Use of Polyurethane Parts for the Food & Beverage Industry

The food and beverage industry has very stringent stipulations regarding any material that may have contact with food, ingredients, and preparation equipment. The restrictions for food preparation are outlined by the Food and Drug Administration for the protection of the public. The manufacture of food products, using natural ingredients, is susceptible to the growth of mold, bacteria, and microorganisms that can be spread from structural components. For the protection of food processing and safety reasons, stainless steel and polyurethane are widely used in the manufacture of food and beverage equipment, sealers, panels, gears, and an assortment of other implements, components, and parts.

What characteristics of polyurethane make it a good material for food processing equipment?

In addition to polyurethane’s hygienic properties, it has other characteristics that make it ideal for use with food products. Processing equipment for the food and beverage industry cut, blend, crush, and mix ingredients to create the proper taste and texture for food products. Each of the processes places stress on components and tests their endurance. The gripping properties, cut resistance, and strength of urethane offers the food and beverage industry a material that has longevity, resilience, and durability capable of withstanding each of the food processing operations.

In addition to the various manufacturing processes, the food and beverage industry rely on cold storage as a central part of their manufacturing and distribution network for the preservation of ingredients and completed products. The amount of stress placed on materials by cold storage over extended periods causes the degradation, malfunction, and destruction of components that are made from less resilient materials. It is in this area that the strength of polyurethane is most visible.

Over the years, engineers have perfected the manufacture of standard thermoset polyurethane compounds such that they can withstand temperatures ranging from -80o F up to 300o F (-62o C up to 149o C). This particular property of polyurethane is a crucial factor in its use in the food and beverage industry. It is a necessity that all components used in the manufacture of food and beverages be effective during processing and cold storage since failure in any part of the process can be costly and lead to a loss of ingredients or products. 

What types of parts are used in food manufacturing equipment?

As with any industrial operation, the food and beverage industry uses a wide assortment of equipment for the production of their products, which include tanks, pumps, ovens, homogenizers, presses, and forming equipment that are specially designed to meet the needs of the industry.  Each of these pieces of equipment rely on bushings, bumpers, motor mounts, gears, and wheels that are made of polyurethane to avoid process production shutdowns or delays due to component failure.

How do parts made from polyurethane compare to other materials?

What has been discovered, since its introduction, is that polyurethane outlasts, is stronger, more durable, and more hygienic than rubber or thermoplastics. At the heart of polyurethane are polymers that are made of repeating chains of monomers. Their cross-linked structure produces a thermoset material that, once hardened, cannot be melted or deformed.

Rubbers, on the other hand, natural or synthetic, which are made from petroleum products, are elastomers that are moldable and flexible and have the appearance of polyurethane but do not have polyurethanes exceptional properties. Unlike the various types of rubber and plastics, polyurethane is resistant to abrasions, impacts, and scratches, characteristics that allows polyurethane to last four times longer than rubber or plastics in the harsh and stressful conditions of food production.

 It may be assumed that if rubber does not have the resilience and strength to serve the food and beverage industry then it should be replaced by a metal or plastics. Unfortunately, the circumstances that disqualify rubber from the food and beverage industry also apply to thermoplastics and metals. Products and machinery in the food and beverage industry have to endure impact and surface stress that plastics are unable to withstand. Although metals may seem to be stronger, they, as well, are not able to survive impacts and exposure to moisture, again, a common part of food and beverage production.

Why American Urethane?

American Urethane is a premier supplier of custom polyurethane parts. Serving a wide range of industries, our engineers understand your needs and concerns based on depth of knowledge and years of experience. Contact us today to see how we can help you with high-quality and rapid response.