In the food & beverage industry, production lines must follow practices and cleaning procedures such as washdowns to maintain good hygiene standards and meet consumer safety requirements. The use of linear actuators for driving the motion found in food & beverage production equipment is invaluable, however, these actuators must be able to handle the high temperature and water pressure during washdowns. This article will cover the important aspects of washdown actuators to consider for applications in the food & beverage industry such as their suitability, use cases, and important specifications.
The Importance of Washdown in the Food & Beverage Industry
In food & beverage processing facilities, cleanliness is paramount. With stringent health and safety regulations, ensuring that equipment can be thoroughly cleaned is crucial to prevent contamination and maintain the integrity of food & beverage production. That's where washdown comes in as a factor to consider when choosing linear actuators.
Washdown refers to the process of cleaning equipment using high pressure jets of water, sanitizing agents, and sometimes even steam. Actuators used in washdown applications need to be able to withstand this type of rigorous cleaning process without compromising their functionality or causing production downtime. In addition to efficient production, machines in these processes must keep food & beverage products safe by preventing bacteria, lubricating fluids, or other contaminants that could harm consumers from contacting the product.
Assessing Actuators for Washdown Applications
After confirming the types of washdown procedures and cleaning practices that must be followed, it's time to look at the crucial aspects you should consider during your evaluation of actuators for food & beverage related application. The top priorities may vary for each application, however, most washdown applications in the food & beverage industry should consider:
- Ingress Protection Ratings
- Corrosion Resistance
- Form Factor
- Service Life Performance
1. Ingress Protection Ratings
Having a sufficient ingress protection rating ensures a longer product lifespan when exposed to water and other cleaning substances used in washdown procedures. Our range of actuators has options with IP ratings available at IP67M for 30 minutes of dust and waterproof protection while in motion. We also offer our highest IP ratings of IP68M dynamic waterproof protection in motion and IP69K for protection against powerful high temperature water jets when not in operation.
Units rated for IP67M such as the PA-06 Waterproof Electric Linear Actuator are suitable for installation with equipment that gets exposed to lots of water. The IP69K static ratings of our PA-10 Waterproof Linear Actuator are capable of handling powerful high temperature washdowns when the actuator is not being operated.
2. Corrosion Resistance
When subject to lots of water, cleaning agents, food & beverage products, and temperature changes, certain materials are more likely to degrade over time than others. For suitability in washdown applications, consider selecting components that consist of materials with corrosion resistance such as stainless steel or composite materials. While it is possible to encase linear actuators with protective covers, the ideal scenario would be to have the actuators themselves come built with the necessary corrosion resistance. Our PA-10 Waterproof Linear Actuator is available in a Salt Spray rated version which features specialized porcelain plated housing to ensure much greater corrosion resistance than standard actuator models. This has been vigorously tested for up to 400 hours of salt spray exposure, ensuring that it will perform in the harshest environments.
3. Form Factor
Actuators with smooth surfaces and minimal crevices leave no room for gunk or residue to accumulate, making them easier to clean thoroughly. This type of tubular form factor our PA-06 Waterproof Electric Linear Actuator offers helps to promote a hygienic design that minimizes the risk of bacteria growth. The easy to clean form factor is convenient to have for an entire facility, however, this design becomes more crucial when the actuator is near or making direct contact with the food and drink products.
4. Service Life Performance
The actuators you choose should have the durability to provide reliable performance, even after repeated washdown cycles. Over time, the air lines found in pneumatic actuators have a risk of collecting contaminants and water condensation while hydraulic actuators may risk leaking hydraulic fluid. In both these examples, there is a concern that unwanted impurities could contaminate food and drinks during production.
Electric linear actuators can avoid these issues since their motion comes from the translation of gears and ACME screws that are driven directly through their built-in electric motor. Being self lubricated internally for the life of the unit also ensures require no maintenance will be required when used within their ratings. This helps in reducing labor, production downtime, and saves resources over the span of the electric actuator’s service life.
Choosing the right linear actuators for washdown applications in the food & beverage industry is essential to maintaining the healthy hygiene standards, efficiency, and product safety. By considering factors such as ingress protection, design, and performance, you can better ensure that your equipment maintains smooth operation and avoids any unwanted disruptions in the future.
As one of the top suppliers of electric linear actuators, Progressive Automations offers industry-leading flexibility, quality, support, and field experience to meet all your needs. If you have any other questions about what we can offer, please do not hesitate to reach out to us! We are experts in what we do and want to ensure you find the best solutions for your application.
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