Has stainless steel met its match?

An alternative to stainless steel drives can lower maintenance costs and improve worker safety in food and beverage plants.

NORD 93.1 helical bevel gear units with NSD TUPH powering a washdown bottling conveyor.
NORD 93.1 helical bevel gear units with NSD TUPH powering a washdown bottling conveyor.

When it comes to food processing and bottling, conventional wisdom has long told us that stainless steel is the material of choice. And it is a great choice — low maintenance, durable and easy to clean. But there is a less expensive alternative that actually exceeds stainless steel in a few areas and can be an ideal solution for demanding processing environments. 

In this Q&A, NORD Gear’s Bob Pierce shares insights into how a sealed surface conversion system makes aluminum drives as robust as their stainless-steel counterparts, why the system was developed, and how it’s being used in the food and beverage industry. 

Nsd Tuph Trio Resized 800

NSD TUPH surface conversion system on the NORDBLOC.1, mini-case. and 93.1 helical bevel with inverter.

Q: Is there an alternative in the market to the high cost of stainless steel drives?  

A: Yes, there is. NORD Drivesystems introduced the NSD TUPH technology in 2012. NSD TUPH is a specially processed technology that makes the gearbox housing exterior very hard and resistant to rusting, scratching and propagation. It’s proven to hold up to the extreme sanitation methods and chemicals used in today’s food processing and bottling applications, and it is typically 30% to 40% less expensive than the stainless competition.

Q: So, less expensive is what everyone is looking for, are there advantages other than cost? 

A: Sure there are. One of the issues that the food processing industry is finding with stainless steel is that it runs very hot — so hot, in some cases that it’s become a safety issue. People are getting their hands blistered when they touch it. Some processors are building housings around the stainless gearboxes to keep their employees safe. 

Aluminum dissipates heat much faster than stainless. So, in our case, the aluminum gearbox doesn’t get as hot and isn’t a safety concern. Heat is not a friend to any mechanical device. The cooler a unit runs, the longer it will last. The heat generated in the stainless unit can compromise the seals, and if the seals fail, typically the bearings are right behind them. Overheated units also affect the gearbox oil and will require changing it at quicker intervals than usual. This becomes an added maintenance issue, both in cost and time.

Q: Is the NSD TUPH system safe around food products? And how does it hold up to severe washdown requirements?

A: NSD TUPH is FDA-compliant, so yes, it’s very safe and industry accepted in all food, bottling and pharmaceutical applications.  Essentially, NSD TUPH is a surface conversion system. We’re not putting on a coating, but rather it’s an electrolytic process that creates a base layer that is permanently bonded to the aluminum. This treatment makes the aluminum housings corrosion-resistant and provides a smooth surface that’s easy to clean. 

The NSD TUPH design coupled with our Quadralip seal design protects the internal workings of the gearbox so it can withstand tough wash down duty applications. Our autovent is standard on most NORD models for cooler running and higher efficiency. The result is an overall cost savings as well as a reduction in unscheduled maintenance downtime. It also comes in an IP66 design for ingress protection that gives the customer further security in heavy washdown areas.

Q: Explain how this technology has worked in the food industry.

A: These units are currently working in every food and beverage industry sub-segment, from poultry/beef processing, to vegetable, snack food, ready-to-eat (RTE), bakery and dairy. The NSD TUPH has been running in poultry kill zones since 2012 and the units still look new after washdown. In one particular processing plant where their original units rusted so bad that they have to be replaced every nine months, NSD TUPH has withstood the elements and that company has now standardized on NORD due to its significant reduction in cost of ownership.

Q: Are there any potential processing applications  beyond food and beverage where this technology could be implemented? Why or why not? 

A: Yes, for your readers in the oil and gas industry, NORD provides drive solutions from fractional horsepower to 1500HP. Our depth of product allows us to answer the cost-saving call to just about all industries and their specialized applications. 

Nord 150


Bob Pierce is key market specialist for food and beverage at NORD Gear Corporation. NORD Gear is the U.S.-based subsidiary of NORD DRIVESYSTEMS, a global leader in drive technology solutions headquartered in Germany.

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