LAPP’s secret ingredient for the perfect pasta.
A manufacturer of pasta production systems wanted to use plug-in connection cables instead of hardwired ones. However, conventional connectors were not suitable in this particular situation.
How LAPP created a simple yet highly effective solution.
Pasta lovers have a choice of making their own pasta or buying it from the supermarket. Most people choose the latter, as it’s more convenient to just have packaged pasta, ready to cook. To ensure that packaged pasta can last for a long time, it needs to be thoroughly dried for a specific amount of time. This is usually done by leaving the pasta for about three hours in a special drying room, measuring 6 metres in height and 20 metres in length, and at temperatures between 100 to 130°C. This drying process affects the quality of the pasta.
Fans in the ceiling of the large drying room ensure an even bath of hot air. Previously, these fans used hardwired cables with non-insulated wires that were screwed into the terminals. Experienced electricians may require up to several minutes to connect each fan, while less experienced electricians would need even more time and might even mix up the wires.
Time is another critical factor because in a large drying system, an hour of downtime can mean five tonnes of lost product. This is why one of the world’s leading manufacturer of pasta production machines decided to connect their fans using EPIC® connectors, rather than hardwiring them.
Robust and COST EFFECTIVE
LAPP engineers were invited by the pasta manufacturer to see the drying systems in action and develop solutions for a new way of connecting the fans. The customer wanted a pragmatic solution that was robust enough to withstand the moist, acidic air in the drying room yet not too expensive to implement.
The engineers searched and found a special copper alloy that could withstand the required temperatures while still being relatively cost-effective to manufacture. As a result, the cost of the connector was not much higher than that of a standard product. As the connectors do not come into direct contact with the pasta, there was no need to use FDA-approved materials, and they could be cleaned mechanically instead of using water or chemical cleaning agents.
Together with the customer, we developed
the connector system and tested it thoroughly for a year. In food production, it is important to consider and test for every eventuality.
Product manager for
EPIC® connection systems at LAPP
As the customer required controllable motor speeds, this would mean that chemical resistant plastic could not be used to shield the control cables. Most plastics do not provide the degree of mechanical stability that is required to maintain the necessary seal after many years of use.
As such, the copper alloy proposed by LAPP engineers was ideal as it offered permanent chemical resistance against lactic acid, good Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) properties and mechanical stability. Although the connectors were slightly more expensive than the standard product, they cost much less than a product made from stainless steel. A stainless steel connector would cost three to five times more than a standard product.
Designed & tested to work
To prevent flour particles from settling, the EPIC® connector was designed with as few edges and corners as possible, in accordance with hygienic design principles. The copper alloy offered a smooth surface, even without a coating, which could flake off and fall into the product zone. Stainless steel is relatively rough by comparison and can only be made smoother through intensive processing.
There is of course more to a connection solution than just the connector. Attention was also paid to whether the control cable was too thin or had an unsuitable surface finish, both of which could cause the cable to move around inside the connector’s opening and become frayed over time. Just like the connector itself, the cable had to withstand mechanical stress, lactic acid and heat. The company chose silicon cables, which were better suited than the standard products.
LAPP offers silicon cables that resist plant and animal-based oils and greases, as well as temperatures of up to 180°C. To prevent errors during assembly, LAPP recommends pre-assembled cables and connectors. We spared no effort and even the seals inside the connector were made from fluorinated rubber (FKM), a premium sealing material with a wide range of uses.
A connector with great potential
The customer tested the new connector with patented connector geometry for one year in one of their production systems. The test was successful, and technical approval was granted. The new connector will be used on the fans in the coming generation of drying systems.
We see great potential in this connector design for more applications in the food industry, possibly even stainless steel variants
Product manager for
EPIC® connection systems at LAPP
He explained that manufacturers of machines that process foodstuff often do not know which cleaning agents customers will use on the machines. Often, even the food manufacturers themselves do not know. This is because cleaning is often outsourced to subcontractors who do not always provide precise information about the substances they use.
This case shows that when working together with the customer, LAPP’s engineers can find the right solution.
As manufacturing heads into the era of Industry 4.0, rapid digitization is driving a massive change in the way things are made. Factories will increasingly be filled with robotics and data-driven networks, while machines connected by the Internet of Things (IoT) will be able to communicate with each other and self-identify bottlenecks or supply chain problems.
Considering this change, expectations placed on factories and manufacturers are evolving. Customers expect goods to be delivered faster, more safely and at higher quality. In the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry, this is even more important. To keep up with shifting customer expectations, rising global competition and strict regulations, your business needs to have the best infrastructure possible. Starting with the right cabling is an important (and often overlooked) step in this process.
Cables – the ‘life support’ of your factory.
Safety starts with cabling – it’s the life support of your entire factory. In any good production facility, cables must be sturdy enough to deliver reliable, efficient and safe performance, while maintaining strict hygiene and safety standards by e.g. cleaning activities of food processing machinery. When you’re working with chemicals or other dangerous materials, you need robust cables that prevent breaches.
Cables and accessories needed for a future-proof factory are sophisticated, flexible and strong – designed to prevent the spread of bacteria and contamination. As per the growing degree of automation products which are suitable for robotic technology, this is quickly becoming an essential and versatile business tool of growing importance.
By adopting the right infrastructure in your food production facility, your business can stay on the cutting edge while keeping customers safe and happy.