Engineering Plastics continue to replace metals as key components in food processing equipment. Plastics are often lighter and able to outlast traditional metal parts. A quick look through the variety of plastics available in today’s market shows an increasing number of engineering plastics that are compliant to FDA, USDA, 3A Dairy standards making them available in applications where they will come into direct contact with food. They are also being chosen for their
ability to create a quieter work environment.
With 2014 looking to be a great year for Food Processing equipment sales I wanted to share what we most find in food processing applications and why.
UHMW continues to lead the way (by pounds sold in the United States) in the transformation from metal to plastic parts. For more information on materials sold in the U.S. see this article by the American Chemical Council. Compared to steel UHMW is just 1/7th the weight. In addition UHMW is corrosion resistant. UHMW is a great option for room temperature applications like guides, paddles, and cutting surfaces. Recent advances include the introduction of metal detectable versions that can be recognized by your detection systems in line.
For bearing and wear applications, Nylon materials have been the workhorse for over 30 years. Like UHMW, Nylon is also light weight, and provides lubrication – free operation making it a great material for producing bearings or bushings. Gears and sprockets made of Nylon have been popular because they can reduce noise in work areas. They can also improve the efficiency of production lines conveying food and liquids in your plants by lasting longer than metals, which reduces downtime, and by allowing lines to run faster.
For many components, Acetal is the best choice for metal replacement, and we find its popularity is growing quickly in the food processing industry. Acetal (Delrin Homopolymer or CoPolymer brands like Acetron GP and Celcon) are very easy to machine, and their very low moisture absorption rates make them a good choice for the often wet environment of food processing. Acetals are harder than Nylons and maintain dimensional stability where Nylons tend to be more flexible. In many applications Acetals can handle continuous use temperatures up to 210° F and they are typically compatible with most cleaning solutions, a huge plus in the food processing industry.
A popular speciality material is Quadrant Engineering Plastics Ertalyte material. Ertalyte has unique properties that allow it to wear like Acetal in wet environments and like Nylon in dry or unlubricated environments. I like to think of it as giving you the best of both worlds! Ertalyte also is highly resistant to stains generated by things like tomato based sauces and green vegetables. Ertalyte also has high dimensional stability that meets the demands of the highly precise machining tolerances required in filling pistons and fluid manifolds.
In looking to the future of food processing the demands are heavy. Companies are working hard to keep consumer prices in line while still making a profit. Food processing companies are achieving these goals by improving efficiency and creating better work environments. Plastics are an increasingly big part of the solution because their use in parts can improve line speeds, decrease maintenance downtime, and even make for a quieter work environment.
As I look at the Engineering Plastics and High Performance Materials we have here at AIN Plastics I’m pleased to see how they are being used to improve the food processing industry and I’m excited to see the new applications our customers are working on as well as the new materials our suppliers are always working on. If you have an application you’ve been scratching your head over, give us a call. We know there are lots of options and we can help you take some of the guess work out of finding out if Engineering Plastics are right for your application.
Sales and Marketing Manager
ThyssenKrupp Materials NA
AIN Plastics Division
For more information on Engineering Plastics visit http://www.tkmna.com/tkmna/Products/Plastics/Engineering/index.html