Food producer saves thousands on conveyors

28 January 2009

A food producer has saved £50,968 (€55,085) a year on the operation of two conveyors, according to motion control specialist NSK. Prior to implementing NSK’s Molded-Oil technology the producer was plagued by failures every four to six weeks.

The failures were related to ball bearing inserts on the conveyor lines and due to regular high-pressure washdowns that were causing grease wash-out from the bearings, seal damage and corrosion. The result of these failures was lost production time, running at £2000 per month/line, maintenance costs of £1200 per year/line, and bearing replacement costs of £673 per year.

An NSK engineer identified the problem of water washout, which is extremely common in food processing applications. This is the tendency of lubricant to be flushed out of conventional bearings subjected to repeated washdowns. The loss of lubricant is usually progressive rather than immediate; but the result is inevitably the same: premature failure of the bearing or bearings concerned.

NSK has worked with food industry majors on this problem, and developed a solution, known as Molded-Oil. Molded-Oil bearings employ a solid lubricant that effectively addresses loss of lubricant resulting from washdowns. Molded-Oil transforms the performance of machinery, in terms of reliability, maintenance- free intervals and operation, in corrosive and contaminated environments.

Molded-Oil can provide up to twice the operating life of grease lubrication in water contaminated environments. Moreover, the technology means that operating environments are kept free of grease; and there is no need for lubricant replenishment, as Molded-Oil provides a continuous supply of lubricating oil.

NSK recommended F-UC204/LP99 stainless steel Molded-Oil bearing inserts to overcome the existing failure modes. These bearings (costing £389/line) were ordered for trial on one production line, and after 12 months there were no reported failures. The producer then implemented a complete bearing change across the second line.

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