The food-friendly conveyor belt that doubles as a tube

When the French manufacturer BMTS was asked to produce an innovative conveyor belt for the LIFTVRAC®, they turned to Covestro´s durable, ultra-elastic thermoplastic elastomers to create a high-performing food contact surface.
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An award-winning new elevator conveyor system: LIFTVRAC

Lifting or elevator conveyors are used to move products vertically over a limited space. On production lines in the food industry, processors usually resort to strip belt conveyors with rigid siding known as battens when it is necessary to elevate products. The company LIFTVRAC decided to reconceptualize this process by creating a highly flexible system with its own “built-in” siding. The LIFTVRAC conveyor belt starts as a flat, gapless surface. During the ascent of bulk goods, the belt’s edges fold up into a tube. At the end of the conveying process, the continuous belt returns to its initial shape. LIFTVRAC raises delicate products gently and efficiently, with minimal waste.

The unique tubular form of LIFTVRAC eliminates the need for cleats, which are a major source of waste when transporting grated cheese on conventional systems, as it sticks to their ridges. Instead, LIFTVRAC offers a smooth, high-tech polymer surface. The lightweight belt also enables quiet operation and lubrication-free maintenance.

The extremely flexible belt can be easily removed for cleaning to ensure the highest standards in hygiene for food applications. For the design and performance of the LIFTVRAC system, its maker received an innovation award in the hygienic design category at the CFIA 2017, a premier venue in the agrofood sector, where numerous innovations in packaging, equipment and processes are introduced each year.

Meanwhile, the unique lifting belt for the LIFTVRAC has been patented worldwide. The bulk material handling solution is used to convey a wide variety of ingredients including fresh pasta, tomato pulp, liquid chocolate, breakfast cereals and much more. LIFTVRAC founder Marcel Boursier is pleased with the results: “The high-performance design and material of the tube ensure the product is conveyed without compaction, damage or change in form – so it leaves the conveyor in the same condition as it goes in. The other huge benefit is no product loss. All product that enters the tube will come out at the top.” This innovation was possible thanks to the unique properties of Desmopan® 9370A-GMP.

Ultra-elastic Desmopan® 9370A-GMP for food contact applications

To produce the high-performing belt for LIFTVRAC, the belt specialists at BMTS needed a robust polymer solution that would withstand the rigorous demands of food applications. For BMTS, it was essential to choose a thermoplastic elastomer grade that was approved for direct food contact. The robust material also needed to withstand harsh cleaning and a humid production environment. BMTS selected a dedicated grade of Desmopan® thermoplastic elastomers: Desmopan® 9370A-GMP. The designation GMP in the product name stands for “good manufacturing process” and indicates that this grade complies with both European and US food contact regulations.

Desmopan® 9370A-GMP is a thermoplastic block copolymer that consists of alternating structures: flexible, elastic segments are paired with rigid crystalline segments in a highly structured network. The combination of these materials makes the solution both highly elastic and highly robust – the perfect combination for a belt that needs to fold into a tube and back again millions of times over its useful life.

Because of its unique structure, Desmopan® can also be engineered for specific application requirements and conditions that require greater rigidity, elasticity or cold flexibility, always depending on production environment.

Interested in learning more about the performance characteristics of Desmopan® for food-safe applications? Get in touch with our experts to see how we can support your processing system.

From potatoes au gratin to eggplant parmesan, grated cheese is a convenient staple for many dishes. Restauranteurs and caterers usually stock it in bulk. Between farm and table, large-scale handling of this delicious and delicate product poses a number of challenges. Processors must ensure the highest hygiene standards throughout their plants. They also need to select food-safe and product-friendly materials for their equipment. As bulk goods such as grated cheese move along conveyor belts toward the packaging station, it is also essential to ensure that the product arrives intact and without major losses along the way.

But sometimes waste is built into production equipment, especially for small, delicate, sticky or pasty bulk products. When products fall through the cracks, stick or get crushed by equipment, processors are faced with added cleaning and often the time-intensive removal of products from gaps or cleats. Those were the insights that led the company LIFTVRAC to create a new elevator conveyor of the same name. The centerpiece of the conveyor is an innovative belt produced by our customer BMTS.

BMTS has 20 years of experience in the development and production of conveyor and driving belts. The French manufacturer was looking for a qualified partner for this ambitious new project. The result of their collaboration with Covestro was a high-performing new belt solution for LIFTVRAC based on our thermoplastic elastomer solutions.  

The high-performance design and material of the tube ensure that the product is conveyed without compaction, damage or change in form – so it leaves the conveyor in the same condition as it goes in. The other huge benefit is no product loss. All product that enters the tube will come out at the top.

Marcel Boursier

LIFTVRAC founder

Key benefit

  • Approved for food-contact applications 
  • Abrasion resistant 
  • Highly elastic polymer suitable for repeated bending 
  • Resistant to cleaning agents and humidity 

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