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What is Your Stainless Finishes IQ?

RMS (Root Mean Square) is a standard used to diagnose machining operations and surface finish.  The fineness of the finish and ultimate success of sanitation effectiveness is called RA, the roughness average, measured by height in millionths of an inch or microinches. 

A profilometer device determines RA values of small surface variations and calculates their average to determine roughness.

In terms of material used in food processing and commercial equipment, here is the list of stainless materials from smoothest to the roughest RA range.

Electropolished surfaces range from 6 RA – 14RA microinches. Electropolishing can change RA values up to 50% smoother, depending on the material being treated.

2B Mill Finish – This is a widely used stainless steel finish, common in industrial, chemical and food applications. It is corrosion resistance and has a typical range from 15RA (16 gauge) – to 40 RA (7 gauge) microinches.

No. 4/Dairy Finish – For processing industries, the Dairy finish is required to meet the basic 3-A standards. It uses a 180 grit and has an RA range of 18-31 microinches.

No. 4 Finish – This finish uses a 150-grit abrasive creating a polished brushed surface. The RA range is 29-40 microinches.

No. 3 Finish – The No. 3 finish uses a 120 grit abrasive. It has a semi-polished finish with an RA range of 36 – 58 microinches.

Bead Blasted surfaces have a soft satin appearance and low reflection.  The process of bead blasting utilizes bead material such as glass or ceramic beads to produce a non-directional, textured surface.  The finer the blasting media, the more corrosion resistance the surface performance. The RA values are typically higher than 45RA microinches, but are dependent on the blasting process and the stainless material.

Improve your Stainless Finishes IQ; read our complimentary e-book.


Sanitation and Safety Checklist: Time for a Review?

An equipment safety and sanitation audit can provide direction for implementing improvement procedures and specifying equipment updates that mitigate risk and solve for safety and production goals.  Here’s an excerpt from our audit checklist:

  • Are all parts of the equipment readily accessible for inspection, maintenance, sanitation?
  • Is there any evidence of premature wear on parts?
  • Does the equipment properly self-drain to assure food product, water or sanitizing fluids do not accumulate?
  • Are all hollow areas removed where possible or permanently sealed to eliminate any harborage areas?
  • During operation, does the equipment perform properly as not to contribute to unsanitary conditions?
  • Is the equipment free of niches, pits, cracks, corrosion, recessed, open seams, gaps inside threads, bolt rivets, protruding ledges, rusting and dead ends?
  • Are the enclosures and HMIs designed, constructed, and maintained to ensure food product, water or other liquids do not penetrate or accumulate on the enclosure or interface?
  • Is there adequate space between the floor and the equipment body for sanitation?
  • Are bearings, gear motors and hydraulic system sealed, guarded, and/or mounted away from the product zone? 

    Our 25-point checklist walks through compatibility, compliance, food safety risk and personnel safety.  

    Contact a technical sales manager for a plant visit risk review.

10 Solution Examples to Reduce Foreign Material Contamination

Every food processor has their own unique food safety challenges. Here is one process room scenario where attention to process layout, equipment modifications and training can significantly reduce foreign material contamination.

  1. Operator Training High-volume automation brings a high degree of risk for machinery fatigue and vibration. Over time, nuts and bolts will loosen and moving components that become misaligned can produce loose metal. In addition, the equipment operator must completely understand how every facet of the equipment works, including the symptoms when it isn’t running properly.  
  2. Seal Maintenance Many causes of downstream food contamination are the result of a broken seal, improper packing or a grooved or broken shaft. COP (clean-out-of-place) split seals should be checked for wear and sanitized daily. Seals should be part of the preventative maintenance program and included in your parts inventory.
  3. Pallet Retention System (PRS) The PRS is integrated into the loading base of select pallet dumper equipment. It is engineered to securely remove the pallet away from the dump zone so that wood, nails, and other impurities are prevented from entering the product stream. 
  4. Liner Hold Down Another option on pallet dumper equipment is the liner hold-down mechanism which is engineered to hold back the liner during the dumping process. The liner hold-down prevents the plastic from entering the food zone and prevents the operators from having to lean or reach over the food zone to control the liner.
  5. Electropolished Food Contact Finishes Processors often choose electropolished food contact surfaces on equipment which provide the smoothest surfaces for ease of sanitation, and provide the highest level of corrosion resistance, including the performance of weldments.
  6. Open-frame Construction Open-design framework with butt weld type, ground to a smooth finish provides superior sanitation performance.  Bolt and thread designs should be hygienically designed with enclosed threads.
  7. Metal Detection In this example, the metal detector is placed near the beginning of the grind-blend line to detect and circumvent tramp metal from entering the grinder and downstream equipment.
  8. Drop-Conveyor Inspection The drop belt conveyor shown in the layout allows trim meat to be flipped during conveyance and allows for visual inspection of foreign material before the product is transported downstream.
  9. Grinder Maintenance Foreign material can include metal shavings and shards from grinders.  Keep the grinder finely tuned and in proper alignment; keep the pins, bushings, heads and knives in well maintained condition. 
  10. Sanitation Training  Confirm that the sanitation crew completely understands the proper disassembly and reassembly of all COP (clean-out-of-place) components. Improper installation may create wear points on machinery which can lead to contamination.

    Contact our technical sales representatives for questions for Food Safety Solutions in your process layout


Coating Technology Improves Component Sanitation Performance
With rising costs for energy and labor, there is a continuous need to improve operational efficiency, cut costs, and increase uptimes. One area of improvement is to increase the life and sanitation performance of motors, gear motors and bearings.

In consideration of the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), some processors choose food safe stainless motors. Encapsulated stainless steel food safety motors, however, are twice the cost of a standard motor. 

The use of painted components are common in food processing plants.  Sanitation is tough on equipment with caustic chemicals spraying at 1000 psi. Once the components chip, there is a risk for the paint chips to enter the food stream. Then corrosion sets in and reduces the life of the component. 

A cost effective, high-performance solution is to start with food grade components and apply the Steel-It brand coating technology using a special application process. Mepaco’s customers have been very satisfied with the result and continue to specify the food grade coating on components for all new projects.

The specialty coating is USDA approved. It blocks corrosion, wear and abrasion and lasts 5+ years in harsh environments.  It is formulated with 316 stainless micro-flakes, making it durable for sanitation and can be subjected to detergents, food acids, alkali, and various chemical agents.

Contact a sales manager for more information about cost saving sanitation.


A Quick Read on Mepaco's Products and Industries we Serve

Here is a quick read on our products and industries that Mepaco serves.

Equipment Products: Cookers, Blenders, Dumpers, Metering Screw Conveyors, Mixers, Pump Feeders, Sanitary Belt Conveyors, Sanitary Design Lifts, Vacuum Stuffers and systems.

Food Manufacturing Industries: Dairy, Meat and Poultry, Pet Food, Plant-Based Foods and Proteins, Processed Foods and RTE, Fruits and Vegetables.

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