Today, the practical drum motor designs used in food processing plants protect all vital motor/ gearing components within an IP69K stainless steel enclosure. These motors can withstand up to 3,000 psi of washdown pressure, without scheduled maintenance. Outside-the-box-thinking led to this improved design, with the motor, gear reducer and bearings inside the box, making it safer and more energy efficient. Plus, since no rotating components or pinch points are outside the conveyor frame, the drum motor conveyor drive protects personnel working around the equipment. FE caught up with Alexander Kanaris, president of Van der Graaf, at FE’s recent Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference to find out about the latest developments in drum motor technology. Established in 1948 in the Netherlands, Van der Graaf began manufacturing drum motors in Toronto, Canada in 1985. Shortly afterward, it began operations in Shelby, MI. Over the years, the company’s North American manufacturing space has grown from 3,500 sq. ft. to over 200,000 sq. ft. Kanaris holds more than 25 patents.
FE: Tell us a little about yourself.
Alexander Kanaris: I have been involved in electromechanical designs and manufacturing since 1978. As an electrical engineer, I have specialized in electrical motor designs including three-phase, single-phase and DC motors, from fractional to 3,000 hp. In 1985, with the help and support of Mr. M. H. Van der Graaf of the Netherlands, I founded Van der Graaf in Toronto and, immediately after that, started designing and manufacturing drum motors. Many changes have occurred over the last 31 years. Not only has the design of the drum motor changed, the manufacturing process has involved using new technology, state-of-the-art CNC machinery including robotics, and automation.
FE: When did drum motors become applicable to the food industry?
Kanaris: The food industry was first targeted in 1985. By design, the drum motor addresses efficiency, maintenance and cost of ownership, but more important for the food industry, it also addresses sanitation. In standard conveyor designs, the washdown process tends to be more complicated and difficult to perform since the motor and gear box are exposed and have more crevices that can harbor bacteria. But, all the drive components of the drum motor are contained within a stainless steel cylinder, totally shielded from the external environment. So, it can withstand washdown pressures up to 3,000 psi.