The Mod Squad
By Maria Pilar Clark
Concerns over flexibility, contamination and safety hazards are re-routing belting manufacturers to new, innovative conveyance solutions.
Out with the old and in with the new, as they say. Modular plastic belting is becoming de rigueur in the industry as snack manufacturers and wholesale bakers express concern over contamination, safety hazards, excessive downtime and maintenance.
Such issues are sending manufacturers into a spin cycle and steering them toward new, innovative conveyance solutions, such as Intralox’s Series 2600 Spiralox belt, which eliminates metal contamination and excessive downtime maintenance on spiral conveyors. Berndorf USA offers belting produced with the “Berndorf Standard” — a method that ensures belt flatness and precise tracking.
“Customers are faced with different goals,” notes Catherine Bres, business development analyst for Intralox. “They are striving to reduce costs and improve productivity, but they’re also expected to introduce innovative, new products that match the tastes of today’s consumer. Additionally, they are facing new regulations regarding allergen controls. As a result, they are most likely to be interested in conveyance solutions that provide them with the reliability to reduce costs and address present issues, along with the flexibility to adapt to changes down the road.”
Adaptability is a critical issue. As new belting is introduced, snack producers and wholesale bakers are finding that they can address a number of their product lines’ needs. Specifically, they are keeping a sharp eye out for conveyors that gently handle delicate products.
As Bres explains, “Intralox products run the gamut of needs in the baking industry. We have products for pan handling and direct product handling, with a variety of materials, widths, pitches and abrasive characteristics. Our dedicated Bakery and Snack Team works full-time to understand the needs of the industry and develop products that meet these needs.”
Berndorf USA is also working to meet changing customer needs with a wide range of belting options. According to Thorlief Brokke, regional director, sales and business development for Berndorf USA, customers are now also seeking longer and wider belts, especially for ovens.
“The trend in the bake oven industry has moved toward wider and longer belts,” he explains. “Some years ago, 800-mm.-wide bake oven belts were quite common. Today, increasingly more ovens are equipped with 1.5-meter belts. Berndorf Band has even supplied belts, terminals and belt-tracking systems for a special oven in which the belt was nearly 2.5-meters wide.”
The requirements for ovens are quite specific, adds Brokke.
“Customers are looking for safe and smooth, continuous production without unforeseen interruptions. In bake ovens, a dark and uniform belt surface is required. It is also crucial to have a straight, flat belt with precise tracking. Furthermore, a strong and reliable service organization with fast reaction times is considered essential.”
Custom-designed Solutions
Many suppliers of conveyors also are turning to their customers to determine what new systems to develop. In fact, intense customer research has aided in the advancement of conveying solutions. Innovative solutions include belting from Intralox, which ensures a low-maintenance alternative to metal belting, and Wire Belt’s modular C-Cure Edge system. It doesn’t snag and is easy to maintain.
Bakers often ask suppliers to customize systems to meet highly individualized needs.
Intralox, Berndorf USA and Wire Belt Co. of America are meeting those needs and are at the forefront of the belting modernization scene with solutions to fit any application.
“Based on customer displeasure with the traditional conveyance options on the market,” Bres says, “Intralox has developed several new products over the last few years.”
Among new models are Intralox’s Series 2600 Spiralox belt, which eliminates metal contamination and excessive downtime maintenance on spiral conveyors.  
Offering the ultimate in choices, Intralox also offers its Series 4090, 4091 and 4092 Sideflexing Flat Top belts, which allow bakeries to replace troublesome chains on pan line curves.
The Series 1500 Flush Grid in Heat Resistant Nylon provides a safe, low-maintenance alternative to a metal belt on tortilla coolers. The system does not sustain a flame, and the modular plastic solution eliminates concern for metal contamination and worker injury associated with metal belts.
Finally, its Series 800 Flat Top belt with bucket flights provides snack food manufacturers an alternative to costly and time- consuming roller chain and bucket-style systems on elevator conveyors.
Even innovative, technologically advanced materials are reviving the traditional conveyance system.
“Materials with the ability to retard, and even extinguish flames and those that are more abrasion-resistant have been popular offerings in the modular plastic belting world,” Bres explains.
Bres notes that the materials make for smoothly running production times and ease maintenance and sanitation processes. Additionally, some companies claim to offer belt materials with anti-microbial properties, but this claim has not been proven to date.
Safety tops the list of concerns for manufacturers, and product contamination issues are a primary area of focus for the design of belting solutions.
“Intralox addresses safety issues by offering products that eliminate concerns over product contamination from metal or loose flat belt fibers,” Bres explains. “Once plants retrofit metal belts with our plastic solutions, they typically reduce the operational noise level, thus improving safety conditions for workers. Additionally, since our plastic belting reduces the need for both unscheduled and preventive maintenance, it decreases accident and injury opportunities for maintenance workers who deal with heavy machinery and conveyors.”
Berndorf USA also offers technologically advanced solutions to consumers to provide a higher level of customer service. Customers can contact Berndorf’s highly knowledgeable employees for expert advice on merging their existing systems with Berndorf solutions.  Berndorf USA’s motto is “People at Work,” a standard the company has upheld for the past 150 years.
“To better serve our customers, we have invested a lot in our service organization and in the development of service tools for installations and repairs of steel belts,” Brokke explains. “All our service technicians are trained at the Austrian headquarters and have to pass several exams to be authorized to work in the field. To ensure continued superior service, these training sessions are conducted annually or biannually. It is important for us that our customers know they will receive the ‘Berndorf Standard’ worldwide.”
That standard applies specifically to everyday production.
“Every belt is welded temporarily onto our processing unit between two tensioned drums,” Brokke says. “In doing this, all production steps are executed while each belt is in endless [rotation]. This method ensures belt flatness, straightness and exact tracking.”
Berndorf USA produces steel belts used for processing and/or transporting a broad range of products in 13 different industries, including bakery and snack.
For bakery ovens, Berndorf USA offers its CARBO 13 belt whose dark black surface ensures that moderate levels of radiant heat are accepted and that high thermal conductivity and low thermal expansion are first-rate. For use in conveying other food applications, a variety of carbon and stainless steel belts are available depending on the particular product and process. Additionally, Berndorf Band belts have been certified since 2002 based on ISO 14.001:1996 and EMAS standards. According to Brokke, a specially trained management team is in place to ensure that all employees work within those guidelines.
After production, Berndorf USA simulates the machines of its customers in order to do a “trial run” — testing the performance of its belting under its customers’ conditions.
“Furthermore,” adds Brokke, “our customers have the opportunity to visit our plant and inspect their belts in endless [rotation] prior to shipping.”
Wire Belt, a leading developer of advanced belting solutions, recently introduced its patented C-Cure Edge open-mesh, stainless-steel wire belting, designed to enhance productivity and ensure employee safety in the production environment. The belts have closed-loop ends, which eliminates tangling and reduces the risk of injury from sharp or burred belt ends.
The C-Cure Edge belting system is ideal for food applications such as breading, battering, enrobing, cooling, frying and a number of general industrial applications including heating, cooling, drying and coating.
In addition, Wire Belt offers its CarrySmart made-to-order line of conveyors, which includes the company’s Flex-Turn, Flat-Flex Straight, Flat-Flex Shuttle Conveyors and the CarrySmart Spreader or Converger Specialty Conveyors. Constructed from stainless steel, the belts are ideal for the food processing industry, especially since they are completely customizable. Customers can specify the height and angles of the conveyor, allowing the belts to suit their conveying needs to a T.
Overall, belting producers make up the mod squad, offering conveyance solutions that are at the forefront of the belting revival. They continue to develop the innovative materials that make belting more flexible, adaptable, clean and safe for today’s manufacturers.