Cooler and Freezer Material Handling Tips
If you’re considering automation for a cooler or freezer environment, there are many special considerations, from air condensation to motor temperature ratings. To ensure optimal performance of your automated system, you’ll need to take all of these into account and be ready to implement them.
Choose motors rated for the proper temperature, having bearings with the proper clearance and proper lubrication. In addition, some conveyor types requiring slightly more horsepower to start after extended periods of not running; consider that when sizing the drive. Gearing used in the drive train, whether it be reducers or gear motors, will need to be supplied with lubrication to meet the ambient temperature.
All lubrication in the system will need to be specified for the low-temperature environment. This includes roller bearings, mounted bearings, and chain lubrication. As mentioned above, any reducers and gear motors will need to include this low-temperature lubrication.
3. Critical fasteners
Although not absolutely necessary in all cases, critical fasteners such as setscrews in bearings and sprockets will benefit from being torqued once the system is brought down to the actual operating temperature.
You may not notice the humidity in the air, but in your freezer application, condensation can be a real problem. To help shelter the application from areas of entry, you can use an interlock: a space or transition from one temperature zone to another. You can also use air curtains or air vestibules (two doors separating temp zones) to reduce condensation and ice build-up on equipment. The use of limit switches in lieu of photosensors may be beneficial for critical areas since condensation can give false reads on photosensors.
Always use conveyor belts that are rated for the temperature. V-belts and timing belts must be rated properly to ensure performance. Note that the minimum pulley diameters may increase in size for low temperatures. Increasing the size of the timing belt sprockets may prevent surface cracking of the belt which may affect the actual life of the belt.
6. Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems
For Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) or lift system, cable that is just freezer-rated isn’t good enough – it also needs to be rated for the flexibility that goes along with moving up and down continuously. Carefully evaluate the application of each component making up a system.
If this seems like a lot to consider, that’s because it is! When you’re considering any application, a professional supplier can help to steer you in the right direction. As part of your supplier evaluation be sure to ask for freezer or cooler references, and make sure your system goes off without a hitch.