The summer season is synonymous with nice weather, long days and -- of course -- barbecues. More than ever, people are looking for a peaceful escape outdoors, and willing to spend big money on a high-end grill or smoker.
“High-end” often goes hand in hand with “big.” As the size and weight of these behemoths has shot up, a heavy-duty hinge design has become ultra-important to keeping your lid secure and long-lasting.
Now's the time to refine your grill or BBQ smoker hinge design guidelines to build a safer, more luxurious product for the consumer’s tastes.
6 Grill/BBQ Smoker Hinge Design Guidelines
A heavy-duty grill hinge should address the customer’s needs for both function and feel. Make sure you cover each of these six hinge design considerations:
- Design spacing
- Enclosure shape
- Cycle life
- Load-bearing requirements & motion features
The design of any BBQ grill hinge should absolutely consider the toasty environment in which they’ll be living (or dying). At the least, poor materials and finishing will cause your product to flake and look ugly. At worst, the hinge could fail and injure the end user.
Appliances operating in an outdoor environment have triple the durability considerations of indoor/kitchen equipment. What makes grill door hinges or BBQ smoker hinges different is that in addition to designing around heat concerns, you’ve also got to deal with UV protection and corrosion resistance.
Powder coated hinges are ideal for outdoor environments. Stainless steel is even better, because it’s highly corrosion-resistant. Depending on the max temperature of your application, you may need something even more robust -- chrome or silicon alloys, or maybe even Inconel. This new family of nickel-chromium supermaterials resist oxidation and corrosion up to about 700°.
Whatever you do, don’t use gas springs -- they’ll explode at high temperatures.
2. Design Spacing
Is the grill lid hinge intended to be visible outside of the appliance or hidden internally? If aesthetics are important, you’ll probably choose the latter.
In either case, you'll have to work closely with the manufacturer to determine the minimum space it needs to successfully manufacture counterbalance hinges -- and for you to assemble them within the product. This can be tricky, potentially impacting the load-bearing ability or even the range of motion of the hinge.
Spacing also ties into #1 above. A component placed near the heat source will need a more durable (and expensive) material and/or finish.
3. Shape of Grill/Cooking Unit
It’s important to understand the mechanics and the physics of designing around a product -- especially if there's a contoured radius or contoured edge. If a heavy-duty grill hinge doesn't a) fit correctly, and b) apply torque correctly when lifted, safety and convenience are at risk.
Kamado smokers are rounded and typically more challenging to work with than a standard rectangular grill. When you're working with rounded edges, you'll likely have to perform more calculations when working with weight-bearing hinges. Hinges have to fit around something to do their job, and torque will vary compared to a flat, box-type grill.
4. Desired Cycle Life
One of the hazards of a cheap BBQ smoker door hinge is the lack of durability and safety.
A poorly designed hinge will one day lead to an abruptly closing lid, which can damage the equipment or even injure its user. Communicate your desired cycle life up front to your hinge manufacturer. The frequency of daily use for your application (along with the budget you’re willing to spend on cycle life) will dictate your material options.
5. Load-Bearing Requirements & Motion Features
Ask 10 consumers how they want an ideal grill lid to function and chances are you'll get several different answers. Some want a soft open and/or close. Others want the lid to drop from a certain point, or stay open at a certain angle when they let go. Some want assist hinges; others want a counterbalance system.
Assist hinges make the lid feel lighter during opening and closing, while counterbalance hinges keep the lid at whatever position you let go at. A floating hinge grill makes outdoor cooking easy for anybody, regardless of height or strength.
6. Safety Concerns
Work directly with the manufacturer’s engineering team to identify safety issues (i.e., your grill lid having a shady history of slamming on fingers, or wind being able to easily knock it down). Whether you're making a new product line or trying to resolve liability issues with a current one, it’s on you to invest in the hinge technology your lid needs to succeed.
The more your manufacturer knows about what went wrong, or what you think could go wrong, the more easily it can guide you to a safe solution.
Communicating With Your Hinge Designer
The common theme to digest here: communication. Open back-and-forth with the counterbalance hinge supplier will make sure your end product combines safety, convenience, and “feel” -- just like your customer wants.
If you still have concerns about the hinge design calculations or other safety aspects of your grill lid design, ask an engineer below: