This is a supplement to an article that originally ran in the January/February 2011 issue of Food Manufacturing.
**Online Exclusive** There are significant benefits to using metal belts in food processing. Stainless steel resists scratches and nicks and does not absorb bacteria, making it impervious to biofilms. It is easy-to-clean, food-safe and eliminates virtually all sanitation concerns. This reduces water consumption and saves time in cleaning processes. If something does happen to a belt which compromises the product, metal is immediately detectable in food products, assuring food safety.
From the start of the product line till the finished goods go out the door, metal belts provide the most versatile variations for all processes including breading, frying, baking, freezing and even packaging. Countless specifications are available for a variety of metal belting types and conveyor configurations, both friction and positively-driven. The advanced alloys used in metal systems are wear-resistant which become work-hardened and resist fatigue. The positive-drive of a metal belt system also guarantees precise tolerances, ensuring true tracking.
Link-style and grid-style belts provide open belt spacing from five microns to several inches providing multiple functions, from full product support to exceptional air-flow and ventilation, for widths in excess of 20 feet. Metal belting is durable, providing exceptional strength to accommodate the heaviest of loads and even have the ability to free-span without supplemental support. This strength allows belts to achieve speeds of just inches per minute up to 1,000 feet per minute. Custom options such as pockets, cradles, retaining edges and flights for all processing demands are available on a metal belt, which is capable of handling excessively heavy loads, a benefit not necessarily applicable to other types of belts.
Metal belts are able to withstand a wide range of temperatures. From freezing to high-temperature baking lines, belt and machined tooth roll systems can accommodate for expansion and contraction in these extreme environments. Many types of belts cannot be used in high-temperature applications while steel is able to withstand even the highest heats. Flattened wire designs can eliminate stretching of the belt and reduce camber, stopping the belt from flexing in the center.
Metal belts are cost-effective because they boast a long service life. They are easy to clean and easy to splice and thus, service and maintenance are greatly reduced when using metal belts, while change-outs and replacements need to be done less often. From sanitation to longevity, metal belts can handle all food-processing and packaging demands from start to final product.