Suppliers of motors and air-moving devices are always adapting their products to the ever-changing needs of appliance OEMs.
Kris Diehl, engineer with Ametek Technical & Industrial Products (Kent, OH, U.S.; www.ametektmd.com), says the company continually works on improvements for its Nautilair blowers to accommodate customers’ demands for sound reduction, corrosion resistance, value-added customization, and other attributes.
“It’s challenging,” Diehl says, “in that customers ask for these features to be designed into the smallest blower size possible.”
One aspect of adaptability—gas valve fittings—has proved to be a major consideration for Ametek. “When we first came out with the 7.6-in. Nautilair blower in 2002, we designed it to fit one specific gas valve manufacturer,” says Diehl. “As our product line grew, so did the need of our customers to be able to mount various gas valves onto our blowers. We have made available a series of die-cast aluminum housings that can now be used with some of the most common OEM gas valve manufacturers in the combustion industry. These housings provide not only different bolt-mounting patterns, but also the ability to use O-rings for some applications. For instance, one customer may use gas valves from different manufacturers.”
Oftentimes, customers request a blower that is not in the current catalog. The company strives to comply, making the mechanical or electrical alterations needed to fit the application—and add any extras that make for an easier OEM installation. “Customers want a blower ready to drop into their system without having to make any extra alterations,” Diehl says.
“In the last decade, industry demand for fan motor life expectancy has progressively increased to reduce appliance maintenance cost and with the target to practically erase warranty costs,” says Michael Jenkins, sales manager, North America, for Elco Motors Inc. (Candiac, QC, Canada; www.elcomotors.com). The company is a supplier to commercial refrigeration and HVAC OEMs. He says this high level of quality is achieved through excellent product design, accurate materials selection, and efficient production process control.
But OEM customers want proof of life: “Customers require that product reliability is proved by reports on severe life tests performed in extreme environment and application conditions.”
Elco has internal life-testing capabilities with climate chambers to simulate extreme environment conditions. Life tests are run continuously on new and existing models.
Engineering Food Safety
A new line of products designed for washdown and severe environment gearmotor protection is being developed by Bison Gear & Engineering Corp. (St. Charles, IL, U.S.; www.bisongear.com).
“With more and more salmonella outbreaks and contamination issues, everybody in the food chain is more aware of cleanliness,” says John Morehead, Bison vice president of strategic planning and marketing. Speaking of foodservice appliance users, he says, “They’re washing more frequently and aggressively with high pressure. Products they used to hose down once a week are now being pressure-washed every other day. You have to design products that can withstand that environment.”
At the same time, however, Bison is responding to other customers’ needs for commercial motors specifically designed for less-demanding applications.
“It’s in keeping with offering products that aren’t overdesigned for the job,” says Morehead. “It’s typical when product development is engineer-driven that it will be pretty much foolproof. Robust design inherently has a cost involved. Customers are saying this is very good for continuous-duty applications, but if our machine is only used a few hours out of the day then we can work with something that’s not so robust.”
Examples of applications for the less robust motors would include a swimming pool cover that operates for just a few minutes a day, or a commercial dishwashing conveyor that doesn’t run at the same rate as a continuous-duty oven conveyor.
“It’s new for us,” says Morehead. “It’s a departure from our traditional design philosophy, which has been to engineer products for continuous duty.”
But suppliers know well that they need to provide the best motors and air-movers they can—to meet whatever the needs of the dynamic appliance industry may be.
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