GEA is expanding capacity at its in-house test centre in Ahaus, Germany, by adding two more modules to its technology offering. With this addition, GEA is raising the Ahaus Test Center’s profile as a key facility dedicated to piloting aseptic processing as well as the filling of sensitive foods and beverages.
The company says its new 500 litre GEA BATCH FORMULA PRO High Shear Test Mixer is an attractive option for customers who want to implement their own product tests before scaling up to full production. Previously, GEA had installed an Aseptic Filling Pilot Plant in Ahaus to simulate the process steps for customers, from formulation to filling, now also with a bottle filler.
Customers can use the GEA Test Center for Aseptic Processing & Filling to trial product developments and process sequences before integrating them into their own production lines. Each year, more than 100 tests are conducted. The focus is on aseptic technologies that ensure long-term product shelf life and food safety, especially for dairy products. In recent years, Ahaus has also expanded its testing options and capacities to serve other promising markets. Beverage manufacturers are increasingly coming up with highly complex product requirements regarding ready-to-drink teas and plant-based beverages for which there are still no standard solutions.
Ulrich Rolle, head of Product Development Hygienic Processing at GEA in Ahaus, explains how the pilot studies work: “We not only define processes and technology parameters but even specify recipe details. Customers are provided with reproducible results that they can then implement in production.” Right from the outset, GEA experts take an interdisciplinary approach to optimising process efficiency. Working hand in hand with customers considerably speeds up the time to market. “Most importantly, customers can feel confident they are making the right investment since they have personally tested and validated the processes. Our expertise and commitment make a compelling case for GEA as the partner of choice.”
With the new BATCH FORMULA PRO High Shear Test Mixer, GEA believes it is already preparing today’s customers for tomorrow’s mixing processes. It optimises mixing and processing times for products with varying viscosities, such as mayonnaise, dressings, sauces, beverages, dairy as well as home and personal care products. The multifunctional unit employs an efficient vacuum system to introduce powder below the liquid’s surface. This results in a uniform and homogeneous product. To create a stable, even product consistency, oil is introduced directly into the mixing device where it is instantly emulsified. This one-pot design shortens process time, saves energy, and consequently also increases manufacturing profitability. For example, a variety of spreads can be heated up to 140ºC and immediately cooled down again. Thanks to an integrated control system which creates and monitors recipes, customers can keep closer tabs on the initial investment. In addition to the GEA BATCH FORMULA PRO technology, the test centre also includes an INLINE FORMULA SOL Test Mixer that allows customers to simulate an inline process, including big and small powder bag emptying stations.
The GEA Aseptic Filling Pilot Plant is the second new unit at the Ahaus Test Center. It is specially designed for producers of sensitive beverages who want to conduct feasibility studies to develop new products, trial expanding to series production, select technologies and optimise existing small-scale processes. The filling module can handle a wide range of bottle shapes and sizes, ranging from 100 millilitres to three litres, as well as test various container materials. Since the system features a sustainable, dry sterilisation process, no water is used during production. Thanks to the use of hydrogen peroxide vapour, the unit achieves log six reduction in decontamination on bottles and caps.