What are Food Conveyors?

Food conveyors are the powerhouse of the food and beverage processing industry. Food conveyors move foods and other organic materials through their processes safely and quickly. All at a fraction of the cost of manual labor the same task.  The term “food conveyor” covers a wide variety of systems ranging from roller, belts and dumpers. They cover anything used to move foods or organics through the manufacturing processes. Each system is customized and always developed to fit the needs of each project. It’s important to remember that just because it is a stainless steel conveyor that does not mean it meets all the food grade requirements.
Food grade belt conveyor with guides
Ultimation designs food conveyor systems to meet each application’s requirements and regulations. Unlike regular industrial conveyors, food conveyors and washdown conveyors have higher requirements. All must be easy to clean, maintain, and inspect. We design and specify the components, materials, and lubricants to meet FDA regulations. Food processing operations have very diverse requirements. We can guide you through the process and the choices necessary. Ultimation’s team has many years of experience in designing and installation of material handling systems. Our food conveyor equipment capabilities range from raw ingredients to packaged ready to eat products. We’ll handle the mechanical, electrical and lubrication systems. The end result is affordable, reliable food and sanitary conveyors that will last many years. Stainless steel conveyor systems are expensive, but we will help you optimize the value.

Why are Food Grade Conveyors So Important?

Your company has worked hard to build its reputation. Food safety is constantly in the news. We understand that protecting your reputation and the safety of your product is essential. Food grade conveyors are one of the most important parts of the food and beverage industry. The most basic requirements are to ensure hygienic processing and packaging. If sourcing and design is not taken seriously, a contamination recall can occur. Any event like that will wreak havoc on a business’s bottom line and reputation.

The goal of food grade conveyor systems is to not only to provide food contamination response, but to prevent contamination from ever happening in the first place. We also understand that some exotic materials and systems can be very expensive. Stainless steel is often used. In some cases these materials can be 3 – 5 times more expensive than an ordinary industrial conveyor. Ultimation’s experts will help you choose the right materials for your product and regulations. We want you to get the best value system. That’s why we have a huge range of alternatives!

What are the Types of Conveyors Used in the Food Industry?

Here are some of the common types of food conveyors:

  1. Belt Conveyors. Food grade belt conveyors are the most common conveyor type in the food industry. Because their construction offers a smooth, continuous surface, they are easy to clean. This makes food conveyor belts ideal for food handling. These food belt conveyor systems are used throughout processing and packaging. The belt material for food-based applications must meet FDA regulations. It also must be strong, durable and made from acceptable use materials. Importantly, the materials that are acceptable for use with food products should always be easily cleaned. Customers often refer to these products as a food conveyor belt.
    . Stainless Steel Food Handling Belt Conveyor
  2. Wire Mesh Conveyors. Food grade wire mesh conveyors are constructed of stainless steel materials. The can withstand high and low temperatures, and products stick to them less easily. Wire mesh belt conveyors are available in any length, width, or speed to fit an application’s specific requirements. Food Grade Wire Mesh Belt Conveyor
  3. Troughed Belt Conveyors. Trough belt conveyors keep materials in the center of the conveyor. These conveyors are great for conveying bulk materials. Use them when conveying long distances while minimizing product loss from spillage. Troughed Food Handling Belt Conveyor with Top Cover
  4. Roller conveyors is a broad term and can stand for a variety of roller conveyor types. The include Gravity Roller, Chain Driven Live Roller (CDLR), Line shaft Driven Live Roller (LDLR), and Motor Driven Roller (MDR). These conveyor types are often used in food package handling applications. They are custom built to fit specific applications. That might include wash-down environment, specific temperature ranges, and many others. Finally, frames can be stainless steel (expensive) or powder coated carbon steel (more affordable).

What are the Types of Materials Used to Construct Food Grade Processing Systems?

Food grade systems are always designed and constructed of sanitary and hygienic materials. Each projects has its own needs and requirements that we will study with you. The process begins with understanding your product, the application and the applicable regulations. We will look at the type of conveyor you need, for example whether a roller or belt style would work best. Next, we look at areas of the conveyors where the food or organic materials are in contact with the surfaces.

In some cases, different materials can be used according to whether the food is in constant contact with a surface or not. For example, food moving along a belt conveyor is always in contact with the belt. So the food conveyor belt material always needs to meet or exceed the requirement for contact with the food. Frame materials and guarding materials can have different requirements. Where conveyor frames are not in contact with any food materials, powder coated carbon steel finishes are the lowest cost solution. Galvanized or zinc plated surfaces are allowed in some other situations. Stainless steel grades are most common for the highest levels of protection. This includes most washdown standard requirements. Stainless steel conveyor belts use stainless steel for the frames and food grade materials for the conveyor belt.

Food grade oils and greases to lubricate washdown conveyors

Conveyors are always designed to ensure that any lubricants don’t get in direct contact with your product. But motors and bearings need lubricants or they will fail. We design Ultimation’s food grade conveyors with protected mechanical and electrical devices. Lubricants meet the appropriate National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) grade. ISO Standard 21469 is a voluntary standard that also provides more guidance in selecting lubricants. You can learn more about the lubricant requirements here and here. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) prepared the original regulations, and now the NSF manages the program. Categories for lubricants under the program are:

  • Category H3: Known as soluble or edible oils. Used to clean and prevent rust on hooks, trolleys and similar equipment.
  • Category H2: Used in places where there is NO possibility of contaminating the food. Because there is no risk of contamination, H2 lubricants don’t have a defined list of acceptable ingredient. But there ARE a some substances it definitely cannot contain.
  • Category H1: Food processing environments where there is some possibility of incidental food contact. Formulations can only use one or more approved base stocks, additives, and thickeners

You can learn more about lubricants for food grade systems here or here. Castrol is one of the leading brands that we use with more information available here.

How are Food Grade Conveyor Systems Designed?

Sanitation and use requirements are the starting point. Each system requires specialized engineering to meet FDA regulations. Your conveyor or food processing equipment and will go through a material specification checklist. The process is based on the information provided by the end user with the most important factor considered, cleanability. The choices between stainless steel or lower grade materials can have a large impact on the cost.

In the food and beverage industry, it is important that all conveyor systems adhere to rigorous hygienic requirements. The conveyor is designed to reduce the number of buildup points where residue can accumulate. There are three standard cleanup design packages that Ultimation starts with:

  • Wipe Down Series for Dry Cleanup
  • Washdown Series for Wet Cleanup, or
  • Hygienic Series for Sanitary Cleanup

Wipe Down Rated for Dry Cleanup

 The wipe down rated package consists of carbon steel materials with 304 stainless steel rollers and pulleys. Conveyor frames and supports are FDA powder coated. The conveyor will have an FDA belt (if applicable). System lubricants are FDA-H1 with a non-washdown drive. Electrical and controls are NEMA-1 standard.

Washdown Rated for Wet Cleanup

The washdown rated package consists of 304 stainless steel 2B mill finish. Stitch welded conveyor frames and supports use 304 stainless steel rollers and pulleys. Lubricants are FDA-H1 with an epoxy painted washdown drive. All electrical and controls are NEMA-4X rated. The system and frame welds will be cleaned but not ground.

Hygienic Rated for Sanitary Cleanup

The hygienic rated package consists of 304 stainless steel 2B mill finish. Frames are continuously welded conveyor frames. Supports are 304 stainless steel rollers and pulleys. Lubricants are FDA-H1 with stainless steel washdown drive. Electrical and controls are NEMA-4X rated. The system’s welds will be coarse ground and cleaned.

Why Choose Ultimation?

We have served some of the largest manufacturers in the world, designing and building automation and conveyor equipment in facilities of all sizes. As a woman-owned enterprise with more than 30 years of experience, we are unique among our competitors. We can address your needs with complete turn-key service from start to finish. Whether you need a food conveyor belt or some other kind of conveyor, we can help!
 
For more information about any of our systems or to begin working with us, contact one of our representatives today. Our knowledgeable and experienced professionals can help you get started on a solution that meets your facility’s requirements.

Need help learning about other conveyor types, which types to use and how to specify them? This step by step guide will help.

We have served some of the largest manufacturers in the world, designing and building automation and conveyor equipment in facilities of all sizes. As a woman-owned enterprise with more than 30 years of experience, we are unique among our competitors. We can address your needs with complete turn-key service from start to finish.