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Metal replacement providing a lightweight, longer-lasting harvesting tool for produce

News International-French

19 Dec 2011

When Saroplast, a specialist in product design and molding based in Treviso, Italy, was tasked with designing higher performing components for an olive and fruit harvesting tool, it chose Victrex® PEEK™ polymer in order to obtain superior wear and temperature resistance versus metal parts that had previously been failing.

The metal parts were unable to withstand the high levels of wear due to prolonged continuous use and exposure to high operating temperatures. The use of Victrex PEEK polymer in the moulded parts helped meet the temperature requirements while reducing weight, lowering power consumption and reducing acoustic noise.



Ergonomic and weight issues with the original harvesting tool lead to user fatigue and premature mechanical failure. "We began to evaluate the possibility of replacing metal components with thermoplastic polymers in order to achieve a lightweight and easy-to-use tool that also increased the lifetime of the device," explained Roberto Frare, head of Technical-Commercial operations at Saroplast.



Saroplast designers focused on the toothed gear wheel that drives the tool via a connecting rod. "We ran the first tests with a polyphenylene sulfide (PPS) based material, but these trials failed after only three minutes because of excessive wear to the rod as well as the gearing in the harvesting tool," said Frare. “The successful material would have to be able to survive heavy use and be lightweight with excellent resistance to wear, fatigue and high operating temperatures. It would also need to support manufacturing to tight tolerances. Victrex PEEK polymer emerged as the only viable solution.”



"We worked with the technical planning department at Saroplast to come up with a metal replacement solution,” said Reinhard Veljovic, Victrex Market Development Manager. “A modification was made to a metal ring, and a roller bearing that controls the movement of the rod was added."



The new design has been tested successfully and Victrex PEEK polymer now provides a lightweight solution that is easier for the harvester to use. “This design weighed ten times less than the original model, improved the acoustic index, and reduced power consumption. The new, highly optimized device has a better feel for the user, and we expect this to result in a significant increase in production," added Frare.



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