What to consider: electric actuators for food and beverage processing

By Tolomatic on April 17, 2018

food and beverage processingKeeping things clean is a top concern in food and beverage processing operations because food safety is crucial.  The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), with its emphasis on preventing foodborne illness, puts even more pressure on food producers. Machine designers who serve this industry need to incorporate components that meet the industry’s demands.

When it comes to electric linear actuators, there are several things a design engineer needs to consider, especially if the machine will be subjected to periodic washdowns.  For a thorough review of these considerations, read our white paper, Evaluating actuators for washdown in food and beverage applications. Download your copy here.


Selection considerations for electric linear actuators

Many food and beverage processing plants incorporate clean-in-place processes that mandate regular equipment washdowns to eliminate food residue and microorganisms. Washdowns may involve high pressures, high temperatures, steam and caustic cleaning solutions.

Not surprisingly, washdowns are hard on automation equipment, including electric linear actuators. Moisture and caustic solutions can corrode parts, short out electrical circuits and impair functioning.

Machine designers who design for food processors look for linear actuators that meet these requirements:

  1. Corrosion resistance – Stainless steel is often used for linear actuator bodies, motor housings and fasteners. Alternatives are food-grade epoxy coatings or special platings.  Seals and gaskets must resist corrosion too and are often of Viton® or Ultra High Molecular Weight (UHMW) polyethylene. Whatever the material, it has to withstand washdowns’ temperatures, pressures and corrosive agents.
  2. Moisture-shedding design – A rounded body design eliminates crevices where moisture, food particles and microorganisms can collect. A rounded design and smooth, water-shedding surface treatment minimize the chance that contamination will linger on the actuator after cleaning.
  3. Protection for essential parts – Guarding critical components, like the motor and power screw, from the damaging effects of moisture and cleaners ensures the actuator’s long service life.

Electric rod actuators can be designed to suit washdown conditions. They can be designed with a water-shedding body that uses corrosion resistant materials, and only the rod opening needs to be sealed against moisture and particles.

It’s not possible to completely protect a rodless actuator’s components. The bearing system is designed to carry loads throughout the stroke and cannot be sealed adequately to prevent liquids from getting into the actuator’s internal workings. Rodless actuators in washdown environments need to be well shielded. Keep in mind, though, shielding can add to the cost of the system.


Our solutions

Our line of ERD electric rod actuators includes two models that meet the needs of washdown, food and beverage processing applications:

  • ERD stainless steel electric actuators (ERD-SS2) The all stainless steel ERD actuator with integrated motor in a proteERD SS2 electric cylinderctive housing (ERD-SS2) accommodates both servo and stepper motors. ERD-SS2 electric actuators are rated IP69K (washdown-ready.)

View our ERD SS2 video.


  • ERD hygienic electric actuators ERD hygienic, all stainless steel electric actuators are rated IP69K and are approved by 3A and USDA. These 3A and USDA-approved hygienic ERD electric cylinderactuators deliver up to 7,868 lbf (35 kN) of thrust, making them an excellent solution for food and beverage applications where higher forces are required. Use our Your Motor Here® database to select from a wide variety of stainless steel motor manufacturers for a complete all stainless package.

View our ERD hygienic video.


Download the ERD catalog here.

We also offer IP67-rated IMA food-grade servo linear actuators that deliver sanitary protection in washdown applications. IMA food-grade servo IMA integrated servo actuator with food grade white paintactuators have a white epoxy coating, food-grade grease and stainless steel fasteners, rod and rod ends. They have a compact footprint with an integrated servo motor.  Available in both ball and roller screw configurations, IMA food-grade servo actuators provide forces up to 30.6 kN (6,875 lbf) even in high duty cycle applications.

Watch the food-grade IMA video.

Download the IMA catalog here.



For a review of electric linear actuator design for food and beverage processing, download our white paper, Evaluating actuators for washdown in food and beverage applications.


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