Electron Beam Technology For Sterilisation In Practice

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

In a world that emphasises on food safety, electron beam technology is fast gaining popularity as a method for sterilisation of carton packaging in beverages with its multiple and various benefits over the conventional hydrogen peroxide method. By Charles Brand, executive VP, product management and commercial operations, Tetra Pak

Japanese dairy giant Meiji runs a number of dairy filling and packaging machines. These include filling machines for their drinking yoghurt and flavoured milk products, as well as those for chilled milk.

In 2013, the Japanese company opened a new plant to increase manufacturing efficiencies and to continue improving their production quality. It partnered with Tetra Pak in 2015 to replace its existing filling lines with the filling technology provider’s latest offering, the E3/CompactFlex XH which was designed to achieve the two aims that Meiji initially had in mind for its new plant.

Going Into The Specs

The filling machine uses electron beams, or what they have coined ‘eBeam’, rather than the conventionally used hydrogen peroxide, to sterilise packaging material. This brings key advantages such as faster production and lower cost, production flexibility, and reduced environmental impact. The technology works by focusing a controlled beam of electrons onto the surface of the packaging material as it runs through the filling machine. This process kills bacteria and micro-organisms, disinfecting the packaging material.

In terms of filling speed, the use of eBeam allows producers to reach a capacity of up to 40,000 portion packs per hour, more than 60 percent faster than other existing solutions for portion packages by the same provider. This higher speed is achieved due to the removal of a major limitation in carton-based package manufacturing, one which is presented by the conventional sterilisation method of hydrogen peroxide. Sterilisation through this method does not allow for the machine’s capability to work effectively or reliably at high capacities without a significant increase in the size and complexity of the filling machine.

Another important advantage of using eBeam technology over hydrogen peroxide is that less chemical sterilant is used, leading to reduced water treatment and energy consumption. Water recycling is therefore made much easier because no hydrogen peroxide needs to be removed from the water used by the filling machine in production.

Also, the technology uses less energy to sterilise the packaging material because no hydrogen peroxide preheating, heating or drying is necessary. Likewise, the use of eBeam reduces the packaging and product waste that happens during the set up for the hydrogen peroxide process.

Efficiency In Production

The new filling machine has enabled the Japanese dairy giant to meet the developing needs of the business as it continues to serve both the school and traditional milk market. It has also helped to meet the consumers’ increasing demand for products with improved quality and production efficiency, commented Teruyuki Izawa, production director, Meiji. The company is delighted with the results that the machine has been able to achieve, he added.

The company has been able to produce over five million packs of milk on the new filling machine over a six-month testing period. They have also been able to report a significant increase in efficiency with a production speed of over 9,000 packs per hour, which is 1,500 packs more than what they achieved with the machine that they had used previously. Also reported was a reduction in packaging waste and an improved seal quality.