KEEPING food processing equipment well-lubricated, thereby ensuring the optimal functioning and durability of equipment, can be a challenge.
That’s according to Callum Ford, National Marketing Manager at lubricant specialist, Lubrication Engineers (LE) South Africa, who identified temperature as a major factor.
“High temperatures—necessary, for example, as part of sterilising or cleaning processes—can melt and speed up the oxidation of greases and oils,” he said.
Low temperatures can also be problematic. “Very low temperature, such as in a refrigerated area, can result in wear on equipment due to channelling of the lubricant or the presence of moisture due to condensation.”
Another pervasive problem is moisture. Hygiene requirements in food production mean that the presence of water or steam is continually required to keep equipment clean, but this moisture can wash out or cause the deterioration of lubricants, resulting in corrosion or rust.
A further challenge is the presence of chemicals, either within the food itself or used in the cleaning process, which can similarly cause a lubricant to deteriorate.
A final fundamental challenge highlighted by Ford is the heavy workload of food processing equipment, with some machines running up to 24 hours a day. During high-volume operation, greases and oils may either become highly liquid or may, conversely, thicken and harden; in either scenario, the lubricant quickly and drastically loses efficacy.
Ford said this means a food-grade lubricant needs to be highly durable to cope with these conditions.
“But it must also be pure and non-toxic, owing to its proximity to the production of food. The synthetic H1 lubricant that we offer LE customers is not only rated to be food grade, but can also operate in a wider temperature range and withstand washing, due to our exclusive QUINPLEX additive, which is a tackifier that keeps the lubricant in place.”
In addition to utilising a high-quality lubricant, Ford’s key tips for dealing with the challenges associated with the lubrication of food-grade equipment include:
- Wipe fittings before and after adding a lubricant. Prior prevents abrasives from entering the system and after prevents excess lubricant from dripping.
- Ensure lubrication reservoirs are intermittently cleaned to remove possible accumulations of process material.
- Lubricate equipment after washing and cleaning to remove moisture from bearings and protect against rust and corrosion.