Cooler Keeps Food Process Moving
EP Editorial Staff | September 18, 2019
Hot, inherently messy operation needed reliable air conditioning to stay up and running.
Among other things, Max Imaging & Electrical, Bowden, GA (outside of Atlanta), services automation controls in food facilities that bake bread and deep-fry products. Mass production of breads, pies, and fried goods can be messy. Flour, breading, and batter cloud the air, and air conditioners take the brunt of the beating. When the air conditioning (AC) on control panels and electrical enclosures goes down, temperatures go up, causing production to grind to a halt. This, essentially, used to be the way the cookie crumbled for Max Imaging & Electrical—that is until its president Chuck Cohran became acquainted with Vortex Enclosure Coolers from Vortec, Cincinnati (vortec.com).
Temperatures inside food-processing plants can range from 87 to 90 F in the wintertime. That’s downright tropical, even for residents of Georgia. One electrical panel in a plant that processed onion rings, fried fish sticks, and French bread housed three 7.5-kW variable-frequency drives (VFDs), each generating a sizable amount of heat. The panel had been cooled by a run-of-the-mill air conditioner that was prone to failure. Flour and ambient dust would clog the filters, causing the head pressure to rise and eventually shutting down the compressor.
An alternative is standard air conditioners that typically feed out of the control panel they’re set up to cool. But if the AC fails and the undercurrent device doesn’t function properly, the main will trip and cause the whole system to go down.
When temperatures in the panel skyrocketed, multi-function electronic controls could misread, drift, or trip breakers below rated loads, ultimately leading to production downtime to make repairs. The small size of the cabinet and lack of access to the panel, in turn, made the frequent repairs difficult.
Cohran learned about Vortec’s Vortex Enclosure Coolers through online research. These coolers are designed to keep electronic panels clean and protected by maintaining pressurization in the cabinet. They are thermostatically controlled to maintain enclosure temperatures within an ideal range.
The Vortec units are designed around the vortex-tube principle, providing an economical alternative with no moving parts. Vortex tubes convert compressed air to a low-pressure cold-air source to keep electronic enclosures and panel components protected so they can operate precisely. A compressed-air stream enters the vortex tube where it spins rapidly, splitting into hot and cold air streams. Cooling performance is easily adjusted by changing the inlet air pressure or by changing the generator in the tube itself.
Cohran installed two 787SS Vortex coolers at the client’s site. He also installed a water separator to keep moisture out of the cabinet housing the three VFDs. Since then, the electrical panel has maintained a steady, cool, 56 F temperature that’s low enough to keep the drives from overheating.
Installation was simple, thanks to the small footprint of the coolers and lack of wiring. Cohran drilled holes to drop the coolers into the cabinet, then ran the cold-air ducting kits into the cabinet. The kits were drilled with portholes, providing 360-deg. cooling.
Cohran estimated that the new coolers saved the client close to $800 in installation cost alone due to the distance of the nearest electrical panel. The units have no movable parts, decreasing the likelihood of failure and the need for frequent repairs. With thermostatic control, plant operators can control the level of air flow and cooling needed for a particular enclosure. The Vortex coolers maintain a slight pressurization in the enclosure that keeps flour and other dust from the facility outside of the sensitive panel.
For Max Imaging & Electrical’s client, the Vortex Enclosure Coolers provide a low-cost, low-maintenance solution that keeps an enclosure cool, clean, and protected. Since the units have no moving parts and no wiring, Cohran can be confident they won’t burn out or need costly, and difficult, repairs. EP
Learn more at vortec.com.