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What is the Difference Between Bead Blasting and Electropolishing?

 

The process for sanitary stainless steel equipment fabrication starts with the selection of the metal and special handling of the material to prevent contamination. For many food and chemical producers, the level of finishing on processing equipment is determined by federal, state, and local regulatory agencies. In sanitary applications, the finish, as well as the material, must be designed to mitigate risk and allow for effective and efficient cleaning and sanitation.

A bead blast finish is commonly used for exterior equipment surfaces and can be found on the interior food contact surfaces.  The bead blasting process utilizes bead material such as glass or ceramic beads to produce a non-directional, textured surface with a soft satin appearance and low reflectivity. The finer the blasting media, the more corrosion-resistant the surface performance. The RA values are typically higher than 45 but are dependent on the blasting process and the stainless material.

Bead blasting is commonly used when a uniform finish is desired in structural, material handling, or food handling applications. Many food manufacturers utilize a bead blast finish on the food contact surface area; all who have the equipment and sanitation protocols that comply with their industry food safety regulations.

Electropolishing is an electrochemical process that removes surface material from stainless steel. It produces an extremely smooth, mirror-like finish. The process includes immersing the stainless-steel component into a temperature-controlled bath of electrolytes charged with a DC power supply. Electrolytes used in electropolishing are concentrated sulfuric and phosphoric acid solutions.

Electropolished food contact surfaces comply with sanitation protocols, provide operational sanitation performance beyond compliance, and significantly reduce food attachment, which drives food safety goals and sanitation efficiencies for food processors.

Under 200X magnification, the 304 Stainless electropolish finish shows six times the smoothness measurement than the 304 Stainless Bead Blast Finish.

As microorganisms attach to surfaces, they become more resistant to both physical and chemical sanitation practices. It was determined that out of eleven different finishes tested, the electropolished finish was the most resistant surface to bacterial attachment.

Electropolished food contact surfaces commonly optioned in Mepaco’s cookers, mixers, pump feeders, vacuum stuffers, screw conveyors and inside chutes of dumping equipment. Agitators, shafts and augers can also be electropolished, to treat the entire food contact surface.  Electropolishing services are offered in-house by experienced technicians; there is no dependency on outsourcing.

Mepaco’s food processing customers have more discretion in choosing equipment finishes, even in food contact environments. The type of food product, bacterial count, manufacturing function, and sanitation procedures all have an impact on the requirements of equipment finishes.


Metering Screws Drive Surge Production and Eliminate Waste

 

Metering Screw Conveyors provide surge delivery to downstream equipment, allowing continuous production.  Load cells can be integrated into the metering screw to use the loss-in-weight method for measuring product displacement. Metering Screws deliver and surge the correct quantity of product to the mixers, cookers, or blenders downstream as required by the recipe.

CLEAN SWEEP

The Metering Screw Conveyor is designed with a Clean Sweep Hopper that eliminates waste with a solution that mechanically clears food product between batches.

In the animation, a paddle agitator sweeps the sides of the tub and continually pushes product into the feed screw.

The spin ridge keeps product from barreling, maintaining positive conveyance until the food product is completely unloaded.

DESIGN

Mepaco has engineered Metering Screws up to 6000 lbs. capacity. The screw conveyor delivers metering, formulating and surge applications and handles ground and trim meats, prepared foods, frozen foods, and pet food. Design customization includes:
 

  • Incline up to 35 degrees
  • Load heights range from 72” and 84” for an average 3000 lb. unit
  • Discharge heights vary based on a 20’ screw length and incline angle
  • Screw lengths longer than 20’, are application dependent, and will require a hanger bearing

Contoured covers can be integrated on the screw conveyor, which allows for an increased incline angle, fully contained discharge and reduced footprint.

Processors can realize production efficiencies with options that include:

  • Single or dual screw
  • Screw covers
  • Load Cells
  • Clean in place (CIP) solutions
  • Electropolished food contact surfaces
  • Heating or Cooling Jackets
  • Fixed or variable speed drives

INFEED

A typical floor layout is a DP3000 (Direct Pivot) Dumper feeding the hopper. For discharge heights greater than 120”, custom platforms can provide elevated load height and higher discharge requirements.

While not as common, the HD3000, LD3000 and CD1000 dumpers have also been used to feed the Metering Screw.

Surge loading metering screws used in a formulation system configured side by side often use a reciprocating belt conveyor to deliver product between hoppers, depending on the recipe demand.

DISCHARGE

The discharge chutes on Metering Screws can be static or pivoting. Controls can be programmed to direct chutes to multiple discharge locations.

Mepaco engineers and manufactures many types of Metering Conveyors, from the Clean-Sweep configuration to the Cross-Screw Hopper Design and the conventional center-screw hopper. Our engineering team works with the processor to specify and modify the design to meet the goals of the application.


Doubling Cook Batches without Doubling Footprint

 

 

This featured system doubled cooking batches within a minimal footprint used well-planned equipment selection, floor layout, and controls customization. Mepaco®'s cooking system featured side-by-side ThermaBlend® cookers, with a shared maintenance and sanitation platform.  

SYSTEM FLEXIBILITY
The multi-recipe prepared foods processor benefited from flexibility in production scenarios. The system can run two batches at once, staggered, or different batches in each cooker, all driven by production demand and recipe controls.

SYSTEM EFFICIENCY
The ThermaBlend® Cooker supports quick homogeneous batch turn for their multi-recipe production requirements. The wrap-around heat jacket design, bi-directional scraper system, and an application-specific agitator create cooking and blending efficiencies. 

Further efficiencies of the ThermaBlend® cooker include the variation of processing capabilities in one unit, such as cooking, searing, caramelizing, sautéing, and blending. A versatile unit, ThermaBlend®'s is designed for large-scale cooking operations. Customization such as integrating vacuum and cooling, also provides added efficiency.

The batches are discharged into a heated buffering mixer that maintains product temperature and consistency until signaled for release to downstream operations.

The opposite cover design on the dual cookers with the shared platform and the electropolished food contact surfaces create a high degree of sanitation efficiency.

SYSTEM RELIABILITY

The system is highly controlled and reliable. Mepaco's ThermaBlend®'s are engineered with extremely robust stay-bolt ASME-rated jackets. Cookers are customized to the application, including experienced agitator designs to meet rigorous production requirements.

Two column dumpers are used to add ingredients to two ThermaBlend® cookers.  The Mepaco® Column Dumper offers a very heavy-duty design and is engineered for maintenance ease.  Mepaco® often makes modifications depending on the application, such as column heights, dump angles to 60 degrees, dumper capacity, extended chutes, and stainless upgrade kit.

Mepaco® has a new test cooker for processors with new products or recipes requiring cooking and blending. The test cooker is a 75-gallon ThermaBlend® unit with steam injection, vacuum, pneumatic covers and doors, and dual ribbon agitators. Learn more about scheduling a trial. 

The Mepaco® brand has been around for a long time. The company began in 1932, and we are well known for our blending systems. Mepaco®'s team of long-standing technical sales managers, engineers, and project leaders work with customer teams to solve for the best solution that fits the application and production goals. Our equipment and systems uphold increased yield performance, optimal designs for ease of maintenance and operation, single-source manufacturing capabilities, the highest sanitary equipment finishes available and vigilant compliance of food safety criteria.


New ThermaBlend® Test Cooker

Mepaco has a new test cooker for processors who have new products or recipes that require cooking and blending. The test cooker is a 75-gallon ThermaBlend® unit with steam injection, vacuum, pneumatic covers and doors, and dual ribbon agitators.

The ThermaBlend® is designed specifically for large scale batch operations. All of the components from the tub to the agitators are custom designed to meet the needs of the blending application. It is designed with wrap-around steam jacket, fabricated by ASME certified welders, which offers massive heat transfer efficiencies.

Inquire about a trial of this test cooker in your facility and experience:

  • Quick homogeneous blending while minimizing shear.
  • A durable, bi-directional scraper system keeps the heat exchange surface clean, minimizing burn-on while optimizing heat transfer.
  • The massive heat transfer area, highly efficient agitators and patent pending scraper system dramatically reduce process time over conventional batch cookers.
  • Vacuum cooking to further reduce process time.

The controls provided on the test cooker provide flexibility for a rigorous test, including:

  • Status Monitoring
  • Alarm Indication/History
  • Alternating Mixing
  • Modulated Steam Jacket
  • Cooking to Temperature
  • Pull Vacuum on Product
  • Up to 30 recipes
  • Temperature Setpoints
  • Speed Setpoints
  • Rockwell Controls System Components

Contact a sales representative today to schedule a test!


Animation Highlights Dumper Features that Solve for Food Safety

Mepaco’s Food Processing customers often opt for custom and modifiable dumping equipment features that provide the highest level of personnel and food safety, highlighted in this animation.

Locking Mechanism:  Pallet Retention cylinders secure the pallet on both sides to retain its position during the dump cycle. The locking mechanism is part of the PRS (Pallet Retention System).

Personnel Guarding: In the animation, personnel guarding is demonstrated for the entire dump-zone footprint and includes safety relays that control the e-stop position.

Elevated Load Height:  Whether it benefits production or personnel maneuverability, elevated load heights can be customized into the dumping equipment solution.

Pneumatic LRS (Liner Hold Down): A liner hold-down is controlled to enter the tote to prevent the liner from separating from the combo and falling into the hopper. The liner hold-down prevents operators from having to reach and try to control the liner by hand.

PRS (Pallet Retention System): The PRS design feature allows the combo to complete the dump cycle while separating from the pallet, limiting the potential for contamination in the food stream. Upon completion of the dump cycle, the dumper and frame are reunited, and the carriage assembly returns to the start-load position. 

The Pallet Retention System (PRS) and the Liner Retention System (LRS) are both available on the DP3000 Pivot Dumper (shown in the animation) and the HD3000 High Lift Dumper models.

Other food and personnel safety options include:

  • Upgrading from standard cylinders to stainless cylinders
  • Stainless Steel pivot bearings
  • Electropolished chute
  • Safety side shields or other safety cage customization
  • Beacon light

Mepaco offers dumpers with a range of versatility from 48” to 175” dump heights.  We also manufacture accessories including lifts, vats, tubs, and buggies for your material handling needs. The tote dumpers (DP3000, HD3000 and LD3000) have a working capacity of 3,000 lbs. (1,361 Kg) and a 45-degree dump angle.

Visit Mepaco’s Dumping Equipment for more information.


What NOT to do When an Agitator is Failing

Many processors make their own repairs to equipment, but in the case of agitators, the repair must be sound to avoid problems in the future.  Mepaco Service technicians are trained and experienced to troubleshoot shaft wear and are specialists in the repair of stainless steel.  Here is a list of what not to do when making your own repairs:

  • Do not ignore failing agitator – depending on their use of equipment, they need to schedule at least a temporary repair as soon as possible. Visit our blog to determine if your agitator is failing.
  • Incorrect weld repairs can cause the agitator to bow which causes run out and adds a new stress point in the agitator.  One incorrect weld repair may add another stress point in a different location.
  • Do not ask an inexperienced welder to make repairs. And experienced welder is required for agitator repair, there is a process of grinding out cracks, and cleaning procedures for proper repair of an agitator.
  • Don’t ignore straightening of the agitator after repair. It is very important for longer life of the agitator.

If you need to make a repair to continue production, be sure to schedule after care for the agitator.  You need an assessment to make sure the agitator is straight and that the welds will hold under stress.  We are currently experiencing long lead times for replacement agitators, so whether it is an after-event service call or a scheduled audit, it is important to have the agitator checked out to maintain production up-time.


Portable Column Dumper Solves for Flexible Production

There are multiple reasons to use a portable dumper equipment solution. Processors with quick turn batches and reoccurring recipe changes benefit from a portable dumper to use in multiple production areas. Some processors prefer to move equipment to designated sanitation areas. Also, the column dumper must be portable and move out of the way for mixers that require clearance for tipping hoppers to unload.

Another feature on the column dumper is an extended chute integrated with a 60-degree dump angle. The extended chute covers the gap between the column dumper and the mixer when the components prevent a close fit.

This processor utilized a 60-degree dump angle because the application required that every particulate was added to the batch.

Personnel guarding featured on this column dumper is designed for visibility and access with safety relays that provide safe fork truck access.

Reliably Built Standard Features:

  • 10-ga stainless on 120” dump heights, 7-ga stainless on 144” column heights
  • Full penetration welds
  • Built-in safety features including (3) proximity switches, e-stop
  • Completely wired motor starter in NEMA 4X enclosure
  • Minimum maintenance on broken motor, chain, bearings, and proxy switches
     

Processors should be able to focus on critical operations and not have to worry about auxiliary equipment. That's what Mepaco's CD1000 Column Dumper delivers; a Column Dumper that is heavily built, engineered for easy maintenance, built to strict sanitary design standards, and like our processing equipment solutions, modifiable to meet specific production requirements.

For more information, download our Column Dumper Flyer.


How to Determine if your Auger / Screw Conveyor is Failing

If you have a transport, incline or metering screw, these conditions are symptoms of a failing auger / screw.

  • The screw is rubbing on the wall of the tub
  • There is a bow or wobble when running
  • The hanger bearings are wearing out prematurely
  • The wear pads are ground down beyond normal wear.
  • The gear box is hot.
  • The drive shaft is worn out prematurely.

Screw conveyors are important to keep product moving between processes, so pay close attention to these systems to stay ahead of maintenance issues. 

After any major incident, contact Mepaco Services to inspect repair. Mepaco Services may be able to make some repairs on site. Welding, straightening, stainless finishing can be performed on site.  However, re-machining a new piece, shaft or remanufacturing a paddle/ribbon, needs to be worked at the factory. 

It is important to assess the life and stress of the augers to make sure that you do not experience down-time. Mepaco Services can provide audits, service contracts or emergency repair to help to prolong the life of screw conveyors.


How to Know When an Agitator is Failing

In some cases, there is a particular event that causes agitator damage such as a shovel or fork falling into a piece of processing equipment.  However, there are several other signs that determine when an agitator is failing:

  • The agitator starts developing cracks in the pipe or welds.
  • The agitator starts rubbing the tub side wall.

Here are some causes of agitator damage:

  • The drive end motor is not shimmed properly.
  • There is a bad bearing on idle side may create flexing.
  • Long term issues may be caused by a tool dropping into the tub.
  • The product is being over chilled. It is wrapping over paddles, the temperature probes are not functional, and the CO2 or Nitro is turned off.

Agitators are part of Mixers, Mixer-Cookers, and ThermaBlend Cookers.  This equipment is the most important part of the processing line and must be maintained for maximum uptime.  Other equipment, such as Metering Screws with Hoppers have leveling ribbons that may also need to be included in the list for agitator maintenance.

Currently, there is a 3-to-6-month lead time for a new agitator.  In some cases, agitator repairs can be made at the customer site.  Mepaco Services may be able to use a sleeve or secure welds to get the machine back up and running.  Sometimes, it is possible to make repairs for temporary production while the new agitator is put on order.

Contact Parts and Service at 920-356-9900 for more information.


4 Tips to Address Emergency Downtime

Mepaco’s Service Team is often called out on critical downtime situations.  The goal for any food processor is to prevent these situations and if they are unavoidable, mitigate the time and cost associated with the breakdown.  To start with, here are the top four calls that Mepaco Services receive for emergency support:

Broken Shafts Agitators are failing when they start to develop cracks or start to rub the tub side wall of the processing equipment.  Agitators and shafts also fail when a tool or component drops into the equipment and damages the shaft or paddles. The damage is not always immediately apparent; a bent shaft may take months to start failing.

Gear Motors / Gear Boxes Oil leakage, hot temperatures and noise are all signs that gear motors or gear boxes may be failing. The motors and gear boxes commonly fail due to poor lubrication practices. They also may fail because of improper repair of the agitator and the gear motor and gear box may wear out prematurely.

Safety Devices Equipment is designed with safety modes and if the safety devices are damaged, whether accidental or environmental, the equipment will not operate.

Controls Internal programming errors, or physical damage to the HMI are also causes for emergency downtime.

In most instances, there are preventative measurements for processors to prevent downtime situations, but what can you do to mitigate the critical breakdown situation and get back online as soon as possible?

  1. Self-Repair of Shaft Agitator with After-Event Service Call Mepaco Services does provide emergency repairs, yet there is travel time and scheduling to plan. Some processors have maintenance capabilities to make their own repairs.  If the repair is viable by the internal maintenance team, be sure to schedule an after-event care assessment. Mepaco Services technicians will verify the repairs, fix if necessary and provide an assessment of the remaining life of the agitator. Agitators are a long lead parts component, so it is crucial to order the component if there is any indication that the existing shaft will not last.
  2. Emergency Replacement Program for Gear Motors / Gear Boxes Nord is a common component provider in Mepaco equipment. If your equipment has Nord gear motors or Nord gear boxes, the company does offer a weekend emergency expedite program.  There is a premium price for the service, but some processors choose the pay it to avoid the cost of lost production. In some cases, the gear motors / gear boxes may be able to be reconditioned, and after repair they can be used as a spare.
  3. Safety Device Failure While it is not recommended, some processors have engineered workarounds on broken safety devices to continue to run the equipment.  It is very important however, to schedule an after-event service call to return the system to the original safety features, programming, and controls. On new equipment, order spare safety switches, relays, and other controls devices so if there is any failure during transport, install or commissioning, that a new part is on hand to start production on schedule.
  4. Controls If there was unintentional change to the equipment software, in most cases it is possible for a remote programming repair or reloading of the original program.  If the HMI was damaged by condensation from high-pressure, caustic washdown or accidental, a replacement may be required.

The Mepaco Parts and Service team strongly urges processing customers to consider a just-in-case planning mentally for parts replacement. There are long lead times on agitators, cylinders, motors, gear motors, safety devices and HMI panels. 

After-event service calls or equipment-systems assessments are recommended to ensure production up-time and to alleviate safety risk.  If you have questions, or to schedule  service visit, call 920-356-9900 and ask for Mepaco Parts and Service.


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