Bucket conveyor cleaning is a significant issue in many applications. These types of applications are most commonly found in the food industries, such as snack food, vegetable and fruit processing, confectionery, pet food and others.
Where bucket conveyor cleaning is an essential activity, using equipment of an open frame/tubular design is preferred. The tubular design allows cleaning liquids to reach all operating components and dissolve any accumulated material. Equipment with an open/tubular design also allows for faster drying times.
The following details bucket conveyor cleaning methods, including those for both wet and dry cleaning, and the pros and cons of each.
Bucket Conveyor Cleaning: Wet Cleaning Methods
With the conveyor buckets still in place, each bucket is hand-wiped until clean. This method has the advantages of not exposing surrounding areas or equipment to liquid spray and, because it is a localized cleaning method with no water or other fluids carried through the conveyor, it reduces the risk of any moisture accumulation in the conveyor.
Disadvantages of this method are that it is slow, requires resources to carry out, and the effectiveness of the cleaning is dependent upon the skill with which it is done.
Spraying with a hose/wand using hot water/steam
This is the most common cleaning method that we have encountered wherever a whole process area is being wet-washed. In most food processing plants, this is most often everywhere except the packaging area.
Advantages of this method are that it is fast and thorough, allows for use of foaming cleaners, and the use of hot water or steam cuts down on the drying time required. The disadvantage is that the surrounding work area can become wet, and this method is more complicated for fully enclosed conveyors due to the problem of drying the interior of the equipment enclosure. However, the addition of drying nozzles can assist in the drying process.
Clean-in-Place (CIP) systems
CIP systems are increasingly common on bucket conveyors for washdown applications. Integral CIP systems are an available option on TipTrakTM units manufactured by UniTrak. CIP systems require minimal operator involvement, can be made to run automatically, and can be used with foaming cleaners. A disadvantage of CIP systems are that they do not permit the continuous inspection of cleaning effectiveness.
Bucket Conveyor Cleaning: Dry Cleaning Methods
Finally, in some applications, bucket conveyor cleaning may be carried out through dry cleaning methods. These methods involve the use of either compressed air or vacuum suction. They can sometimes be employed where finely divided foods and ingredients, dusty powder or granules, or products larger than 1/8”, are being handled. Using these methods, the upper and lower horizontal sections of the conveyor are the primary targets for the cleaning process.
With compressed air cleaning, accumulated material is blown out of the bucket assemblies. While this method is fast and does not involve the use of liquids, it can disperse product dust into the air, from which it can be inhaled or deposited onto surfaces. With vacuum cleaning, any accumulated material is withdrawn from the bucket assemblies. While this method creates little dust, it may be less effective in dislodging any accumulated material.
As noted above and pictured below, TipTrakTM conveyors can be supplied with a CIP system as an option for performing bucket conveyor cleaning. The standard UniTrak CIP systems consists of two banks of four or six nozzles that spray the fronts and backs of the buckets, plus two banks of 2 nozzles to spray sides of the buckets. These are located on lower curve section, and the included drain pan directs water to the disposal area.