Thursday 6th Aug, 2020

Making food processing a breeze

Aerobelt’s air-based conveyors are helping food producers improve hygiene, reduce maintenance and cut down on energy costs.

Aerobelt’s air-based conveyors are helping food producers improve hygiene, reduce maintenance and cut down on energy costs.

Every food business in the country, whether it’s a school canteen or a multinational manufacturer needs to ensure their product is safe to eat, according to the Australian Institute of Food Safety.

If a business is the cause of a foodborne illness outbreak, the consequences can be serious. Businesses can be fined for hundreds of thousands of dollars, operators may be personally liable for prosecution and brands can be damaged or even shut down entirely.

Simon Kutassy, a Mechanical Engineer at Aerobelt Australia, says food producers should enclose their conveyor belts to protect their bulk materials from outside contaminants.

“By doing so, it is easier to maximise hygiene and keep unwanted objects out of the product stream,” he says.

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“However, on a conventional conveyor with rollers, it can be harder or more expensive to enclose. This is where Aerobelt shines.”

Aerobelt makes use of an air cushion belt conveyor, which is where the belt is carried on a film of air instead of rollers. Air is blown under the conveyor by a small fan, with a number of holes in the trough to help set a certain air pressure and volume.

The belt only requires the use of return rollers at the very ends of the system, significantly cutting down on the weight and maintenance required.

Mr Kutassy says this technology has a number of benefits for food producers when compared with standard conveyor belts.

“Aerobelts gently handle product with less agitation from the belt itself. On a standard conveyor, the belt rises and falls as it moves over the different rollers, which can ruin delicate foods such as peas or beans,” he says.

“Belt conveyors tend to be better for moving these materials compared with drag or screw conveyors.

“Stainless steel components are also available for food grade environments where hygiene and cleaning are a critical factor. This material is much easier to keep clean and won’t corrode.”

As Aerobelts lack carry rollers, there is a significant reduction in start-up inertia allowing the belt to run with lower tension and smaller drives than an equivalent roller conveyor. With a reduced level of friction, power consumption falls as well.

A number of belt types are compatible with the Aerobelt technology, including food-grade belts, fire-resistant and anti-static belts and high temperature belts capable of withstanding up to 200°C.

Due to its lighter construction, the system can be installed in areas where other conveyors would be impossible. Aerobelts are able to reach inclines of up to 27 degrees and are fully reversible, enabling for enhanced flexibility in system design.

Additionally, the belts can be retrofitted to existing conveyor galleries, thanks to a number of design features allowing it to follow the curves of existing supports. Concave and convex curves can be accommodated in the same conveyor if required.

To make it easier to assemble the conveyors, Aerobelts are constructed from prefabricated trough sections. This modular construction simplifies assembly and leads to lower installation costs.

Mr Kutassy says another key benefit is keeping dust emissions contained while also protecting the product.

“Dust can be an issue, especially when working with grains like wheat,” he says. “We are also able to supply conveyors that can run in an explosive environment.”

As a result of a lack of moving parts, Aerobelts make much less noise, which can be critical in a factory setting where noise limits apply.

“It’s entirely possible to have these conveyors used in relatively built up areas and stand right next to the mid-section and not be able to hear it running,” Mr Kutassy says.

With less parts, the potential to break is reduced. This means the conveyors are more reliable and prevent unscheduled downtime.

“Our customers have found them to be very reliable and extremely low maintenance,” Mr Kutassy says.

“Most of our customers come back for more, happy with the performance of Aerobelt conveyors.”