This Used There: Slippery PBT-coated belts in food and beverage

Dec. 1, 2011
Across the globe, increased energy costs continue to drive plant management to conservation. On the horizon could soon be pressure to lower water consumption

Across the globe, increased energy costs continue to drive plant management to conservation. On the horizon could soon be pressure to lower water consumption as well: In the next five years it is expected that several countries will begin importing water. It's already critical to personal and corporate sustainability in many countries, and fresh water shortages have even greater impact in emerging markets.

Even so, many food and beverage plants use steady streams of soap and water lubrication to keep products smoothly gliding along on conveyors without tipping or jamming. In fact, traditional soap-and-water packaging operations use four to seven times more water in production than they produce in product.

To deliver greener operation, some power-transmission components are designed to reduce both energy and water consumption while helping customers to meet operational and environmental sustainability goals.

Consider one such set of dry-running parts — System Plast motion components (NEW GENERATION NG chain and belt, plus Nolu-S wear strips) from Emerson Industrial Automation, Florence, Ky.

These incorporate surfaces with polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) — because on the surfaces of food and beverage conveying components, the slippery material helps reduce traditional soap and water lubrication in high-speed beverage plants. This in turn lowers overall water use and soap expense while improving worker safety.

For more information, visit

Polybutylene terephthalate (poly-what?) for strength and slip

Polybutylene terephthalate (PBT) is a thermoplastic polyester on the rise in countless applications. Used for insulating electronics and industrial devices, among other things, the strong material resists solvents and heat to 150° C, or higher when reinforced. It's sold under several brands — Duranex, Impet, Riteflex — though Celanex (produced by Ticona Engineering Polymers of Celanese Corp., Florence, Ky.) and Crastin (by DuPont, Wilmington, Del.) are most widely recognized.

Consider one application of Ticona's PBT that leverages the material's hardness and heat deflection. Turkish manufacturer Elektropak supplies subcomponents to OEMs such as Rowenta, AEG, and Bosch-Siemens-Hausgeräte, and 10 years ago, replaced metal with slightly thicker PBT housings in their vacuum-cleaner engines. The new component is injection molded, saving weight and eliminating assembly. Specifically, Celanex grade 3316 is used for its ability to withstand years of hard use.

Or consider automotive locks and windows. Electronic locks are common even in budget-level vehicles, but must meet increasingly stringent requirements for convenience, theft protection, and electronics integration. In sections incorporating gears, high mechanical stresses are also induced — necessitating housings that withstand high loads. Here, Celanex PBT 2300 GV1/30 (a 30% glass-fiber-reinforced variety) is used for its strength and stiffness.

Elsewhere, for arm and cable-operated window-lifting mechanisms driven by pancake motors, gearbox housings are often constructed of Celanex and Impet. These housings contain integrated screw domes or securing eyes to attach the motor and drive to the window lifter or door module. The housing in turn supports a self-limiting worm gear that runs on an axle either encapsulated or pressed into the housing — so must also resist lubricating greases.

What's more, the entire unit is subject to temperatures from -40° to +100° C and regular car-door slams. PBT gearbox housing rigidity and toughness withstands these abuses — plus (compared to metal housings) are lighter and less costly to manufacture.

This POSITAL ACCELENS (ACS) inclinometer (in 360° single axis or ±80° two-axis models) is designed for industrial environments with a tough fiber-reinforced PBT plastic housing. The unit withstands rough handling, prolonged UV exposure, immersion, and even high-pressure water jets (to IP69K). They are equally useful in medical equipment.

For more information, visit FRABA Inc. atfraba.comor call (609) 750-8705.

PBT in conveyors

Another application in which PBT is used is conveyor chain links. Here, chain must slide easily over underlying supports while preventing slippage of transported goods. Stiffness and strength are also essential for conveying heavy items.

The Dutch company MCC (of Rexnord, global manufacturer of conveyor chain) produces chain links in a two-component injection molding made from Celanex PBT with an integrated soft component on the surface to secure transported goods.

Individual chain segments allow assembly of conveyor belt lengths to 10 m — and eliminate manual assembly of additional soft materials, to reduce cost.

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