The ice cubes They have become an essential element to face high temperatures. The increase in costs, the increase in demand due to heat waves and the price of electricity and transportation already led to a shortage of this precious summer good last year, which has caused a demand for ice machines in the hospitality and agri-food sector.
Indeed, a research team from the Higher Polytechnic School of Córdoba has moved the world 3D printing to the cold sector, developing a new piece with non-stick properties that facilitates the cleaning of ice cube manufacturing machines.
Why is this 3D printed component so interesting for ice factories?
«Some companies in the cold sector are starting to use three-dimensional printing to manufacture certain components of their machines, avoiding the use of other processes that require expensive metal molds and that provide little flexibility in the face of market fluctuations«explains Professor Pablo Romero, researcher of the PRINIA group and one of the authors who participated in the study, published in the scientific journal Journal of Engineering Manufacture.
Specifically, according to the researcher, there is a specific piece, located in the conduit through which the ice cubes fall, “whose complex geometry makes it ideal to be manufactured using three-dimensional printing techniques if the appropriate parameters are applied”.
Using PETG filaments, a material similar to that used to manufacture soda bottles, the research team has managed to develop this piece with high hydrophobic properties, that is, with a high capacity to repel water, which offers less adhesion. to ice and makes it easier to clean later. “Regulations require a high level of hygiene in the food industry to prevent the proliferation of pathogens, therefore it is essential to design machines that are easy to clean,” adds Romero.
What other applications can this technology have?
In addition to refrigeration machines, the qualities of this type of material could be interesting “for manufacture terminal elements in robots and manipulators that are used in food product processing lines or for the additive manufacturing of terminal nozzles for ice cream manufacturing lines,” highlights the researcher.
On the other hand, they are also useful for other sectors such as the unmanned aerial vehicle manufacturing industry. “When drones fly at high altitudes, plates of frozen water can form on the wings, which can cause malfunctions,” adds the author of the research. Therefore, the impression of pieces with low adhesion to ice could help to solve this problem.