When buying a new sanitary-grade conveyor for a production or packaging line, it is normal to concentrate attention on the essential equipment design elements: the configuration or shape, machine size and capacity, dimensions, and more. What is often overlooked are three issues that can contribute significantly to equipment performance and risk mitigation. Equipment options are often available from sanitary belt conveyor manufacturers that can overcome these challenges.
A common error in equipment sourcing is to overlook how a conveyor will be fed with material and the infeed flow rate controlled. Feeding a sanitary belt conveyor at too fast a rate will result in uneven loading of the belt and spillage of product. Conversely, feeding the conveyor at too slow a rate will result in lessened throughput with possible starvation of downstream equipment.
A well-designed infeed hopper takes the material flow characteristics and angle of repose into consideration to ensure that the conveyor is fed at a consistently controlled rate which results in proper loading of the belt, with no spillage or starvation. Good hoppers are designed with a geometry which evenly loads product onto the center of the belt, reducing the propensity of material to contact the conveyor sidewalls – a factor that could result in particle attrition or damage. When feeding the conveyor with materials having poor flow characteristics (i.e., those which tend to cake or pack), flow aids, such as a vibratory feeder, may need to be installed on the infeed hopper.
During operation, a small amount of material may not be fully discharged from the conveyor belt. As the belt travels around the underside of the conveyor, this undischarged material may fall off. Stainless steel clean-out trays (or catch pans, as they are sometimes also called) are hung from the underside of the conveyor can collect any material that may fall off the belt as it travels back to the infeed. This material can then be periodically recirculated back through the conveyor, reducing product wastage. Many equipment manufacturers will offer optional trays/catch pans that feature tool-free disassembly/assembly as part of their designs, upon request.
Protecting product from contamination as it travels through a sanitary belt conveyor is a key requirement. While equipment designs vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, virtually all designs have some portion of the conveyor belt travel open, increasing the risk that contaminants could fall onto the material as it travels through the conveyor. One solution to this problem is to install sanitary clear plastic covers over the exposed part of the belt travel, protecting material as it moves through the conveyor. As with sanitary catch pans, many equipment manufacturers will offer optional sanitary covers that require tool-free disassembly/assembly upon request.
Although a sanitary belt conveyor can often be retrofitted with sanitary covers and catch pans, it is preferable to consider having these options included in the original design. This can avoid issues that arise after initial start-up and, most importantly, reduce the risk of product contamination and unnecessary retrofit costs.
KleanTrak sanitary belt conveyor from UniTrak
UniTrak manufactures the KleanTrak line of sanitary belt conveyors. The KleanTrak sanitary belt conveyor is specially designed to address the challenges of hygienic conveying. KleanTrak conveyors are an ideal equipment choice for food, pharmaceutical, and other washdown applications.
KleanTrak conveyors feature an open sanitary design which minimizes the risk of pathogen or allergen contamination and permits fast and easy in-place cleaning. Each conveyor uses a cleated FDA-approved belt, available in a range of styles, in a patented tensionless drive system which provides no belt slippage or stretch. The frame is made from 304 stainless steel and a variety of finishes are available, including electropolishing.
Each KleanTrak conveyor is equipped with a washdown duty drive motor and corrosion resistant bearings. The conveyor can elevate from 15° to 90°, and available options include a stationary base with leveling feet, a portable base assembly, CIP system, tilting system, removable personnel guarding, clean-out trays and sanitary covers, and a controls package.
To find out more about how UniTrak can help with your sanitary conveying needs, please contact our sales team for further information.