Sometimes parts that are providing reliable, long-lasting service can suddenly begin to fail when the conditions change.
Such was the case recently for leading Queensland food and beverage industry pumps and cleaning systems provider Euro Pumps, who needed to raise the temperature from 55oC to 75oC at an abattoir.
The abattoir had recently varied their livestock mix, and the 20 degree increase in temperature was necessary to cope with changes in fat and blood adhesion and soiling on production line equipment. The increase in temperature was effective in cleaning the production line equipment, but it caused an unexpected side-effect – the nylon-cased Clean In Place (CIP) pump valves began to fail incredibly quickly.
The initial solution attempt was to custom manufacture new valve cages from stainless steel, which brought about other issues causing the stainless-steel springs to break and fail. Further investigations showed that the spring breakage was attributed to the stainless steel binding on stainless steel, so the solution was electro-coat the springs, however this did not prove to be a long-lasting solution as the coating quickly wore off.
A suggested anti-seize type compound was not an option due to the hot (75°C), high pressure (100 Bar) water flowing through the system. By this time the customer was getting anxious and the problem needed to be solved quickly.
Euro Pumps Product Development Manager, Joanne Field says they were stumped, until they asked Cut To Size Plastics for some help. "I called Cut To Size's Technical Sales Representative, Campbell Parminter, who immediately started thinking outside the box," she said.
"After examination of the original cages, material identification and a check for chemical compatibility with common additives to water, Cut To Size identified that the failure was due to accelerated chemical degradation due to the elevated heat in a chemical environment and not just heat, as was first suggested," she explained.
Cut To Size recommended a special high performance polymer to solve the problem. This test polymer was highly successful and has passed a standard service life test of 1,000 hours. Further testing is still under way and both parties are expecting it to far exceed the standard 1,000 hours.
"The solution was a great example of how teamwork between suppliers and customers can yield outstanding results. Before we contacted Cut To Size, some of these pumps were wearing out in as little as one week and our clients need a much more reliable performance than that. Campbell and I enjoy working together on solving problems," said Field.
"Now they're not only lasting the industry standard, but we are aiming to well exceed it, pending the results of further testing," she said.
Parminter is happy with the success of the solution, which he hopes will further cement Cut To Size's relationship with Euro Pumps. "Our attitude is always to find the best way to solve our customer's problems, we listen and ask questions – we never put a project in the 'too hard basket'," he said.
Clean In Place Systems
Higher safety demands faced by food, beverage and agribusiness processors and packagers are driving demand for advanced engineering plastics to withstand the demands of the latest cleaning and hygiene systems.
Clean in Place (CIP) systems, enzyme systems and aseptic packaging are important areas where such plastics can offer high performance in terms of resistance to temperatures, radiation, chemicals and water.
Efficient food packaging equipment no longer has to be disassembled for cleaning, being fitted instead with a built-in "flush" (or CIP Clean in Place) system, says Frank Domajnko, QLD manager of the national and international plastics specialist, Cut To Size Plastics
Acid-based cleaning solutions are automatically routed through CIP machines' plumbing so the tear-down and set-up cycles that previously took many hours can be reduced to a matter of minutes.
Better hygiene and equipment utilisation outcomes are also produced by advanced agribusiness systems where enzymes are used for cleaning tanks and equipment such as ultrafiltration membranes or heat exchangers in the dairy industry, for example.
"Both CIP and enzyme systems make demands on the materials with which they come in contact. CIP systems are generally acid-based or, more commonly, chlorine-based. Depending upon the concentration, these cleaners can be moderately to extremely caustic. Plastics such as our high performance polymers can be highly resistant to acid and chlorine. At the same time, THEIR non-porous surface resists staining, clearly outperforming widely used alternatives," said Domajnko.
Selecting the correct materials for their dimensional stability, excellent wear resistance, high strength and their ability to be used continuously at higher temperatures also make it an ideal candidate for replacing stainless steel components. For example, coupled with its stiffness and ease of fabrication, high performance plastics are commonly used in food presses. Here too, the material resists the highly-chlorinated sanitising solutions.