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The Journal | Motors & Drives

How Do You Know Which Electric Linear Actuator to Use?

Learn what to look for designing an electro-mechanical system to optimize food and beverage processes, including the basics of hygienic requirements.

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By Nicholas Novotny, product line manager, Nook Industries

Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from the white paper, “Electric Linear Actuators in Food and Beverage Equipment Applications.” Download the full paper to learn about the fundamentals of applying DC motor-driven electric linear actuators to food and beverage applications. Also get comprehensive information about linear actuator design, hygienic design requirements, and types of linear motion solutions suitable for various applications.  

Food production is a key market sector that will receive significantly more focus on a global scale as we emerge from the current COVID-19 situation. More efficient farming, harvesting and production are critical to keeping stocked shelves, refrigerators and freezers in our supermarkets.

As agriculture and food equipment manufacturers prepare for this by upgrading and redesigning their machines, it’s important to consider the most efficient and environmentally safe linear motion solution.

Download the White Paper
Download the full white paper, “Electric Linear Actuators in Food and Beverage Equipment Applications,” from Nook Industries. Learn about the fundamentals of applying DC motor-driven electric linear actuators to food and beverage applications. Also get comprehensive information about linear actuator design, hygienic design requirements, and types of linear motion solutions suitable for various applications.  
Applications That Require Linear Actuation
 
These are some of the most common food and beverage process operations that use linear actuation.

Filling. Filling applications typically require faster machine operation in hygienic environments. In addition, equipment must provide highly accurate fill control while adapting to varying bottle heights to reduce changeover time. This can include both volumetric and piston operation. Bottles, cups, bags and containers are some common examples of items to be filled.

Cutting and Slicing, Chopping, Mixing and Extruding. These operations are fundamental for food processing equipment operations. In addition, they require a high degree of precision, flexibility and safety. Hygienic factors play an increased role here because the equipment is in much closer proximity to the food or beverage being processed. Additional types of processing operations include deboning, meat processing and blenders.

Conveyors, Aligning, Packing and Sorting. Various linear actuators are routinely used to properly adjust conveyors and aligning and sorting positioning devices. These can include different environmental conditions, such as indoor, outdoor, heat, cold or messy.

The processing equipment on the conveyor system may require adjustment, such as a heavy heating element. Or, the products themselves might require repositioning as they travel down the conveyor system, such as bottled water.

Some typical specialized operations include conveyors, ovens, separators, handling, palletizing, pick and place, and packaging.

Open and Close Lids, Stacking, Emptying and Pressing. Linear actuators are ideal for opening and closing lids of any size safely, hygienically, and with easy washdown clean-up. Many of these applications require multiple lanes to independently index lines of food products for optimal throughput and accuracy while maintaining product integrity, quality and safety.

Other functions that require linear motion include doors, hatches, safety devices and emptying containers.

Regulatory Basics of Hygienic Design Requirements

Standard design guidelines have been developed to help ensure food processing machinery can be properly cleaned and sanitized after every use. The pertinent governing bodies include 3-A Dairy and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The IP (Ingress Protection) Rating system was originally established by the IEC 60529 standard. The first digit, IP-XX, equates to Solid Particle Ingress Protection. The second digit, IP-XX, equates to Liquid Ingress Protection. Download our white paper to see useful tables showing what each digit represents.

Recently, it was determined that the prior highest rating of IP68 still wasn’t sufficient for enclosures that were regularly exposed to high pressure or high temperature environments, such as those in washdown applications. 

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The requirements and testing to meet the IP69K rating for an electric linear actuator has translated well into the food and beverage industry where washdown operations and hygienic classification often are required.

Therefore, a special IP rating of IP69K was created, originating from the German DIN 40050-9 standard (for road vehicles exposed to routine intensive cleaning).

The requirements and testing to meet the IP69K rating regarding waterproofing exceed those seen with the NEMA 4X rating. However, the new standard has translated well into the food and beverage industry where similar demanding washdown operations — and hygienic classification — often are required (see photo).

In addition to high pressure and high temperature, certain applications also require cleaning agents to achieve specific hygienic conditions. Typically, IP69K rated linear actuators are specially designed to meet these stringent requirements.

Consider the Big Picture First

When engineers are designing an electromechanical system that uses electric linear actuators versus other technologies, there can be multiple ways to solve one application. All variations differ in accuracy, performance, space (footprint), total cost of ownership and other factors. Therefore, it’s important to consider the big picture of your operations and objectives, and not just focus on product specifications alone. 

Nook Industries, Inc., is a participating EncompassProduct Partner in the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork™ program. Based in Cleveland, Ohio, the company provides a complete line of linear motion products, including ball screws and linear actuators.



The Journal From Rockwell Automation and Our PartnerNetwork™ is published by Putman Media, Inc.

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