BRECOFLEX® timing belts – Here it’s all about the sausage!
INOTEC GmbH in Reutlingen has specialised in machines for automated sausage production for more than 25 years. With 60 employees at the Swabian headquarters and 200 employees in the Czech republic, this medium-sized company has established a leading position in the food processing industry on a global level. There is especially high demand in the densely populated Asian countries for entire production lines from Inotec. The company’s portfolio encompasses the entire sausage producing process: grinding, mixing, tying off and cutting. So, how do BRECOFLEX® timing belts help this major sausage manufacturer?
From the meat to the sausage
The sausage making process starts with a meat grinder and a mixer, and is followed by the emulsifier. The resulting meat mass is stuffed into the casings by a stuffing machine. 10 to 20 m long sausage chains are produced at the end of the stuffing machines with three different possibilities for closing the ends: by twisting the casing or by tying off the ends with string or a metal clip for large diameter sausages. After cooking, the last process is the separation of the sausages. It is difficult to believe that this was performed manually with a knife by skilled workers in industrial production until well into the 1990’s.
These days, cutting machines are so fast that human hands couldn’t keep up. The Inotec cutting machines, operating with a belt speed of 1.8 m/s, can cut 30 sausages with a length of 100 mm each in one second. This process is too fast for the human eye. The machines often operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Volker Helle, Purchasing and Production Manager at Inotec, recalls, “We started developing the first cutting machines with coated belts about 15 years ago. The concept has proven very successful. However, it took years of experimenting and expertise to optimise the belt transport to reach today’s performance. Throughout this time, REIFF Technische Produkte supported us with solutions with the result that we have technically mastered this drive system like no other supplier.”
Modern servo and sensor technology
Volker Helle, Purchasing and Production Manager at INOTEC, demonstrates how easy it is to replace the timing belts without the use of tools. Fig.: Mulco.
BRECOFLEX® timing belts
The four BRECOFLEX® polyurethane timing belts arranged in pairs continuously convey the sausage string through the machine. A three-edged rotating blade is mounted between the two pairs of timing belts and is driven by a dynamic servo motor. The advantage of this system: A light barrier, located two to three centimetres upstream of the blade, detects each twisted link and provides the signal for the blade. The servo motor is accelerated and braked in a defined manner for each individual sausage so that the cut is executed with millimetre precision between the sausages. Each sausage is measured, so differences in length do not present any problems. “Even if a twisted link from the stuffing machine is missing, it doesn’t matter because each link is measured,” explains Inotec engineer, Volker Helle. He adds: “For 24 hour continuous operation, the upstream timing belts have to be replaced by the cleaning personnel about every four to six months. For this reason, we deliberately did without tensioning devices for the upstream belts. The short belts downstream of the blades have a much longer operating life and are adjusted only by qualified personnel. The upstream and downstream belt pair are coupled by an additional BRECOFLEX® timing belt to ensure synchronous operation.”
Core process – belt transport
A filled casing can easily weigh 15 to 20 kg. At least two to three sausages are required for secure transport and the necessary clamping of the sausages in the upstream belt pair. Therefore this belt pair is longer than the downstream pair. The downstream pair only has to convey the individual sausages out of the machine.
The sausages press the timing belt against the belt guide and pressing plate. The BRECOFLEX® timing belts are equipped with a wear-resistant fabric to minimise friction. The guide itself consists of a specially coated solid aluminium block, which reduces the friction and, at the same time, effectively dissipates the heat, even at high speed. At the end of each production day, the entire machine is cleaned with a pressure washer, disinfected with foam and rinsed with water. The coating, coating bond and polyurethane timing belt have to be able to withstand all of this.
Timing belt coating as a unique selling point
REIFF customer consultant, Rainer Müller, recalls: “We were looking for a food grade approved timing belt coating that was suitable for all products, i.e. fresh and cooked sausages. The approximately 2 mm high nubs have to hold the sausage slip-free without damaging the casing. The surface has to be slightly rough to transfer sufficient friction. That was quite a challenge!” The rubber-like coating looks simple enough but requires a very high quality with regard to the edges of the nubs. The radii have to meet tight tolerances to ensure perfect transport.
“From the beginning, we advised using a special tooth pitch (T9) due to the very demanding coating and special coating bond. This made it possible to prevent it from being copied by low-quality products, which would result in complaints for our customer,” Rainer Müller explains. Purchasing Manager, Volker Helle from Inotec, adds: “At the time we didn’t realise how much trouble and cost this special pitch would save us, as we later had to experience with another machine type with standard pitch.”
As a Mulco partner and reseller of BRECOFLEX® TransDev can also help you with your belt requirements. Based in the UK but also servicing customers in Ireland and across global markets, TransDev have the stocks, design skills, and manufacturing expertise to meet the most demanding of briefs.