Packaging & Food Processing
Food-Grade Stainless Steel BearingsFood, beverage and packaging applications and other corrosive environments often present specialized needs that must be considered when selecting the appropriate bearings. OEMs and users alike must ensure that bearings perform properly and won’t require excess maintenance or frequent replacement simply because they can’t handle chemical cleaning agents, high-pressure wash downs, or other common factors that might facilitate wear and tear in standard bearings. OEMs and MRO personnel have developed multiple methods to avoid premature wear in bearings, such as the use of stainless steel bearings, solids lubes, and seal and slinger designs. This page will discuss these solutions and how they benefit food-grade applications.
Stainless Steel Bearings for Food & Beverage ApplicationsBall bearings for OEM equipment are used in equipment throughout every industry, but they play particularly wide and varied roles in the food and beverage sector. It’s important to know which applications and types of industrial equipment use food-grade stainless steel ball bearings to ensure that the applied lubricant is both sufficient and safe. Stainless steel bearings offer a functional solution for a broad range of food and beverage equipment. Some of the many food-grade applications for food-grade stainless steel bearings include:
- Bearings for tough-duty applications
- Food safety and sanitation
- General service applications
- Poly-Round® Bearing Assemblies
- Sanitary applications
- Solution® Housings
- Type E Solution® Bearings systems
- Stand Off Series Mounted Units
- Stainless Steel Mounted Units
- Conveyors, belts, roller chains
- Bottling and canning
Features and Benefits of Food-Grade Bearing with Solid LubeWhether during the manufacturing cycle or in the food processing facility, engineers must match stainless steel bearings to the best lubricant application system. The bearings themselves need to have the right attributes to best perform in the industrial environment without potentially endangering the products. Features to consider when selecting a specialty lubricant application system for 100% stainless steel bearings may include:
- Housing options, including nickel-plated, stainless steel, or thermoplastic housings
- Complementary bushings that are plastic and FDA-approved
- Cryogenic properties (many food applications require up to 1,000° F)
- Grease-free surfaces
- Non-corrosive materials and finishes
- Resistance to damage during washdowns
- Compatibility with solid lubrication systems
- Bearing units
- Constant velocity joints
- Feed screws
- Parts feeders
- Precision resin systems
- Rolling bearings
Why Solid Lube?While many lubricants are liquids, food processing equipment often benefits from using solid lubrication. Food-grade solid lube is a polymer impregnated with food-safe oil which is stored in a porous sponge and released only as needed. The benefits of NTN Sentinel Series stainless steel bearings with solid lube include:
- Food-grade materials. Food-grade solid lubes are FDA compliant and reduce potential cross-contamination between the lubricant and the product. The lubricant also doesn’t have variable or negative impacts on the processing system.
- No leakage. Solid lubricant won’t leak, so it keeps the machinery cleaner. It also keeps the lubricant itself safe from dust, dirt, or other contaminants. Both the solid lube product and the seal and slinger design work together to prevent any chance of leaks.
- No voids or opportunities for contamination. Solid lubricant application systems ensure that bearings stay lubricated. This reduces the risk of empty pockets, which can otherwise fill with moisture, contaminants, and foreign matter.
- No negative impact from wash down procedures. Cleaning procedures require high pressure and potentially harsh chemicals. The sponge protects the lubrication elements from losing efficacy or washing away during frequent wash downs.
- Permanent lubrication. Solid lubricants provide permanent lubrication, which extends the life of both the bearing and the surrounding equipment.
- Bottling/canning operations
- Dairy processing
- Seafood and/or meat processing
High-Performance Plastic BearingsPlastic bearings can often be just as useful as stainless steel bearings and solid lubricants when designing or improving industrial equipment used to process consumable products. Plastic bearings are resilient in the face of regular cleaning and use, and the material provides high-performance guarantees. Plastic bearings perform better in environments or applications that have:
- A history of bearing maintenance issues that other methods haven’t solved
- Contact with food products or other consumable substances
- Frequent high-pressure washdowns
- Environments with lots of dirt, dust, process moisture, or powder
- Equipment with safety or reliability concerns that can cause unscheduled downtime or high failure rates
- Exposure to either high or low temperature extremes
- Intermittent operations with periods of low use or high-frequency use
- Permanence. The bearings don’t require re-lubrication.
- Cleanliness. Solid lube is more resistant to potential lubrication, which carries over to the lubricated system itself. It further improves cleanliness by withstanding stringent wash down procedures instead of requiring process changes or fine handling.
- Efficiency. Solid lube application systems deliver the right amount of lubrication without allowing for excess lubrication or spots without adequate lubrication.