A lighter, safer blast freezer door alternative
Blast freezers are growing in popularity and present their own unique set of door challenges. Also known as ‘shock freezers,’ this equipment is used in the food industry to induce rapid freezing for everything from TV dinners to fish to ice cream. The fast freezing creates smaller ice crystals in the food product for optimal quality and greatly reduces the risk of bacteria growth or spoilage from the production process. Once food has been frozen solid in a blast freezer, it can then be moved to a conventional freezer for storage.
Unfortunately, the size of many blast freezers—combined with other issues like wind pressure and frost buildup—often makes their insulated panel doors unwieldy. In some cases, these existing doors (which can be as a large as 7.6 x 7.6 m [25 x 25 ft]) have become so heavy and difficult to open employees resort to dangerous methods to open them, such as using a forklift. Also, since they can be difficult to close, these types of doors are commonly left open for long periods of time, thus wasting energy.
Recently, insulated fabric curtain walls have been designed specifically for blast freezers to provide a light, safe, and affordable thermal barrier for blast freezer openings. These flexible sliding fabric walls have eliminated the need for heavy and dangerous insulated panel doors and offer a safer and simpler alternative for food processors to maximize the efficiency of their blast freezer and achieve the quality goals for their product.
Blast freezer curtain walls are made of insulated, sliding panels nested in a tubular steel frame. Each panel is constructed of industrial vinyl fabric surrounding a layer of anti-microbial polyester batting. The panels slide open and closed on a track-and-trolley system and are available in three design options:
- between jambs;
- face-mounted single slide; and
- face-mounted bi-parting.
Engineered to be light and easily operated by one person, blast freezer curtain walls form a safe and affordable airflow and thermal barrier. Their tight and effective seal contains the chamber’s airflow, making it more efficient, reducing blast cycle times, and lowering energy consumption. Their seal also minimizes the buildup of ice on the floor at the base of the doors, reducing the chance of employee injuries from slips and falls. Additionally, blast freezer curtain walls require minimal maintenance and are easier to install and less expensive than traditional doors used for these extreme applications.
The expectations placed on doors in large warehouse environments are significant. The cost savings associated with picking the right door can mean thousands of dollars. Perhaps even more importantly, in industries like food and pharmaceutical, proper temperature control is essential to product integrity. In addition to doors, new fabric curtain wall technology allows those vast environs of storage and production to be divided into smaller, more manageable sections.
Given the challenges and tradeoffs traditional door designs and operating environments may pose, finding the perfect door or blast freezer door can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there is no need to compromise any longer. Thanks to major improvements in high-speed door, industrial fabric curtain walls, and blast freezer door/wall technology, there are more solutions to lowering energy costs, increasing productivity, and improving safety than ever before.
Kyle Justice is the vice-president of sales for Zoneworks. He has been in the warehousing and manufacturing industries for more than 15 years, and has extensive knowledge of product flow, storage, and manufacturing processes across a broad spectrum of industry. Justice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jon Schumacher is the director of marketing for Rite-Hite Doors. He has been with the company for 20 years and is a member of the Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association (DASMA), Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA), and International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (IARW). Schumacher can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.