The macadamia is finally getting its moment in the sun. Australian macadamia growers have been experiencing bumper crops in recent years, with annual production quantities reaching more than 50,000 tonnes in 2021, according to the Australian Macadamia Society.1 Read more
In food and beverage manufacturing, filling and packaging are the final steps before the products can be finally shipped out to customers. As such, any bottlenecks in the filling or packaging process can hamper the entire plant’s operation and – in case of perishable foodstuff – send large quantities of product to waste.
Food packaging machines like bottle and jar fillers, tray packers, shrink wrappers and palletisers all have one thing in common: They all rely on rolling and linear motion bearings to carry out their repeated motions, from putting caps on bottles to folding the boxes for the final packaging.
The macadamia industry in Bundaberg has been growing rapidly. After starting as a small industry in the early 2000s, Bundaberg overtook the Northern Rivers in 2016 to become the largest producing macadamia region in Australia.
Ben Steinhardt’s business, B Fabricated, has been heavily involved in Bundaberg’s macadamia industry since 2009 when he built the first macadamia harvester for his family’s farm. His harvesting machines soon gained popularity and orders flew in from the neighbouring macadamia farms.
Today, B Fabricated manufactures not just nut harvesters but all types of agricultural processing equipment, including conveyors, bucket elevators and batch weighing machines and also offers ad-hoc fabrication and repair services to the local farming industry.
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Nobody who is allergic to gluten wants to bite into their ‘gluten-free’ biscuit to find that it did in fact contain traces of gluten. Manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure that this cannot happen.
Water washdowns are used in food and beverage processing plants to prevent cross-contamination between batches of different substances, as well as to eliminating bacteria or microorganisms from the surfaces of the machines.
But washdowns cause additional challenges when it comes to design and selection of machinery components. For example, standard bearings can quickly rust in wet conditions. Processing plants with heavy washdowns therefore need to use bearing materials that can withstand the corrosion.
BSC Australia distributes Schaeffler’s FAG Black Series for this very situation. According to Wayne D’Souza, National Accounts Manager at Industrial Solutions Australia, part of Motion Asia Pacific (BSC’s holding company), Schaeffler’s FAG Black Series radial insert ball bearing and housing units feature a Durotect BS surface treatment to improve the bearing’s resistance to harsh, corrosive environments.
“Machines and conveyors used in a food manufacturing plant are often fitted with standard bearing and housing units by the original equipment manufacturers. These standard bearings usually rust within a few months, or even less, under corrosive washdown conditions. That is where using products like the FAG Black Series by Schaeffler offers much greater longevity and reduces downtime,” he says.
Other features of the Black Series also make it a robust choice for food and beverage manufacturing and processing plants, according to D’Souza.
“The FAG Black Series housing units feature flake graphite cast iron housings with a concave bore in which the radial insert ball bearings are fitted. These units are matched to each other and are available as plummer block housing units, flanged housing units and take-up housing units. So, there is a wide range available to suit different applications.
“Further, the Black Series radial insert ball bearings are supplied with RSR seals, which are zinc plated seal lips made from nitrile rubber (NBR) and additional flinger shield. The seal can add another level of protection to prevent water and dust from entering the bearing,” he adds. The Durotect coated inner ring surface contacting the seal lip does not corrode and thus provides a smooth and effective sealing over a much longer operating time.
While corrosion protection is the primary reason why D’Souza recommends using the FAG Black Series, the high temperature tolerance of the bearings is a bonus, particularly for food and beverage applications.
“Sub-zero temperatures and extremely high temperatures are common in food and beverage manufacturing. The insert bearings in the FAG Black Series are suitable for operating temperatures of –20˚C to +100˚C. Temperature peaks of up to +120˚C are possible for short periods.”
D’Souza says conveying equipment and machines for food container fitting and packaging are some applications where the FAG Black Series bearings are commonly used.
“At BSC, we have customers in the beer brewing industry, chocolate manufacturing, bakeries and dairy industry who use these types of bearings extensively. And if you look at those industries, they all involve heavy water washdowns in the production process,” he says.
Other industries where the Durotect-coated bearings find applications are in agricultural, construction and mining machinery, as well as any conveying equipment exposed to intensive dust or water. The bearing and housing units are also commonly used in water and wastewater treatment where they display better resistance against the highly corrosive hydrogen sulphide (H2S) gas.
D’Souza says installing and replacing the FAG Black Series radial insert ball bearing and housing units is fairly easy and something that the in-house maintenance teams at the factories usually handle themselves.
“However, the BSC team can also assist customers with bearing installations or where any technical expertise is required. For example, a plant might need to change the configuration of their conveying system or to install an additional conveyor. Our engineering team can assist customers with design, supply and installation of these new systems or to re-engineer their existing conveying system” he concludes.
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For Rob Pickles, who owns an agricultural contracting business in north central Victoria, every job is different from the other. Depending on the season and the type of crop being harvested, he needs to make sure his harvesting and baling machinery can work efficiently through the season without any unexpected downtime.
The Australian beverage industry has undergone significant shifts in the past decade. In an industry once dominated by full strength beer and sugar-sweetened soft drinks, the beverage industry is now catering to a wide range of consumer tastes and palates. Whether that be niche alcoholic beverages or the latest health drink, what has remained consistent in the Australian beverage industry is the need to package these liquids in an efficient and safe manner.
This responsibility has often fallen to bottling operations, and underpinning these operations are the parts and components that keep the plant moving smoothly. A critical element of any bottling operation are the cam followers, bearings that convert rotary to linear motion. However, just like any piece of machinery in a food and beverage operation, cam followers can be exposed to moisture, which creates the potential for corrosion.
BSC Australia distributes Schaeffler’s Corrotect coated cam followers for this very situation. According to Andreas Pieper, engineering and quality manager at Schaeffler Australia, this coating is critical in ensuring the longevity of the bearing.
“Because of what is happening in production, the bottling machine is hosed down by water after the shift or the production day. So, there is the potential that you have moisture and water being in direct contact with the cam follower and that’s where our bearings have the advantage over our competitors because we can provide cam followers with a corrosion resistant coating.”
As Pieper explains, Corrotect is a zinc-iron coating, where the zinc acts as a sacrificial anode. When a bearing comes into contact with water, the zinc corrodes, rather than the metal it is protecting. In addition to its composition, Corrotect is extremely thin, and Schaeffler has a patent on the half and one and a half micron thickness application.
For operators of bottling plants, this means that Corrotect coated bearings can be inserted into existing machines, without the need to adjust the machinery that the bearing interacts with. Importantly, BSC’s team provide their customers with support services such as installation to ensure the products are running correctly in their application.
BSC Australia’s Product Manager for Industrial Bearings, Tony Tormey, notes that the level of support BSC provides to customers is unmatched by other distributors. This is reflected in their national network of branches and the collective skill base of their engineers.
“BSC are represented in every state. We have a technical service person and a technical engineer available to look at ongoing problems or re-engineering, or we have key account managers that call on most of the food and beverage accounts in every state. Importantly, we’re available 24/7.”
For those engaged in the bottling industry, BSC can provide a custom-solution for the business.
“We have a huge stock profile to support our food and beverage customers,” said Tormey. “This includes Corrotect, which we can quickly order whenever and wherever it is needed through our national network of service and distribution centres. After hours services are available for 24/7 operations, and we have distribution centres in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.”
When it comes to the maintenance aspects of the Corrotect coated bearing, both Tormey and Pieper say that upkeep is simplified due to the composition of the coating.
“The iron-zinc compound can resist the rough and tumble of a shop floor,” says Pieper. “Even if, for example, the maintenance operator scratches the bearing, the Corrotect coating will still be active and no corrosion will occur in the scratch.”
Besides scratches and rust on the bearing impacting the performance of the coating, one element of the Corrotect advantage, Pieper points out, is the extension on the life of the seal of the bearing.
“We know that whether it’s in the food or bottling industry, a lot of bearings actually fail because the sealing becomes compromised at some stage and dirt or water gets into the bearing earlier than it should, with a Corrotect coating the seal contacts stay nice and smooth.”
Overall, Pieper estimates that depending on the operation, a Corrotect coated bearing can last twice as long as an uncoated bearing.
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Australia produces about 35 million tonnes of sugar cane every year, with 80 per cent of it exported. Sugar cane farms run from the north of New South Wales through to northern Queensland, mainly on the east coast.
Sugar cane came to Australia via South Africa on the First Fleet in 1788. It is a hardy ingredient, made for hot, humid conditions with plenty of rain. In other words, the northern climate of Australia’s east coast is ideal for growing the plant.
Over the years, the industry has become part of the Australian industrial landscape, providing much needed foreign currency as well as jobs. Those in the industry work hard, and expect the equipment and machinery they use to do the same.
In order to process the cane into raw and then refined sugar, plant and machinery needs to be top quality and able to handle the rigours of working day-in and day-out to process the product. A whole range of equipment needs to be utilised to make the industry run. This includes crystallising machines, material handling equipment such as conveyors, fume extraction systems, as well as a raft of other tools. The companies involved in the industry need to know they can rely on certain brands and back-up service in order to ensure their operations run smoothly.
Schaeffler is one such company that has an excellent reputation when it comes to plant equipment. High-end brands such as INA, FAG and LuK are included in the Schaeffler portfolio. German-based, Schaeffler is renowned for producing high-end, long-lasting industrial products that can handle the pressures that the sugar industry brings to bear.
One of the company’s products is its FAG spherical roller bearings, which are ideal for the sugar processing industry, where the factories themselves create harsh conditions. These products come into their own by not only being high performing due to their engineering, but handle high loads – something that is a necessity in this industry.
Junior Eltagonde is a regional manager for CBC Australia and is based in Townsville, which is right in the heart of the sugar industry. As a distributor of Schaeffler products, he can testify not only to the quality of the product, but how it keeps industry moving.
“The products have a great reputation and many customers know the quality of them,” he said. “They are well-known and well-regarded throughout the sugar processing industry.
“They have been tested over time and last as well as any other product. With bearings, it’s all about different applications. Schaeffler would be in the top five brands in the world when it comes to this type of gear.”
These bearings have a design in which the inner ring that runs inside the outer ring on two rows of rollers. They also have an angular adjustment of up to two degrees, which not only helps when it comes to the aforementioned high-load carrying capacity, but it also can compensate for misalignments.
Schaeffler spherical bearings also offer increased operational reliability and raise the average service life by up to 60 per cent. They save on space because smaller sizes deliver the performance of larger bearings.
Eltagonde said that another key to using Schaeffler products is that the company doesn’t rest on its laurels. It offers great local support, but also on a developmental level, the company knows that moving ahead is important when it comes to making sure they are at the cutting edge of these technologies.
“They’re always upgrading their technology and the materials they use,” said Eltagonde. “They’re constantly looking at upgrading the coatings they use on their bearings, especially the ones they use in gearboxes.”
Schaeffler’s bearings are but one of its reliable products. They offer an array of solutions to the sugar processing industry where hard-working machinery is a necessity.
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