A New Generation of Purpose-driven Machines

In recent years, greater pressure has been put on manufacturers to come up with inventive solutions for the freezing industry. As a result of this, prominent companies in the sector have developed new machines that are far more complicated. Even though the primary objective of freezing is to maintain product quality over extended periods of time, criteria such as increased safety and hygiene have grown more important than ever.

Emerging technologies and customer expectations for safe, hygienic solutions in food production have consistently pushed FPS Food Process Solutions to go over and beyond. FPS’ recirculating Clean-in-Place (CIP) systems with pasteurization mitigate the risk of contamination before packaging. Furthermore, the company’s Spiral Immersion SystemTM (SISTM) can cook, chill, and freeze products within sealed vacuum bags to ensure no exposure to the environment throughout the processing cycle. FPS explores innovative technologies to meet customer needs, and among these innovations are the first of its kind, 1.8m Spiral Freezer and the Spiral Immersion SystemTM (SISTM).

In collaboration with Intralox, FPS developed the 1.8m wide belt spiral freezer to match larger processing lines. For food processors, this is a critical factor in being able to produce higher output. The SISTM was developed to not only produce better quality food products but could also save on cost, time, and energy. Additionally, FPS uses mechanical freezing, which is a system where the air is passed through a tube and fin evaporator inside the equipment. Refrigerants such as ammonia, freon, or CO2 can be used depending on customer preference, explains Greg Sheridan, sales manager, FPS. “We especially circuit each evaporator to the required refrigeration load to maximize efficiency. Various methods of feeding the refrigerant are utilized depending on application and temperature requirements as well as overall refrigeration plant design. We can use recirculated systems in the bottom or top-fed liquid, flooded systems, and direct expansion. We discuss the various options with our customer and refrigeration contractor to ensure they know the operational requirements and efficiency of each system.”

When it comes to improving performance and efficiency, the ability to condition the product appropriately in the most efficient process is the company’s goal. “We look at each application to determine which type of freezing equipment is right for the job. All of our equipment is designed to provide even airflow at optimum velocity across all product zones. This ensures we remove heat consistently for all belt widths and freezer sizes, to give consistent output and quality. We design the equipment to minimize airflow restriction through product zones, internal structure, and through the coil and fan assemblies. Using external motors, plug fans, eliminating coil defrost louvers, and using square tube patterns in our coils all contribute to substantial reductions in energy. Reducing restrictions while ensuring airflow across all product zones power consumption. Freezing faster reduces yield loss improving product quality and improves throughput. Reduced freezer power consumption reduces energy costs and reduces the refrigeration power which offers further energy savings.” Each freezer is custom engineered and built to specific customer site requirements. This allows FPS to tailor the delivery to facilitate the installation appropriate to each site and to match up with existing equipment.

Digitalization at the Forefront

For Ashworth, digitalization of technology is at the forefront. „It is after all, the future. For us, today’s digital technologies enable decision makers to have access to all the information they need all the time, from anywhere, and from any device they choose,” explains Jonathan Lasecki, director of engineering for Ashworth. As a manufacturer of conveyor belts, Ashworth supplies the belting used as part of typical processing lines. Easy-access and preventing unplanned downtime are the companies top two considerations toward improving performance and efficiencies, Lasecki says. “Ashworth offers our Smart Spiral® Monitoring System – an innovative solution that provides real-time remote monitoring of multiple spirals at different locations. This add-on data collection system monitors various key parameters from belt tension, system temperature, bearing wear and motor power draw which can be monitored with the base unit.  Live data is collected and transferred via a proprietary application to a cell phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer where data can be viewed for trend analysis—all without having to use a company’s intranet system.”

According to him, key set points can be set, and any deviation from those setpoints sends a message to the chosen device to indicate the system is operating outside set parameters. Multiple machines can be monitored in the same facility or at different plants allowing both site managers and corporate management access to machine parameters. Trend graphs are also available to indicate system performance which helps processors identify maintenance issues before catastrophic failure. This predictive maintenance saves costs by allowing for maintenance scheduling to make necessary repairs instead of emergency repairs.

“Preventive maintenance becomes predictive maintenance where repairs are scheduled when needed rather than based on average component life. Preventative maintenance requires planned downtime to replace components long before they may reach the end of their useful life while predictive maintenance plans for replacement prior to failure. Predictive maintenance systems increase production time and reduce maintenance down time, improving profits for the processor,” Johnathan Lasecki says. “Ashworth’s development of the SmartSpiral system was developed to take the guess work out equipment failure. The system was initially released for use on spiral conveyor systems; however, we are open to working with customers to customize the system to their needs.”

To read the entire article, please access your complimentary e-copy of Frozen Food Europe July-August, 2022 issue here.

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