From processing to packaging, vacuum pumps are an indispensable part of a meat facility.
With the variety of applications that take place in a meat processing plant, it's no surprise that a variety of vacuum pumps are required. Because of the high levels of vacuum they produce, rotary vane pumps are a popular choice in this industry. But they are by no means the only choice as pump manufacturers are continuously adding and improving their pumps for increased performance.
Vacuum pumps have numerous uses in the meat industry, says Louis Dina, director of marketing for Rietschle Thomas, Hanover, MD. Packaging processes are a predominant application. “Vacuum is often used to form the packaging from rolls of thin sheet plastic film, as well as to remove the air from the package prior to sealing in order to extend the shelf life and preserve the product from spoilage,” he says.
Vacuum tumblers can also be used to marinate and tenderize meat products. “Vacuum opens up the pores of the meat product so that marinades can be introduced into the meat product at a faster rate and at increased levels,” Dina says. In addition, sausage stuffing machines require a vacuum to pull the meat product into the casing and remove and air pockets. Even the evisceration process of poultry processing requires vacuum pumps to remove the innards.
As with many other elements of meat processing, pumps are being designed with an increasing focus on sanitary design. Rietschle Thomas is launching a new version of its VACFOX line of vacuum pumps. Dina says that its VC-700 model, for example, “will be coated in an external epoxy paint finish, as well as receiving a complete stainless steel outer skin or shell enclosure. In addition, all access hardware will be stainless steel as standard.”
Rick Eaglin, president of Anco-Eaglin, Greensboro, NC, notes that wear and longevity are two common issues plants face in dealing with pumps. “We work with customers on new materials and wear parts, trying to find the best combination of compatible materials,” he says. “A good example is that we have increased the surface hardness of the piston cylinder and changed the piston rings to a 'space age' material, resulting in almost double the pump life.”
There are many types of pumps, including piston, progressive cavity, gear, centrifuge, and diaphragm. They all have their own uses and characteristics, and new technologies and improvements are increasing their abilities. “Centrifuge pumps are now constructed as multi-stage, providing higher discharge pressure once reserved only for gear or lobe pumps,” Eaglin says. Anco-Eaglin also offers piston pumps for packing large solids and sticky material, such as packing house material.
Eaglin says that pumps are being made with simpler designs, higher performances, and more versatility. “Progressive cavity pumps can be equipped with a special infeed auger that allows larger solids to be pumped than in older designs,” he explains. The company's 1208 model is available in larger sizes that can handle large particles 5 or 6 inches in diameter.
Jarrod McCarroll, national sales manager for Marlen Research Corp., Overland Park, KS, notes the different uses that pumps serve in the meat industry. “Whole muscle operations have traditionally used the vacuumizer piston pumps because of the gentleness and great particle definition,” he says. “Sectioned and formed products and emulsified products have used the rotary vane style, lobe, and screw pumps where muscle integrity and particle definition are not as visible.”
Marlen has developed a vacuum rotary vane stuffer that utilizes minimal floor space and has all on-board power, McCarroll says. “It pulls a great vacuum that extends shelf life by way of its patented sheeting valve,” he adds. The company has also improved the portion control on all of its pumps. Previously, ancillary equipment was needed to gain an almost exact portion accuracy, but now those results can be obtained with just the pump.
Solving pump problems
Franklin Electric, Bluffton, IN, has introduced a new washdown motor called HydroDuty that is based upon the company's submersible motor experience. “Our research showed that washdown motors in these applications had tragically short motor life,” says Dale Vandegriff, HydroDuty market manager. The motor's SprayGuard encapsulation and other patent-pending features have improved the durability. Vandegriff says the motors have been used in other processing features, including slicers and conveyors, and are starting to be used in pumps as well. “We see this as another key application for HydroDuty,” he adds.
Franklin has also noted the industry trend of improving the ease of cleaning and reducing the incidence is biological contamination. “We have incorporated this into our design,” Vandegriff says, “specifically in our new sanitary base, which is available in our three- and five-horsepower motors.”
Mario Vitale, market segment manager for Leybold Vacuum USA Inc., Export, PA, says that another common problem with vacuum pumps comes from the moisture and water vapor that emanates from the atmosphere, as well as from the meat itself. “Rotary vane vacuum pumps must be constantly maintained, in particular the pumps' oil and oil filters and exhaust filters,” he says. An oil-free pump can pump and compress gases without oil present in the compression stage, and it would require less maintenance.
Leybold offers a line of oil-free compression vacuum pumps called ScrewLine. The first model, the SP 630, is rated for a pumping speed of 371 cfm. Typical applications for it would include modified atmosphere packaging in chamber machines, rollstock and traysealers, and marinating/massaging/ tumbling/stuffing machines. “The SP 630 is an economically-priced vacuum pump that enables users to reduce operating costs while eliminating the risk of contamination through oil migration and emissions,” Vitale says. A new Model SP 250 will feature a pumping speed of 177 cfm.
Along with the issues of moisture and water vapor, Troy Bridges, product manager at Busch Inc., Virginia Beach, VA, says that extreme temperatures — both hot and cold — also cause problems for pumps. He says a good pump supplier can provide solutions in dealing with extremes. “These solutions include pumps and pump options designed to operate in these extreme conditions, and the right advice on installation and operation,” Bridges says.
Bridges sees many new trends in the way pumps are applied in the meat packaging industry. “These trends include better usage of vacuum boosters and utilizing rotary claw pumps for specific applications,” he says. “These products lead to better vacuum quality, lower cost of ownership of the equipment, reduced maintenance, and more environmentally-friendly equipment.”
Busch has recently introduced its rotary claw pumps to the meat packaging industry, as well as its R5 vacuum pumps. The R5 pumps, available in different sizes, are single stage, air-cooled, and direct driven, eliminating belts and gears to loosen and wear. This oil-recirculating design uses an oil mist eliminator for oil-free exhaust. NP
Pump manufacturers participating in this article include: