CHICAGO (June 29, 4 p.m. EDT) — Meat slicers have been around for many years, but IDI Composites International has been working with the Berkel Co. to come up with a lighter, cheaper, more sanitary version for the food-service industry.
The Noblesville, Ind.-based company showcased a meat slicer at NPE 2006 in Chicago as one example of how thermoset composites can be used as a replacement for metal applications.
“Typically for the food-service industry, institutional food equipment is very heavy into metals, but the customer was intent on completely redoing its meat slicer,” said Gary Littell, applications development engineer for IDI Composites.
“Basically, we've always made it out of metal, but when we started the project three years ago, we decided to go to composites. The slicer replaces the 900 slicer, which was a mainstay for 35 years,” said Todd Clem, national sales manager for Berkel, which is located in South Bend, Ind.
Littell said the firm decided to use a bulk molding compound to replace a sand-cast aluminum base. He said BMC had a strong corrosion-preventing characteristic and when it was incorporated, it reduced the number of parts in the food slicer by 40 percent. IDI grade 44-10 is being used for the base. It is 20 percent glass-reinforced.
More importantly, he said the new material addressed concerns over possible bacterial contamination. It eliminated a drip and drop zone created by welded or bolted metal parts and now proves to be much easier to clean. Another advantage is that the cleaning surface stands up to exposure to common sanitizers and cleaners, as well as acids and proteins found n the food. It is National Sanitation Federation certified.
“Just recently it went into production, and the responses from end users at trade shows have been absolutely phenomenal,” Clem said.
He added that the company now is planning to make other food service products incorporating the composites
IDI Composites was exhibiting other products at its booth, including another metal conversion project — a new formulation designed for solar panels. The solar tile system is a way to convert residential or commercial tile roofing into a solar power system.
The Marley Powertiles use a custom bulk molding compound for the integrated support frame and the solar panel interface to the support frame.
The BMC advantage, compared to previous materials, includes structural rigidity and weight, resistance to natural elements and UV deterioration, and fire-code compliance.