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Are Stainless Steel Motors Worth It?

January 19, 2021

With the advancements in industrial automation and control systems, many companies are making extensive use of motors in applications that are sensitive to contamination, including food manufacturing and pharmaceuticals. Strict hygiene requirements mean that motors are operating in an environment exposed to high-pressure, high-temperature water, often combined with caustic cleaning chemicals. Stainless steel washdown motors provide the best characteristics for any application that requires frequent cleaning cycles with minimum downtime.

Contamination is a serious issue in any industry where electric motors operate in proximity to food and other biologically sensitive products. In the meat industry, where chicken, beef and pork are processed, equipment must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent opportunities for harmful bacteria such as salmonella and listeria to grow. Pharmaceutical manufacturing requires an even higher standard to ensure products manufactured in a sterile environment are free from impurities. These errors are disastrous for consumers, and the companies themselves must initiate costly product recalls resulting in massive revenue losses and lasting damage to brands and reputations.

Even the best-painted washdown motors are limited in their ability to withstand the wear and tear of industrial environments, whether from scrapes and impacts or direct contact with corrosive cleaning chemicals. Ideally, a motor would not require a protective coating, but standard materials used to manufacture motors, such as cast iron, steel and aluminum, are readily corroded when exposed to a washdown environment.

Washdown duty motors are designed to be pressure washed and cleaned in-place. They are typically IP69-certified, meaning they can withstand direct contact with high-pressure, high-temperature water and steam jets. They are designed to prevent moisture from entering the motor by including sealed bearings with moisture-resistant lubrication and gaskets and oil seals that provide a barrier to liquids and moisture-laden air. Some motors even come with the windings fully encapsulated in a moisture-resistant potting compound as further protection.

The strict hygiene requirements set by regulators can mean significant downtime and loss of productivity. Measures must also be taken to prevent moisture and contamination from entering the motor through bearings and seals, corroding the interior surfaces and windings. Even with plenty of preparation, the humid, wet and corrosive environment often drastically reduces the motors' service life, requiring regular maintenance and parts replacement, resulting in significantly increased costs. The stainless steel washdown duty motor has been developed specifically to operate in this environment to meet this challenge.

In recent years, stainless steel washdown motors have favoured stainless steel's exceptional characteristics. It can resist both chemical and water corrosion, and it does not require any protective coating that may become damaged. With a shiny, smooth, paint-free finish, stainless steel washdown motors provide minimal opportunity for particle build-up and are ideal for applications where washing and cleaning are frequent. These motors also have laser-engraved nameplates to eliminate the need for attached nameplates that can trap bacteria underneath. Stainless steel washdown motors are generally more expensive than their counterparts; however, some applications require such a high level of sanitization that stainless steel is the only viable option.

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