New Way Air Bearings® has a proud and distinguished history of supporting precision engineering and manufacturing capabilities across a wide array of industries. Now, as our products expand, so do their applications. With recent innovations in our product line, we’d like to highlight what long lasting, non contact motion air bearings can bring to the table for the food processing and transportation industry.
Non Contact Motion and Food Processing
Food processing is a goliath of an industry, producing 45 billion dollars in revenue alone in 2016. This accounts for machinery across all different varieties of sorting—transportation, refining, and processing, as examples.
Similarly, the market for food packaging hovers in the area of 16 billion dollars and includes machinery for bottling, labelling, wrapping, and otherwise—packaging food products into a sealed, shippable form. All of these machines and processes are high speed, requiring precision engineering and long lasting parts, a sound description of New Way’s air bearing product line.
Screw Conveyors are used across the food processing and transportation field in order to facilitate the transfer of bulk powder from one location to another, usually at a higher elevation. These conveyors are often found at offload stations for trucks or railcars, and are exceptionally useful for moving grains, beans, or a product which has already been turned into a powdered form.
The Conveyor consists of a helical screw with a driving motor at one end to move material upwards along the screw. For conveyors of sufficiently large size or when multiple screws are used consecutively, hanger bearings may be mounted to provide additional support along the length of the screw. These bearings ensure the screw won’t buckle, and are intended to be replaced when their lifecycle is exceeded or the bearing itself fails.
While the screw conveyor itself is already an extremely efficient mechanism, it can suffer unneeded downtime when the hanger bearings require a replacement, or when a motor potentially jams.
Screw Conveyors on air bearings could offer a far more robust product, with reduced downtime and higher throughput. Encasing the motor assembly with one of our New Seals® would enable smooth rotation of the screw, all while sealing the motor unit against any powder or fluid infiltration up to 45 PSI.
Additionally, replacing hanger bearings with a system of our radial air bearings would offer support to the screw, and with non contact rotation, would never require system downtime for replacement.
Conveyor Belt Drives
Conveyor Belt Drives act as the central arteries of many food processing facilities, transporting products from one stage to another. These products can be anything from raw produce like apples or potatoes to finished bottles or packages.
Many conveyor systems have to contend with less than ideal operating conditions for a dynamic system, with such conditions including high humidity, clogging due to powder or other bulk solids, or moisture intrusion.
NSK, a leading maker of ball bearings, details how a vegetable processing plant was experiencing repeated failures of ball bearings in the food transportation system. The company discovered that water was entering the bearings and washing out vital grease. While it’s admirable that NSK identified and fixed this issue with a more appropriately sealed bearing, even their solution was a temporary bandage rather than a permanent fix for their client’s problem.
While NSK is rightfully proud to have extended the bearing lifespan from two weeks to nine months, New Way would rather offer their client a product with a nearly limitless lifespan. An equivalent system built on New Seal technology would easily resist all water intrusion. And, since the new Seal is simultaneously a bearing and a seal in one, mechanical complexity is reduced, while efficiency is increased.
One of the final steps for any food product is packaging and labelling. While this may not be the most time-consuming step in your manufacturing process, there’s still room for efficiency. Even high-end bottle labelling machines, like Accutek’s RL-540 top out at 600 units per minute of labelling and throughput.
For dynamic components, their bearings often represent a limiting factor in determining how fast they can move. Most roller bearings top out around 3-5 m/s, while air bearings offer an order of magnitude improvement, exceeding 30-50 m/s.
Labelling and bottling solutions would be an ideal fit for New Way’s line of Air Bushings, which allows for 360 degree motion about a round shaft with zero friction. To constrain the system axially, we also offer our Thrust Bushings as a complement to the air bearing line up.
In order to ensure uniformity and precision while maintaining operational speed, our Air Spindles offer the unmatched speed and reliability of Externally Pressurized Porous Media (EPP). The air spindle suspends the rotor over the stator using a 5 micron thick layer of air, eliminating asynchronous error and bringing synchronous error motion into the sub micron regime, all without sacrificing speed or reliability.
If New Way’s non contact technology sounds like the next big step for your food processing or transportation business, please contact us so we can discuss what New Way Air Bearings can do for you!