Motion Control Engineering & Manufacturing Resources

Revolutionizing Smoker Hinges With Motion Control

Posted by Weber Knapp on Oct 14, 2020 10:18:15 AM

smoker hinges

Have you ever looked at your grill design and thought “I wish this lid wasn’t so heavy, and didn’t slam whenever I let go?” 

Well, you’re in luck, because that’s what motion control and counterbalance hinges are all about. Whether you want to mitigate the weight of a heavy BBQ smoker lid, or have your customers’ grill lids stay open while they flip burgers, there’s a motion control solution. 

Keep reading to learn more about how motion control can take your grill and smoker hinges to the next level.

Motion Control Solutions for Grills and Smoker Hinges

As you know, there are a wide range of grills and smokers out on the market, which means there isn’t a one-size-fits-all motion control solution. 

Here’s a breakdown of a few kinds of grills/smokers and where counterbalance hinges fit in:

BBQ Smokers

Using counterbalance hinges for these kinds of smokers makes a lot of sense. Some smokers can fit a whole pig roast, so having a counterbalance for that heavy lid can improve safety and ease-of-use.

Grills

Gas grills, pellet grills, kettle grills -- the list goes on and on. When thinking about motion control for grills, it’s important to consider the end goal. Will the motion control provide: 

  • Specific range of motion? 
  • A soft close?
  • Weight mitigation?
  • A lid stay feature?
  • Improved safety?
  • Better ergonomics? 

A lot of grills already have spring assist technology, but spring assist can be improved upon by adding some friction. That’s where a Vectis Pivot can help. It introduces controlled, constant friction to the system to make it feel more like a counterbalance. Plus, the Vectis Pivot can withstand temperatures up to 800° F, so it's great for grills!


Pivot render1-1A rendering of the Vectis Pivot

Drum Smoker Lid

If you look at the Weber Knapp drum smoker lid hinge, you can see where spring assist can work well all on its own. The drum lid is light enough that a spring assisted hinge can act like a counterbalance. 

Spring assist technology is more cost effective than counterbalance hinges, so it’s a great solution for less expensive products. In contrast, Hestan grills use a full counterbalance because the weight of the lid is far too heavy for a spring assist to be effective.

Heat Resistance for Grill and Smoker Hinges

Grills and smokers produce a lot of heat; that’s a no-brainer. The more heat there is, the more heat-resistant the hinges need to be. 

Typically, using stainless steel for hinges inside the grill provides better cycle life than using a powder coating. Stainless steel comes in different compositions depending on your needs, so it’s quite versatile. 

Sometimes the counterbalance will be near the bottom of the grill with a cable running up to the lid. Brass is an ideal material for these pivots because it can withstand the heat.

Of course, stainless steel and brass are more expensive than simply coating a mild steel. With some products, you may still want to consider special coatings for cost reasons. 

Instead of using a machined part, you could also use a powder metal part. Powder metal is an additive manufacturing process that cuts down on machining waste and is cheaper, too. 

Designing Grill and Smoker Hinges

Typically, a grill hinge or smoker hinge design starts with a customer’s decision and is based on price. 

High-end and top-of-mid-range grills and smokers usually opt for counterbalancing. A $250 grill just doesn’t deliver ROI with counterbalancing. 

A company looking to add counterbalance technology to their grills or smokers should have the following information ready when talking to a hinge designer:

  • Lid weight
  • Lid center of gravity location from the lid pivot in the closed position
  • Opening angle
  • Desired operating force range
  • Does the lid actuate a switch?
  • Does the lid have a latch?
  • Does the lid have a gasket?
  • What is the grill’s desired life cycle?
  • What is the desired maximum temperature for the grill?

Ideally, all grills would be counterbalanced – depending on the weight of the lid and how it's hinged – but price considerations are the biggest factor.

However, there are motion control solutions for smokers and grills of all price ranges:  

  • Counterbalances for higher-end 
  • Spring assist for mid-range
  • Vectis Pivot for budget products

Improving Grill and Smoker Hinges With Motion Control

So now you know the basics of motion control for grills and smokers. But the possibilities don’t stop there. Motion control and counterbalance technology have applications in many industries, including:

To learn more about the capabilities of motion control, check out our free e-book!

motion control design guide

Topics: Motion Control, Counterbalance Hinge, Grill, High End Grill, Hinges, Smoker, Smoker Grill, Food Industry, kitchen