Food Engineeringcaught up with David Bell, founder, president and CEO of Phygen Coatings, to hear more about surface enhancement technology. 

FE: Can this coating technology be applied to work surfaces to improve their resistance to bacteria buildup? Cost-wise, is it practical to treat work surfaces?

Bell: Phygen has done research on surfaces never treated before in food manufacturing. Sometimes I’m told by customers, “We have been doing something the same way for 30, 40, or 50 years.” To me that is not right. We need to explore these new frontiers of materials technology. See in the laser scans we have taken what a grinding plate looks like after it was freshly sharpened. Now see what the same surface looks like on a FortiPhy coated plate after six months in operation with no sharpening.

FE: How does this coating respond to high-alkalinity or high-acidity cleaners?

Bell: It is resistant to cleaners, and the difference it offers over conventional and uncoated surfaces is convincing.

FE: Stainless steel is typically the metal of choice in food industry applications. What grades of SS can be treated? Can other metals be treated, and if so, what are they?

Bell: Here’s the issue. We are located in Minnesota and we have a phenomenon where ice freezes over mud, usually in the fall season. I know my kids love walking on it because it is fun hearing it crack beneath their feet. We have the same issue for coatings that are near diamond hard and are so thin they must be applied to a relatively hard material. We have a few different tool steels that we recommend to support FortiPhy, which provides most value from the surface enhancement. Every application needs special consideration, and the best advice I can give would be to take us up on the offer to provide a tailored technical evaluation and offer you tailored product solution for each application. But to answer your question directly, there are suitable stainless materials that work for coating.

FE: Talk to me as a food processor about the ROI on this technology.

Bell: We’re working hard to get the market to value production time, improved processing quality due to better functioning cutting, grinding, mixing or whatever the component does. Ask yourself: What are the benefits of better corrosion protection, better release, less growth of bacteria and sites for product contamination, and sustainability?

FE: What else should I know about this technology?

Bell: It works! It’s a tool that should be used, and one day I’m sure will be the standard in food manufacturing. We recently went to a new test site in the dairy industry and we had the opportunity to meet with the maintenance supervisor. Here’s what he said. “This is a real breakthrough for me. I have not had to do the needed monthly maintenance. I was a big skeptic and at first recommended to my management not to try Phygen, but I’m a believer now.” The next day the customer placed an order for five more FortiPhy coated pump pistons.

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