An ice cream plant in Germany was experiencing chain failures on its pallet lifters. For obvious reasons ice cream plants rely on equipment that can operate in an environment that in many places is well below freezing and laden with moisture.
To illustrate the point, ice cream is stated to be typically cooled to a holding temperature of around –25degC for storage, presenting increased corrosion and fatigue risks to engineered equipment. These conditions can be exacerbated by the seasonal demand for ice cream. During the winter months, with December a notable exception, demand for ice cream falls. To reduce surplus, some facilities will scale back operations during this period. However, in summer, demand rises, which will cause facility operators to maximise available production capacity to capitalise. The inherent challenges of this fluctuation in production intensity can cause equipment to fail prematurely, so sometimes a specialised solution is needed.
As the ice cream plant concerned increased its production schedule from five to seven days a week to meet summer demand, engineers on-site noticed the service life of the chains installed on the pallet lifters was adversely affected. The pallet lifters were operating in a sub-zero ice cream storage area, moving heavy loads across the facility. The nickel-plated, 16B-1 roller chains were designed to move loads of up to 800kg using a lifter driven by a 1.5kW motor at 32rpm. Over a five-day production schedule, the lifetime of each chain averaged to around 2 years before replacement was required. However, as production was moved to a seven-day schedule, the average service life of the installed chains fell to only 6 months. It was identified that the inner links of the chains were breaking due to increased fatigue, a result of the combination of intense duty requirements and the (necessarily) cold environment. This resulted in palletisers requiring increased maintenance work, which was clearly reducing efficiency and increasing repair costs.
To solve the issue, engineers at the plant contacted Tsubaki and following an initial inspection, Tsubaki engineers recommended that the plant specify a new roller chain that would maximise reliability and reduce maintenance. The RS16B-1 Neptune chain was selected, which offered a 20 per cent maximum allowable load (MAL) compared with the original chain. Another key aspect was the Neptune’s inherent resistance to corrosion, courtesy of a specialised coating providing protection against the debilitating effects of condensation in the low temperature storage area. The Neptune chain was able to greatly improve chain service life during the high-intensity production period, eliminating premature link breakages. Maintenance requirements for the palletisers were consequently reduced, minimising repair costs and maximising uptime. Specifically honed for hard operation in a low-temperature environment, the Neptune chain allowed the German ice cream plant to effectively capitalise on summer demand.
For more information about the RS16B-1 Neptune chain go to www.tsubaki.co.uk.