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Tecnoceam: Rulmeca drum motors integrated by fresh-cut salad processing specialist Tecnoceam.

Rulmeca drum motors integrated by fresh-cut salad processing specialist Tecnoceam.

A long shelf-life is of vital importance for fresh-cut salads. Thorough washing and minimized processing as well as strictest hygiene play a major role. For its cleaning, cutting, sorting and packaging systems the fresh-cut salad specialist Tecnoceam therefore relies on waterproof stainless steel drum motors from Rulmeca for its conveyor technology.

Fresh-cut salads sold off-the-shelf as convenience products need intensive washing and sanitizing to rid them of dirt and possible pathogens from the field. One kilogram of salad is washed 2 or 3 times with approximately 10 liters of water. Following this, the salad is carefully dried in centrifugal machines or tunnels. Finally, it is inspected, before it is packaged in bags or bowls. All these phases are important for the quality and longevity of the final product.

The Italian company Tecnoceam is an expert in handling sensitive, leafed vegetables. It produces machinery and conveyors that handle salad extremely carefully and with minimal processing. The process, however, is a wet one. Therefore the whole processing line has to be water-resistant. Electrical machinery like the drives for the conveyor technology even has to be waterproof. Additionally, the overall design of the machinery needs to be very hygienic, as freshness and shelf-life result from careful handling and minimal contamination. Thus, vendors of salad processing lines have to pay their utmost attention to water resistance and the hygienic design aspects of their machines.

Waterproof by design

The drive technology used for the Tecnoceam conveyor belts therefore incorporates stainless steel drum motors. Due to their sealed all-in-one design, drum motors are highly waterproof. The motor and the gear unit are integrated in the return pulley, which is required anyway for the conveyor system. Additionally, thanks to their waterproof design, they do not leak any lubricants which could contaminate the products as well as the rinsing and washing water. Other types of drives such as central drives with chains or decentralized drives with separate worm gears need extremely complex designs to reach the same level in waterproof and hygienic design.

Strictest hygienic standards

Furthermore, drum motors are all-in-one components that avoid corners and dead spaces that are difficult to clean. Thanks to this, they perfectly fulfill the recommendation of the US Food and Drug Administration that issues guidelines for fresh-cut processing lines. It recommends that the equipment should be designed and constructed in such a way that it is easy to clean and maintain, thus minimizing the potential for microbial contamination of the fresh-cut product. In particular, the equipment must feature sealed, smooth, non-absorbent and easily cleanable food contact surfaces. Belts and drives should also be constructed to ensure they are free of pits, folds, cracks, crevices, open seams, cotter pins, exposed threads and hinges to avoid harboring pathogens.

“As our machines work with water, high IP protection of the drive technology was a main deciding factor“, says Mario Guberti, President and Owner of Tecnoceam s.r.l. headquartered in Parma, Italy. “Drum motors are a highly integrated single component. Therefore they provide all the features required such as seamless layout, high IP protection and easy cleaning by-design, which matches the layout of our processing machinery most efficiently.”

Tecnoceam uses drum motors that feature IP66 protection at a minimum, which means that they are dustproof and protected against powerful water jets. They are therefore not only resistant to wet environments but can also withstand high pressure cleaning. This is a very important factor, even though during the salad processing no harmful fluids or substances are produced or processed. However, ensuring that offcuts from the previous shift do not contaminate the fresh salad is crucial, as this can lead to a drastically reduced shelf-life.

Apart from the crucial waterproof and hygienic properties, for Mario Guberti, owner of Tecnoceam, the efficiency of the drum motors is another major argument, as many drives are used during salad processing at the various stages. The drives’ low energy consumption is therefore a decisive factor to minimize production costs and thus increase the return on investment. Furthermore, the processing lines are often deployed in climate-controlled environments which are cooled down to temperatures of 5 to 10 °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 the air conditioning of production halls and thus optimize the company’s environmental performance with Tecnoceam equipment.

Low energy consumption

The Rulmeca drum motors which Tecnoceam deploys in its fresh-cut processing lines deliver excellent overall efficiency. The 113 Rulmeca drum motor with 0.37 kW has, for example, 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.

But what makes 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. The sum of all these advantages means that for Tecnoceam there is no alternative to drum motors.

Extensive vertical range of manufacture

Out of all the drum motor manufacturers, Tecnoceam chose Rulmeca. Guberti explains why: “For our conveyor systems we need hygienic motor technology, which is protected against steam cleaning. Rulmeca is a vendor that has long term experience in the design of drum motors and offers its drum motors with sealings in various IP protection levels including IP66/69– the highest protection rate for most demanding cleaning purposes in food industries.”

To understand this protection category, one needs to know that it is a 2in1 protection level that has to be specified that way because IP69 does not automatically include IP66: With IPX6 powerful water jets from a distance of 3 meters (12.5 mm nozzle) with 100 liters per minute and a pressure of 1 bar (1,000 hPa) against the enclosure from any direction for 3 minutes have no harmful effects on the system. The IPX9 delivers protection against powerful high temperature steam cleaners. Systems are protected against close range, high pressure and high temperature spray downs. The water volume is lower with 14–16 liters per minute but the pressure is higher with 80–100 bar (80,000–100,000 hPa) at a much closer distance of 0.1–0.15 m and a water temperature of 80°C.

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