Packaging & Food Processing

Food-Grade Stainless Steel Bearings

Food, beverage and packaging applications and other corrosive environments often present specialized needs that must be considered when selecting the appropriate bearings. OEMs and users alike must ensure that bearings perform properly and won’t require excess maintenance or frequent replacement simply because they can’t handle chemical cleaning agents, high-pressure wash downs, or other common factors that might facilitate wear and tear in standard bearings.

OEMs and MRO personnel have developed multiple methods to avoid premature wear in bearings, such as the use of stainless steel bearings, solids lubes, and seal and slinger designs. This page will discuss these solutions and how they benefit food-grade applications.

Packaging & Food Processing

Stainless Steel Bearings for Food & Beverage Applications

Ball bearings for OEM equipment are used in equipment throughout every industry, but they play particularly wide and varied roles in the food and beverage sector. It’s important to know which applications and types of industrial equipment use food-grade stainless steel ball bearings to ensure that the applied lubricant is both sufficient and safe.

Stainless steel bearings offer a functional solution for a broad range of food and beverage equipment. Some of the many food-grade applications for food-grade stainless steel bearings include:

  • Bearings for tough-duty applications
  • Food safety and sanitation
  • General service applications
  • Poly-Round® Bearing Assemblies
  • Sanitary applications
  • Solution® Housings
  • Type E Solution® Bearings systems
  • Stand Off Series Mounted Units
  • Stainless Steel Mounted Units
  • Conveyors, belts, roller chains
  • Bottling and canning

Features and Benefits of Food-Grade Bearing with Solid Lube

Whether during the manufacturing cycle or in the food processing facility, engineers must match stainless steel bearings to the best lubricant application system. The bearings themselves need to have the right attributes to best perform in the industrial environment without potentially endangering the products.

Features to consider when selecting a specialty lubricant application system for 100% stainless steel bearings may include:

  • Housing options, including nickel-plated, stainless steel, or thermoplastic housings
  • Complementary bushings that are plastic and FDA-approved
  • Cryogenic properties (many food applications require up to 1,000° F)
  • Grease-free surfaces
  • Non-corrosive materials and finishes
  • Resistance to damage during washdowns
  • Compatibility with solid lubrication systems

Commonly used varieties of ball bearings in the food and beverage industry include unmounted bearings, poly round bearings, sanitary bearings, and specialty bearings. Stainless steel ball bearings play an essential role in many types of equipment, as well as many individual components.

The following parts often include ball bearings:

  • Bearing units
  • Constant velocity joints
  • Feed screws
  • Parts feeders
  • Precision resin systems
  • Rolling bearings

Lubrication is important because all of these ball bearings move against other parts of the system or against other ball bearings within the configuration, generating heat and friction. Without any sort of barrier, ball bearings can develop impact damage, rough surfaces, or scratches that impede their functionality. Lubrication can reduce impact, contact, and friction. The lubricant also pulls heat from the system and releases it later to cool down the bearings and sophisticated machinery.

At Emerson Bearing Co., we offer a broad range of solutions, including the NTN Sentinel Series of washdown-resistant bearings, which are optimally designed for use in food and beverage applications due to their stainless steel bearings and bearing units which feature food-grade solid lube with covers.

Why Solid Lube?

While many lubricants are liquids, food processing equipment often benefits from using solid lubrication. Food-grade solid lube is a polymer impregnated with food-safe oil which is stored in a porous sponge and released only as needed.

The benefits of NTN Sentinel Series stainless steel bearings with solid lube include:

Food Processing infographic

  • Food-grade materials. Food-grade solid lubes are FDA compliant and reduce potential cross-contamination between the lubricant and the product. The lubricant also doesn’t have variable or negative impacts on the processing system.
  • No leakage. Solid lubricant won’t leak, so it keeps the machinery cleaner. It also keeps the lubricant itself safe from dust, dirt, or other contaminants. Both the solid lube product and the seal and slinger design work together to prevent any chance of leaks.
  • No voids or opportunities for contamination. Solid lubricant application systems ensure that bearings stay lubricated. This reduces the risk of empty pockets, which can otherwise fill with moisture, contaminants, and foreign matter.
  • No negative impact from wash down procedures. Cleaning procedures require high pressure and potentially harsh chemicals. The sponge protects the lubrication elements from losing efficacy or washing away during frequent wash downs.
  • Permanent lubrication. Solid lubricants provide permanent lubrication, which extends the life of both the bearing and the surrounding equipment.

The NTN Sentinel Series of stainless steel bearings with solid lube offer an ideal solution for many food applications, such as blending, stirring, separating, cooking, drying, packing, wrapping, and more. These bearings suit any industry that requires minimal contamination from equipment. Some of these include:

  • Bottling/canning operations
  • Conveyors
  • Dairy processing
  • Seafood and/or meat processing
  • Cosmetics
  • Pharmaceuticals

High-Performance Plastic Bearings

Plastic bearings can often be just as useful as stainless steel bearings and solid lubricants when designing or improving industrial equipment used to process consumable products. Plastic bearings are resilient in the face of regular cleaning and use, and the material provides high-performance guarantees.

Plastic bearings perform better in environments or applications that have:

  • A history of bearing maintenance issues that other methods haven’t solved
  • Contact with food products or other consumable substances
  • Frequent high-pressure washdowns
  • Environments with lots of dirt, dust, process moisture, or powder
  • Equipment with safety or reliability concerns that can cause unscheduled downtime or high failure rates
  • Exposure to either high or low temperature extremes
  • Intermittent operations with periods of low use or high-frequency use

Plastic bearings may be fabricated to meet a wide variety of housing and bearing specifications and requirements.

Just as with stainless steel bearings, plastic bearings benefit from using solid lubricant instead of liquid alternatives. Choosing the correct lubrication method from the outset, or retrofitting your facility’s system at the next available opportunity, can improve your equipment’s functionality and longevity. Some of the key benefits of solid lube with plastic bearings include:

  • Permanence. The bearings don’t require re-lubrication.
  • Cleanliness. Solid lube is more resistant to potential lubrication, which carries over to the lubricated system itself. It further improves cleanliness by withstanding stringent wash down procedures instead of requiring process changes or fine handling.
  • Efficiency. Solid lube application systems deliver the right amount of lubrication without allowing for excess lubrication or spots without adequate lubrication.

Food-Grade Stainless Steel Bearings from Emerson

Emerson Bearing Co. is a leading provider of ball and roller bearings for industrial systems. We maintain a worldwide supply network and provide excellent customer service via our experienced, knowledgeable team. Our bearings are used by OEMs in a wide range of industrial and food-grade manufacturing equipment.

We provide bearing replacements and MRO solutions to myriad food-grade and packaging operations right here in New England. Our team will work closely with operations of any size to ensure that they have the best possible bearing solutions for their food processing and packaging equipment.

We can find the right parts and improvements for your system, no matter how complex or unique your facility’s needs are. Contact our team or request a quote today to learn more about how our food-grade bearing solutions will keep your equipment’s bearing systems optimally lubricated.

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