The type and viscosity of food product, thermal processing technology, desired texture, and cooking/processing cycle times are considerations for the applied cooking/blending solution. When selecting an agitator or changing an application, review the thermal processing and blending goals. The proper agitator selection, blending action and recipe controls provide the highest level of batch productivity and efficiently.
Mepaco has engineered several types of agitator configurations. Ribbon style blenders provide a lower level of shear. Single or double agitators with paddles provide a more aggressive blend.
The desired system expectation is also a factor. Agitators can be designed to reduce product discharge waste; designs can also provide suspension to hold product until downstream equipment is ready.
The type of thermal heat solutions and type of food product will drive the need for scrapers. Indirect heating applications typically require scrapers to prevent burn-on during the heating process.
For more information about mixing and blending applications, check out our e-book on “Comparing Agitator Solutions.”
The agitator and controls package for the cooker have been specifically engineered for a particular set of batch parameters. It is critical that operators understand the expected performance of the cooker and blending settings.
After commissioning, when a change is made in the food product, temperature, or recipe alteration, it may affect agitator effectiveness and overall efficiency of the cooker. If any delays or inefficiencies are noticed, contact the factory to provide a system check, or provide system adjustments to the application changes.
It is vital to keep agitators well maintained. Flexed or stressed agitators do not perform efficiently, and in some cases, minor efficiencies turn into critical downtime scenarios when not maintained properly.
If plant personnel make a repair to an agitator, it is important to schedule an after-event service call to make sure the repairs hold up to stainless welding fortifications and proper straightening to prevent future issues.
Scraper systems may degrade over time. Check scraper assemblies during maintenance intervals, and replace scrapers that become ineffective. Worn scrapers are a liability to food safety and product quality that can cause a critical shut-down if scrapers crack or break up into the food product; or become ineffective due to excessive wear.
Agitators are one part of the overall solution for cooking and blending. Visit our web page to learn more about thermal processing equipment.
The Mepaco®’s Field Services and Engineering Team have been on hundreds of calls for all types of food processing equipment service. Seal issues are one of the common requests for service. Here’s the top 3 trouble signs for split seal types and how to troubleshoot repair.
The Trouble Signs:
The Possible Problem:
Grooved or Broken Shaft
A worn shaft may cause a loss of vacuum in your equipment. Depending on the space available and the extent of the damage, a worn shaft may be repaired on-site. Ignoring a grooved shaft can lead to a broken shaft resulting in a catastrophic failure. The timeline to order a replacement shaft may take weeks. Even if there is an extra shaft in inventory, there is a minimum of two days of lost production to replace it. If you suspect a grooved shaft, call Mepaco®’s Field Services to troubleshoot the issue.
Worn Seals and Missing Packing
Seals should be checked for wear and sanitized daily. Seals should also be part of your preventative maintenance program, with two to four extra seals in your parts inventory, depending on usage. Changing the seal during scheduled times will help save lost production; instead of shutting down production to replace a seal.
Seals must be correctly installed with recommended packing. Check to make sure that the seal housing is within tolerance. Revisit the documentation for seal installation instructions. If you have new staff, ask for a training session by Mepaco®’s Field Services experts to have them watch and advise on seal installation and maintenance.
Mepaco® equipment features one of three types of seals: Split Seal, Air-Purge Seal, and Mechanical Seal. Each seal is specified for the best use in the type of processing application.
Split Seal: A split seal provides ease of removal and installation. The construction is made up of rubber and metal reinforcement. It can be specified for a variety of applications. It is easy to disassemble for sanitation and holds up to rigorous COP (clean-out-of-place) processes.
Air-purge Seal: These seals are often specified for applications with high food safety risks and abrasive food product situations. The internal components of the seal rotate with the shaft, so there are no typical issues with worn shafts or missing packing. These seals are engineered to reduce maintenance and sanitation costs.
Mechanical Seal: This type of seal is suitable for applications with coarse, gritty food product. These seals are precision-installed and are not forgiving with tolerance. Mechanical seals are engineered for CIP (clean-in-place) sanitation processes.
Contact Mepaco®’s Field Services for answers to your current seal issues, request an audit, or schedule a consultation for a seal solution to fit your application.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
Here are some causes of agitator damage:
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.
Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
Your browser does not support iframes.