UNIT HANDLINGBULK HANDLING
Rulmeca

ABL: Apple peeling machines

Today, freshness is called for in fruit salads, juices and smoothies. Long shelf life, if possible without any preservatives, is of vital importance. Strictest hygiene is a determining factor. And for exactly this reason, fruit processing specialist ABL relies on Rulmeca drum motors for its feeding and discharging conveyor systems.

In the past, fruit had to be sugared, boiled or dried in order to conserve it. Fruit processing plant manufacturers did not need to pay particular attention to hygienic design aspects of their machines. Today, however, when ABL’s processing machinery processes apples, pears, peaches and melons, citrus fruits or pineapple, kiwis and mangos, in many cases afterwards no boiling or sweetening takes place.

Nevertheless, fruit has to keep fresh without its protective peel in order to arrive fresh at the consumer as a peeled and/or cut convenience product. Apart from airtight packaging – for example with protective gas – the essential basics for long shelf life are strictest hygiene measures and minimal contamination of the processing machines.

Increasing shelf life

For manufacturers of fruit processing plants, gaining a competitive edge is not only a matter of their machines carrying out efficient and reliable automated peeling and cutting. Particularly hygienic designs are a winner with their customers as they can increase the products ‘shelf life.

Hygienic fruit peelers – a growth market

Convenience fruits are on the rise, as who wants to be peeling an orange while driving a car? Despite the per capita consumption of fresh fruit having decreased in recent years, the consumption of fruit snacks and freshly cut fruit has grown around 20%. Juices and smoothies have to be fresh too. It is these ultra-premium 100% juices that are growing counter the trend and achieving this success due to their high quality ingredients and excellent processing techniques.

In recent years, the Italian company ABL, the world's leading producer of fruit processing plants, has been tackling this challenge. It set about redesigning its complete portfolio of fully or partially automated fruit peeling and cutting machines in order to ensure that fruit is handled more hygienically and gently. To this end, each structural element was examined down to the last screw and various construction improvements were carried out.

Avoiding dead spaces

A focus was put on eliminating corners that were difficult to clean as well as dead spaces. Incorporating the practical experience of daily cleaning into the design was another important issue. And owing to ABL‘s close cooperation with its customers, the manufacturer was able to source information about easy-to-clean areas and places that were difficult or more time-consuming to clean. This led to daily plant cleaning being optimized.

An important guideline that ABL integrated for particularly low-germ peeling and cutting processes in its manuals are hygiene rules for the operators and in particular information on the pre-treatment of raw materials, since the unpeeled products are ultimately the largest germ carrier and thus the cause of contamination to the peeled fruit.

In addition to the causes, the plant engineers also have to combat the effects of inevitable germ entry into the machines, in order to guarantee the shelf life of the fresh goods. When selecting new components, ABL stuck to the principle: only the latest state-of-the-art technology is good enough. The aim of this action was not only to generally improve the hygiene of the equipment but to also focus on high quality and innovation in order to distinguish itself from the competition as a premium manufacturer.

Strictest hygienic standards for the conveyor technology

In addition to creating nearly germ-free peeling and cutting processes, which ABL amongst other measures ensures partly by automatic cleaning mechanisms, special attention was paid to improvements on the feeding and discharging conveyor technology, that has to meet the strictest hygienic standards as it is in direct contact with the products.

The drive technology used for the ABL conveyor belts incorporates stainless steel drum motors. Today, these replace various other construction forms such as central drives with chains or decentralized drives with worm gears, as both variants are associated with severe disadvantages in terms of hygiene. Due to their all-in-one design, drum motors on the other hand avoid corners that are difficult to clean and dead spaces. In addition, they are protected against corrosive fruit juices and aggressive cleaning due to high IP protection classes.

“Stainless steel drum motors are state-of-the-art technology, especially in terms of strictest hygiene standards in food handling technology“, says Carlo Ascari, Founder and President of ABL s.r.l. headquartered in Cavezzo, Italy. “The motor and the gear unit are integrated in the return pulley, which is required anyway for the conveyor system. This way the installation of an additional component which can get dirty or has to be serviced is not necessary. Technically, I know of no better solution. A drum motor is a little more expensive than alternative drives, but these comparatively small additional costs are coupled with significant advantages“, Ascari explains.

Apart from the crucial hygienic properties, for Ascari the efficiency of the drum motors is important, as ABL equipment is often deployed in environmental temperatures of 1 to 3°C. The lower the power consumption of its machinery is, the lower the thermal losses consequently are and, with that, the cooling costs. Operators can thus reduce their secondary energy costs for air conditioning of production halls and thus optimize the company’s environmental performance with ABL equipment.

Low energy consumption

The Rulmeca drum motors which ABL deploys in its fruit peelers and cutting machines deliver excellent overall efficiency. The 113 Rulmeca drum motor with 0.37 kW has, for example, has an electrical efficiency of over 77%. This would correspond to the IE3, if this standard applied to this performance class. Even the mechanical efficiency of the spur gear unit at 95 – 97% (depending on gear level) is very high. By comparison, worm gear motors have significantly poorer overall efficiency.

Why though are drum motors so efficient? The construction of the drum motor minimizes the friction loss, as the spur gear is connected directly to the motor. Plus, the motor is constantly and efficiently cooled by an oil bath. The high degree of specialization and the design therefore make drum motors per se predestined as a drive solution for conveyors. Due to all these advantages for ABL there is no alternative to drum motors.

Extensive vertical range of manufacture

Out of all the drum motor manufacturers, ABL chose Rulmeca. “And not without reason“, explains Ascari. “Rulmeca has a very extensive vertical range of manufacture and manufactures nearly all its components itself – whether they are metal or plastic. For plant builders like our company, customized variants of the standard product portfolio can also be ordered. For us, that is a really important factor as we always need components with an optimum match to create perfect designs.”

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