Choosing the Right Vibratory Conveyor for Food Processing

May 8, 2024

Running a food processing operation has inherent challenges that can disrupt efficiency and profit margins. It can sometimes feel overwhelming, from meeting strict regulations to maintaining sanitation standards. 

One of the most common hurdles is ensuring your products’ smooth and efficient flow through the various operational stages. A high-quality conveying system can alleviate this pressure, but finding the right fit for your unique needs can be daunting.

This is where vibratory conveyors come in. These versatile and robust conveyors are an asset in many food processing facilities worldwide. Read on to learn more about selecting a vibratory conveyor for food processing.

WHY USE VIBRATORY CONVEYORS FOR FOOD PROCESSING?

Vibratory conveyors offer several advantages for food processing. They handle the product efficiently and gently, protecting its integrity. These conveyors are also designed for easy cleaning, essential for meeting sanitation standards and minimizing downtime.

Other conveying solutions exist, such as belt or horizontal motion conveyors. Belt conveyors can be less expensive initially. However, due to their moving parts and cleaning challenges, they often require more maintenance in the long run. 

Horizontal motion conveyors are ideal for extremely gentle handling. Yet, they are limited to flat lines and can be slightly more expensive.

Vibratory conveyors strike a balance between efficiency and gentle handling. Their versatility makes them adaptable to various product types and processing stages. Their low-maintenance design also helps reduce operational costs over time, making them a compelling choice for many food processing operations.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT VIBRATORY CONVEYOR: FACTORS TO CONSIDER 

When evaluating vibratory conveyors, these considerations should be top of mind:

Food Application: This is the most important factor. Consider the product’s size, drag (weight and stickiness), durability/fragility, whether it’s coated/seasoned, and volume. These characteristics will directly inform the best conveyor model, stroke, width, and length for your needs.

Function/Application: Vibratory conveyors can not only move products, but can also perform other value-added functions such as:

  • Feeding (bringing the product from one step to the next at a metered rate)
  • Screening (separating by size using a pan with holes)
  • Dewatering (removing water from the product)
  • Laning (aligning product in lanes)
  • Sorting/Grading (separating into grades/sizes)
  • Spreading (aligning across the pan’s width)

Drive Type:

  • Electromagnetic: Variable speed, short lift, high frequency. Best for spreading, screening out fines, and handling lightweight products.
  • Mechanical: Fixed speed, long amplitude, low frequency. Excels with heavier, stickier products.

Throughput Requirements: Understanding your throughput needs will guide you in determining the appropriate conveyor size, ensuring it can handle the necessary product volumes. You may also want to consider how many conveyors will be needed for your application and footprint; you may need a system of several products. 

Sanitation Requirements: Hygiene is paramount in the food processing industry. Choosing a vibratory conveyor with sanitary design features will ensure easy cleaning and compliance with necessary standards. Certain applications, such as those in the meat or dairy industries, may have even stricter sanitation requirements.

Regulatory Requirements: Different food processing applications may need to meet specific regulatory standards. All vibratory conveyors offer a strong baseline in sanitation due to their wipedown/washdown pans, lack of moving parts, and accessible design. 

However, applications with stricter sanitation requirements, such as those governed by the USDA, may require adjustments to the standard designs for optimal compliance. Be sure to select a vibratory conveyor model that explicitly aligns with the regulations governing your particular operation.

Process/Location: This may affect the controls needed for speed adjustments or stopping/starting and impact the required sanitary design level. Consider how the conveyor will integrate with other equipment and whether your location requires special features or discharge designs. 

Quality of Design: Vibratory conveyors should be high-performing and low-maintenance. Design quality is crucial for this.

Materials:  Stainless steel is standard for food processing. Opt for heavy-duty stainless steel when working with particularly heavy products, like potatoes.

Proper Spring Location and Angles: These ensure correct throw (pitch and distance). PFI uses a fixturing system to guarantee accuracy in all our conveyors.

Accessibility & Limited Moving Parts:  These features are important for easy maintenance and cleaning.

Technical Support: The availability of training materials, installation, and long-term maintenance support from the manufacturer is essential.

TYPES OF VIBRATORY CONVEYORS FOR FOOD PROCESSING

PFI's vibratory conveyor mixes and blends trail mix

PFI prioritizes these considerations throughout their design process. This focus has resulted in three distinct, highly efficient vibratory conveyor lines, each tailored to meet your needs.

Versatile Mechanical Drive Vibratory Conveyor – VibraFlex II (VFII)

PFI’s VibraFlex II (VFII) vibratory conveyor offers the ultimate flexibility and value for food processors with its various applications throughout the entire processing line, efficient operation, and sanitary and maintenance-friendly design.

  • Versatility: It can handle a wide variety of food products, performs various tasks beyond simple conveying, and comes in different sizes to fit your space. You can further customize it with features like discharge points, gates, and mounting options for optimal integration into your existing line.
  • Optimized for Durability and Easy Sanitation:  The VFII prioritizes both long-lasting performance and effortless sanitation. Its base and mechanical drive eliminate moving parts or lubrication, ensures lower energy usage and noise, and requires virtually no maintenance.
  • Common Applications: screen, lane, grade, feed, spread or dewater/shake product between the key processes on the processing line across a wide range of temperatures.

Efficient Electromag Vibratory Conveyor – MAGNEflex

For applications requiring precise flow control, electromagnetic vibratory solutions are required.

TheMAGNEflex offers efficiency and flexibility for food processors with weight and speed control, efficient operation, and sanitary and maintenance-friendly design. 

  • Control & Accuracy – the electromagnetic drive system delivers accurate product flow control with variable speed/stroke feedback loops and instant on/off.
  • Durability & Performance – the design features electro-mag coils with no moving parts and quieter operation. You can easily wipe down or washdown the stainless steel pans for quick cleaning.
  • Common Applications: Feed, spread, and lane raw potatoes, meat, or other sticky/abrasive products

Uniform Electromagnetic Feeder – EDF

The EDF Feeder offers exceptional flexibility and precision, making it ideal for integrating into various food processing systems. The EDF’s compact design maximizes valuable floor space,  and its electromagnetic drive ensures quiet, low-maintenance operation. Built with sanitation in mind, the easy-to-clean stainless steel pan simplifies your workflow.

  • Adaptability: The EDF feeder can be utilized as a standalone unit or seamlessly integrated with the Hopper Feeder or Mix/Blend system, depending on your production needs. It comes in a range of sizes and mounting options, ensuring compatibility with existing setups. 
  • Control: Traditional feeding methods can often lead to over or underfeeding, resulting in product waste and inefficiencies. The EDF feeder delivers precise control over material flow. Adjustable settings allow for meticulous metering of ingredients, minimizing product waste and maximizing yield.
  • Common Applications: Feed, meter, screen, and lane a variety of food products from Mix/Blend Systems and Hopper Feeders to mixers/blenders, packaging, and other processing steps.

EVALUATING AND CHOOSING THE RIGHT VIBRATORY CONVEYOR

PFI's vibratory conveyor distribution system is designed for high-performance food processing operations.

To select the perfect vibratory conveyor model for your facility, consider these steps:

Define Your Needs: Carefully consider the previously outlined factors: throughput, sanitation, regulations, and, most importantly, the unique characteristics of the food you process.

Seek Expert Guidance: Collaborate with a reputable vibratory conveyor manufacturer like PFI. Our skilled team understands the nuances of food processing and can recommend the perfect solution for your operation.  Leverage their expertise to help you evaluate different models and ensure the chosen conveyor integrates seamlessly with your existing equipment.

Request Demonstrations: If possible, request demonstrations to see vibratory conveyors in action with your specific product, providing valuable first-hand insights.

Compare Beyond Initial Costs: While the initial price is important, don’t overlook other factors. Consider aspects like lead time (especially in today’s market), ease of integration, maintenance requirements, and the conveyor’s potential impact on your overall efficiency.

PFI: YOUR PARTNER IN VIBRATORY CONVEYOR SOLUTIONS 

At PFI, we understand the complexities and challenges of the food processing industry. Our expert team is ready to help you determine the optimal vibratory conveying solution to maximize your facility’s efficiency while ensuring food safety and upholding rigorous industry standards.  

Let’s work together to find the perfect vibratory conveyor solution for your specific needs. Explore our solutions below and discover how they can transform your production efficiency.

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