All About Blue Acetal

A vast number of food production companies are now swapping over to using blue acetal for the components in their production machines. They’re not trying to brighten their environment although this nice bright blue colour does have the edge in the looks department over its basic white and black relatives; no they’re doing it for potential object contamination reasons.

Blue shows up
The main reason is that in food, there are no ingredients that are naturally blue we’re told. This means that during operator inspection at all their points along the way or conveyor, if anyone spots anything blue, its instantly recognised as a foreign object and investigated. So if a component starts to fail, any potential debris has a much better chance of being spotted. As you can imagine, this would be quite a bit more difficult to spot if the acetal used was white, particularly if you’re trying to stare at a million white-sliced loaves an hour. Apparently using blue in food factories is pretty common as well; if anything absolutely has to go into the production area at all, it’s preferred that it’s blue, for such things as plasters, gloves, pens etc.

Acetal does seem to machine better
Acetal machines really well, it chips rather than that continuous strand of swarf which seems to get wrapped around cutters, and also leaves very few burrs which has to be good. It also seems to leave a very smooth finish once its been machined which doesn’t just look better, there’s fewer of those minute nooks and crannies for bacteria. (it smells a bit fishy though when its being machined)

Lower friction
Because this stuff is very hard in comparison with most other plastics, it just seems to be very slippy, which gives things a bit of a lower friction ratio. And being able to get a very smooth surface finish, you don’t tend to get components sticking or jerking, things just tend to be silky smooth with acetal.

It’s obviously Food safe
This is another one of those plastics that are food contact safe, also luckily for the food guys, it’s resistant to those harsh chemicals these factories need and use to kill bugs and bacteria.

Acetal also doesn’t absorb much water or moisture, which means that unlike nylon, components machined to a really fine tolerance should stay within that tolerance and not expand all over the place.

What’s it available in?
Its available from 20mm diameter upto 100mm diameter and as usual we’ve got loads of it in stock, actually we can also get red and green within 24 hours if you fancy jazzing up (or colour coding) some items. One thing to note is that the manufacturers are charging a little bit more for coloured, its down to volumes we’re told and also; this isnt the medical grade that’s used in prosthetics, that’s a different animal completely and there lies a story for a future article.

Summary
The Engineering plastics world has always been obsessed about performance and never about pretty colours. The few times there are colours, its usually to signify a grade, but in this instance, the manufacturers have gone out of their way to produce one of their standard materials and actually add a pretty colour for a specific reason or industry/application in mind. One thing we have noticed which is good, it all seems to be the same shade of blue, regardless of diameter or batch, which again is not usually something we find. You dont have to use it solely for the food industry by the way, it will work in any application and it will look very swish.