Less effort, greater benefits - Anuga FoodTec
Tuesday 14 February 2012Creating products with economical processes and efficient plant concepts
The latest generation of food production plants enables operators to conserve resources and minimize costs by optimising processes, boosting flexibility and improving products. By integrating appropriate design criteria and cutting-edge automation components, operators can produce top-quality products that benefit manufacturers, consumers and the environment alike.
Hygiene will remain the overarching topic for processing facilities in the future. The systematic use of hygienic design criteria to improve plant hygiene has a positive impact on a wide range of different factors. The focus is on minimizing hygiene-related and health-related risks, which can damage a company's image, cause product losses and lead to damage claims. Processing facilities that are easier to clean also create substantial cost savings in practice, because they can be cleaned more rapidly with the use of less water, energy, cleaning agents and disinfectants. This not only saves money but also improves the company's environmental performance. Now that the key hygienic design criteria for processing plants have been formulated and implemented with increasing success, researchers have begun to examine the issue in more detail. In the years ahead, close examination of the properties of material surfaces and their interaction with dirt and micro-organisms will provide new insights that will be used to create new cleaning strategies. These include strategies for combating harmful biofilms, which have been largely disregarded up until now, as well as systems for the biomonitoring of plant cleanliness and hygienic conditions.
Things are happening on the surface
Stainless steel is an outstanding material with regard to durability and hygiene. To date, it has always been the key material for ensuring that processing facilities are easy to clean. However, alternatives are now being increasingly used for exterior surfaces, largely because of the greatly increased prices of raw materials. These alternatives consist of materials and coatings that offer a range of advantages. Bosch Rexroth, for example, is using special plastics for its successful CL03 valve terminal system. These plastics can withstand a wide variety of cleaning chemicals so that the terminal system achieves protection class IP69K, which means it can be used directly on the machinery without requiring a switching cabinet. Innovative surface coatings are already being used in washdown drives, automation components and robots. Their low percentage of stainless steel and the possibility of using other materials underneath the surface coating makes these systems less expensive and lighter than those made of stainless steel. Thus it is possible to reduce the material costs of servo motors by around 30 per cent if two-part coatings are used. The protective coat meets the IP67 protection class and enables the wet cleaning of the machinery with cleaning agents and chemicals. This new generation of robust, hygienic surfaces is represented by the tried and tested VLT series from Danfoss and by Stäubli's He robot series. It allows exterior surfaces to achieve the same level of durability and cleanability as stainless steel without containing this material. Stainless steel remains the preferred material for processing plant interiors and is difficult to replace. Nevertheless, the rising cost of this material will almost certainly lead to the development of alternatives in the medium term. Nanoscience will surely contribute to the development of suitable coatings for the targeted modification of surface properties and generating new ideas for hygienic plant design.
Modular systems for improving plants and efficiency
Plant manufacturers are continuously improving their products in order to approach maximum efficiency at all levels. Modular designs for flexible expansion, retooling and upgrades, as well as flexible application possibilities, are now almost mandatory features in this regard. One example of this is the optimised version of the Tetra Albrix module for dissolving sugar. Thanks to its high operating efficiency and modular design, this system cuts costs, increases environmental compatibility and simplifies upgrading. A range of innovations makes these savings possible compared to predecessor models. The module is fitted with an advanced control system for the brix setpoint value that enables companies to continuously adjust the dosage and maintain the temperature at an optimal level for the respective amount of sugar, thus reducing energy consumption. Energy consumption is also cut by a new cross-flow filter, which enables the manufacturer to determine the size of the sugar crystals and minimizes the dissolution temperature. Heating costs are 42 per cent lower than those of the predecessor version, and the costs for cooling energy are even 55 per cent lower. Including the demand for cooling energy, electricity consumption amounts to only 4 kWh per 1,000 litres of the product, while the amount of heating energy needed totals 14.5 kWh per 1,000 litres. Other advantages include time savings resulting from process acceleration and reduced raw material costs due to the use of less expensive sugar. Depending on requirements, the dissolver can be modularly expanded to include a pasteuriser and a decoloriser.
Local designs for global benefits
This example combines a number of trends, some of which the manufacturers of processing facilities have been addressing for a long time, but which will not become less important in the future. One of these trends is the increasingly modularised design of the facilities and the individual components, which makes it possible to customise the assembly and expansion of plants and components, as well as of complete modular systems. The resulting cost savings in production and parts stocking benefit manufacturers and customers alike. Another trend involves splitting processing facilities into modules, components and parts, but at the same time holistically examining the effects of changes so that time, raw material and energy savings can contribute to substantial cost reductions. However, one of the most important trends for the production flow involves the sensor systems. Increasing process integration and new developments in online and inline analyses open up new possibilities for measuring and controlling technology as well as for the automation of processes. For example, there are methods for the inline determination of production parameters that go far beyond simple density, guide value and opacity measurements and enable optimal processing through the immediate influencing of process parameters before any defects can occur in the product. This development will continue in the future and might eventually include the use of biosensors.
Presenting the numbers
Manufacturers will also increasingly examine all of the lifecycle costs of machines and plants, from their purchase all the way to their disassembly and disposal. They will do this because it enables investors (including those from outside the food industry) to plan the costs that will accrue during the system's use. On the one hand, this enables operators to evaluate the sustainability of their investments; on the other, they can then achieve planning security that prevents high follow-up costs from arising after the system is put into operation. Thanks to this examination of lifecycle costs, the suppliers of processing facilities can convincingly demonstrate that an investment will pay off for the customer over the long run due to the system's increased energy efficiency and reduced resource use. The efficient use of all types of resources - from energy and raw materials to additives and the processing facilities themselves - will remain a key topic in the future.
From 27th to 30th March 2012 the international food technology sector will once again meet at Anuga FoodTec in Cologne. Anuga FoodTec offers the international food business information and purchasing platform that covers the entire spectrum of technology and investment requirements for production in all segments of the food industry. With almost 1,300 exhibitors from 35 countries, Anuga FoodTec will be setting a new record turnout. What's more, the trade fair is also set to expand in terms of exhibition space. Anuga FoodTec is jointly organized by Koelnmesse GmbH and the German Agricultural Society (DLG).