In recent years, sanitary washdown requirements around the world have tightened in the food processing and packaging industry. FR Drake is a leader in developing automatic food-loading machinery in the frankfurter industry. The Waynesboro, Va., company builds loading equipment that prepares individual frankfurters for packaging by lining them up in rows just before they enter a horizontal form fill and seal (HFFS) machine.
Since standard servomotors cannot withstand high-pressure caustic wash-down processes, FR Drake engineers built stainless-steel covers to protect the motors. But there are drawbacks to these covers: food particles often catch and collect on seams and rivets surrounding the housing; wash-down fluids eventually work their way into the housing and onto the motor; and the caustic chemicals often damage the point where cables connect to the motors, corroding the housing itself.
Even with a stainless steel housing, however, standard servomotors typically last five to seven years in such applications. Because each FR Drake frankfurter loader uses four servomotors, end users of the machinery had to replace at least one motor every two years.
Pictured here, stainless steel servomotors help improve machine cleanliness and performance in food processing applications.
“Our stainless-steel covers helped increase the longevity of the servomotors, but not to the extent that we wanted for our customers,” said George Reed, vice president of Engineering, FR Drake. “We identified a few characteristics of the motor housing that, if remedied, could further improve the reliability of our machinery.”
FR Drake turned to Rockwell Automation. Rockwell engineers suggested the Allen-Bradley® MP-Series™ stainless steel servomotor. The motors feature a smooth, round design that cleans thoroughly because meat and liquids cannot easily collect on its surface. The motor is made of 300-grade stainless steel, which goes through special processing after component fabrication to remove impurities and protect against corrosion. Additionally, the motors have factory sealed cable exits.
The motors are part of the Allen-Bradley Kinetix® Integrated Motion portfolio. Kinetix enables seamless integration of Logix controllers, servo drives, servomotors, and actuators.
“Updating our machinery with these motors was a simple and straightforward retrofit,” said Reed. “The motors come in the same form factor, torque, and programming language as other Allen-Bradley servomotors, so it was a virtual drop-in replacement.”
The frankfurter machines also use an Allen-Bradley ControlLogix® programmable automation controller, an Allen-Bradley industrial computer, and FactoryTalk® View Machine Edition human-machine interface software.
The stainless-steel motors helped eliminate the design time and costs required for building the extra protective housing unit. The improved reliability of the loading equipment has reduced the number of warranty requests the company receives, and has reduced the amount of motor maintenance the company must provide for customers. In fact, in the first two years of using the stainless-steel motors, field service personnel have not been called for a single field service issue, and the company is currently working toward making the motors standard on all of its loader machinery.
Rockwell Automation Inc.
Filed Under: Factory automation, Packaging, Motion control • motor controls, Motors • servo