many different types of food processing, the machines involved can place very different operational stresses on bearings and similar components.
Some of these machines are run almost 24/7: that’s the only way to maximize production in this high-volume industry. This means stoppages for maintenance, critical failures, and contamination problems all represent serious threats to efficient production to meet all orders in time.
In this context, it’s very important to carefully match component materials to their prospective environment: we provide a few examples below. For a deeper look at bearings for food processing equipment, you can download our white paper here.
Food packaging ranges from egg cartons to frozen food containers. Packaging encloses food to protect it from tampering or contamination from biological, chemical, or physical sources.
Innovation continues in packing technologies. Some recent examples include water-soluble packaging for liquids (like detergent “pods”), clay-based nanotechnology for fast degrading film packaging for foods, edible packaging, and antimicrobial packaging.
Equipment plays a key role in getting food inside its packaging at high production volumes. And it needs to do so cleanly and pursuant to regulatory requirements, just like the food production equipment itself.
For a deeper look at bearings for food packaging equipment, you can download our whitepaper here.
In many cases, TriStar has used our components to not only successfully produce components for business-critical machinery like the examples listed above but solve nagging production problems.
We provide an overview of some real-life case studies below, with links to more details.
Challenge: A major baking equipment manufacturer was struggling with doughnut conveyor stainless steel bearing failure.
Solution: TriStar determined that steel bearings were deteriorating from the combination of hot oils and powerful cleaning agents. The metal was absorbing moisture and expanding to the point of failure.
We recommended Rulon 641, an FDA-cleared material with high-temperature tolerances, for conveyor bearings. Since this change, our client reports improved bearing durability and production rates.
Challenge: Dairy producers are always pushing to increase production speed. And with more speed comes more wear and higher temperature.
Solution: TriStar has used materials purpose-built for food production, like Ertalyte and TIVAR HOT in components ranging from chain guiders to buttermilk filling pistons. These materials have successfully enabled higher production speeds, maintained key compliances like 3A, and eliminated the need for external lubrication.
With deep knowledge of food and beverage applications, an expansive arsenal of advanced materials that have proven themselves in this industry, and the expertise to customize parts for unique challenges, TriStar is the perfect long term partner for your food and beverage business.
We work with equipment manufacturers, helping to select and manufacture components that will result in the best possible product. We also work directly with equipment operators at all sorts of Food and Beverage companies, where we help select replacement parts that will maximize equipment performance and reliability. TriStar team members regularly tour food processing plants, searching for any problem that can be solved using our advanced materials.
We take an engineering-driven approach to selling our advanced bearings and other components. Bearing selection should avoid arbitrary preferences for one material over the other. Instead, we treat bearing selection as an important process where the material needs to be carefully matched to the task at hand.
We take pride in using our materials’ unique properties to tackle engineering challenges and, ultimately, bolster our clients’ bottom lines. Material selection matters. With one client, for instance, we were able to save over $300,000 per year in downtime losses and reduced maintenance expenses, just by changing a simple material.
If you’re interested in talking further about finding the perfect components for your food processing or packaging equipment, we recommend reaching out to our team.
If you found this page useful, check out our downloadable white paper, which expands on the information here and provides more detail.