Stainless steel in dairy equipment
Milk-based dairy products are one of the most stable and basic markets for stainless steel. Until recently, most dairy equipment used low austenite grades, but recently, with advances in our understanding of stress corrosion cracking, dual phase and super austenite have taken over certain functions.
The equipment used in dairy processing includes refrigerated storage tanks, curing tanks, stirrers, barrels, molds and vats; Centrifuge, pasteurization machine; Heat exchanger (plate type, tube type and scraper type); Filtration equipment; Cheese; Packaging machine; Other equipment. The various processes also require pipes, pumps and valves. The equipment must have product integrity (no corrosion or leakage), cleanliness, easy to clean and easy to inspect. The equipment must also be resistant to chemical solutions used in cleaning, such as chloride disinfectants, acids and bases. Stainless steel meets all these requirements. Pump and valve designs are evolving as manufacturers work to reduce their impact on the environment.
The most commonly used grades for processing all dairy products are austenitic 304, 316 and 316L. (Less corrosion-resistant 430 ferritic stainless steel can be used for tank and milk truck cladding, but parts in contact with the medium require austenitic or higher.) Type 316(L) is suitable for producing cheese or butter because of the salt content.
In some applications, such as tank construction, the LDX 2101 thin duplex stainless steel can replace the 316L, and the thin grade 2304 has proven to be more effective than 304(L) in preventing stress corrosion cracking in tank construction. Tetra Pak has begun manufacturing its separator bowls using two duplex grades: the 2205 for slower speeds and the Super Duplex 2507 for faster speeds.
Super austenite grades play a role in ice cream making. The mould is in contact with brine (salt dissolved in water) at very low temperatures around -20°C. This cooling solution must remain liquid as ice cream solidifies. Radical solutions require Ultra 254 SMO/EN 1.4547 (2) rating.
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