Many of us think about winterizing our car or home, but your conveyor system also needs protection from cold temperatures.
One of the first questions that should always be asked when designing a conveyor system
is, “What are the environmental conditions surrounding the conveyor?” This includes questions about excessive or abrasive dust, moisture or humidity, corrosives, oil and operating temperature. The latter is important, especially when colder temps are involved.
When it comes to temperature, most of us in California are just starting to think “yay! I can stop using my air conditioning” as we watch soap bubble snow displays. Many places in the northern hemisphere, however, are starting to look and feel like Christmas with real snow and freezing temps. So while winterizing your car and home is on the mind, here are six things to consider when integrating cold room conveyor systems.
Heat from the motors can cause enough of a temperature difference in a cold room to cause condensation on the motors, which can lead to corrosion, less efficient running and subsequent freezing if the motors are then turned off. Additionally, if improperly shielded, heat from the motors could result in delicate items like foods and pharmaceuticals exposed to temperatures outside the desired range of the cold room.
2. Location of Egress Doors
Relative humidity needs to be kept to a minimum to avoid condensation from forming on automated equipment and electrical components. Use of dryers with refrigeration equipment may be necessary as well as the use of intermediate chill rooms, strip curtains, automated rollup doors and air curtains. The location of any egress doors should be carefully evaluated to minimize the effects of condensate formation in areas where warmer air may be introduced into the cold environment.
I bet the type of grease used in your bearings or gearboxes rarely crosses your mind, but in the case of a cold room, you will want to make sure to use a low temperature-rated lubricant to keep your system running. Cold temperatures may result in lubricants failing to flow well on startup and causing bearings to seize.
Will your application be entirely in the cold room, or will the conveyor bring material in and out of the cold room? These are entirely different tasks to ask of your belts. Every belt has a different range of temperatures that they can be used in and maintain their shape, flexibility and coefficient of friction. Where one belt might crack or shatter, another might become too slick to grip product, but another can retain its shape and keep conveying your product.
Cold temperatures can cause condensate to form on photo eyes, which can affect the ability of photo eyes to read properly. Hardware selection should include consideration for heated lenses or looking at other means of detection if condensate is severe.
Another area of consideration for cold room automation is pneumatics. Anytime air is compressed, it is heated. Once introduced into a cold room--if a dryer has not been employed with shop air--there is a risk of moisture which can freeze up valves, cylinders, solenoids and other components comprising automated systems. Whenever possible, avoid use of pneumatics and consider motor or servo-actuated components.
Bonus: The wiring
If any automation components utilize flexible wireways (such as a robot for example), ensure that the wiring is rated for the cold environment. Use of wiring not rated for the environment could result in insulation failing and causing a short circuit.
Here in California, we will continue to enjoy our bubble machine snow and maybe even regret not wearing a ridiculous Christmas sweater or two, but our cold room conveyor will be in fine working order! If you have questions about designing or implementing conveyor or other material handling automation in a cold room or freezer, please contact us
. We would be happy to assist.
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