Using data to make the most of automation, IIoT and AI on the manufacturing line

Rick Zander, business development manager at Van der Graaf, says the latest development in food processing conveyors is the new intelligent design of drum motors that are used to drive the belts.

“The drum motor is a one-component conveyor drive and provides solutions to design engineers and plant managers where reliability, safety and sanitation are of the utmost importance,” he says.

The drum motor eliminates all external components, such as the motor, gearbox, chain, sprockets and bearings, that are used on conventional conveyor drives. The drum motor houses these drive components inside the drum, which is hermetically sealed and bathed in oil for performance, longevity and elimination of regular scheduled maintenance.

With no external motor and gearbox, the drum motor saves space, addresses operator safety and promotes a sanitary plant environment when compared with the conventional conveyor drives that are mounted outside of the conveyor frame.

“Another benefit of using a drum motor is the time saved on the washdown cycle,” Zander explains. A conveyor using an external motor and gearbox takes 12 to 18 minutes to sanitize and washdown; a conveyor powered by a drum motor takes only three to five minutes. This equates to food safety and a reduction in overall sanitation costs.

“Van der Graaf (VDG) SSV Sanitary Series drum motors with an all-316 stainless steel continuous profile eliminate crevices and areas for food byproduct to accumulate or get trapped, which reduces washdown time and eliminates areas for E. coli, listeria and other bacteria to harbor,” Zander says.

In addition, the challenge among food processors has been the ability and ease to adjust belt speed as processing requirements change. Speed adjustment is achieved via variable frequency drives (VFD).

“VDG has designed a VFD integrated into the motor junction box. This eliminates the long cables required in typical installations, where the VFD is often located in a control room, some distance away from the conveyor drive electric motor. Motor controls and feedback data are accessible from a local or remote source providing quick access, user-based options,” Zander says.

The intelligent drum motor (which Van der Graaf calls IntelliDrive), was developed in response to the industry demanding control, oversight and low operating costs. According to Zander, the drum motor combines an integrated VFD with permanent magnet motor technology. The rotor is magnetically self-induced, using permanent magnets installed on the rotor body. Zander reports that laboratory test results from the intelligent drum motor boasted 72 percent electrical consumption savings over another shaft-mounted external conveyor drive. This technology also is designed to provide precision and visibility on indexing and metering-type conveyor applications.

“The IntelliDrive drum motor simplifies the selection of belt speed and, without loss of torque or belt-pull, substantially increases the efficiency and the life of the electric motor, further minimizing downtime while decreasing overall operating costs,” Zander says.

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