Filling Cans In Enhanced Hygienic Design

Friday, April 1st, 2022

Spitz of Austria uses the Modulfill Bloc FS-C filler-seamer block for cans in a hygienic design with a small clean room.

Aseptic filling of beverages into PET containers has been common practice for many years. But what about cans? Market demand is pushing in the direction of enhanced hygienic design, which would eliminate the need for a pasteuriser or preservatives in popular products. This trend holds true for the Austrian food and beverage producer Spitz – and the company has responded by installing a hygienically designed variant of the Krones Modulfill FS-C filler-seamer block with a small clean room.

Spitz is the first company to use Krones’ new filler-seamer block in hygienic design. And they have good reason to do so: demand for sensitive drinks in cans is growing steadily among customers in industry and retail. “We’re completely sold on the hygiene concept behind the Modulfill Bloc,” says Leo Gietzen, Operations Manager for the Beverages Division at Spitz. 

“In the run-up to the project, we had some lively discussions with Krones about our current and future requirements. And we were really excited that we’d be using technologies and concepts on a canning line that had, until now, only been used for filling into PET. Because no matter how much pressure there is to innovate – and there is a lot – the most important thing is still to produce excellent products of impeccable quality, in every batch,” he explains.

Strong On Private-Label Production

This can be said of Spitz in the beverages segment: “There is very little that we aren’t good at,” says Jörg Knebusch, Division Manager Beverages. He is referring to the fact that Spitz makes all product categories, from mineral water to juices, CSDs, and energy drinks to the newest drinks as well as alcoholic beverages. Like their product range, the types of packaging they use are extremely diverse. 

“We have the utmost competence in private-label manufacturing,” emphasises Knebusch. Spitz also produces its own brands, which are marketed through its Alpine Brands company. 

The options for filling are also many and varied: Spitz runs a total of 13 lines for cans, PET containers (including aseptic and conventional filling), glass bottles, beverage cartons, and large canisters – making it one of the most versatile filling companies in Austria.

Photo Courtesy Of Krones

Not One But Two New Filling Lines From Krones

As part of the company’s five-year plan, Spitz has recently made a number of investments, among them two new filling lines: a state-of-the-art aseptic PET line and a canning line – both for the facility in Attnang-Puchheim, both recently brought online, and both from Krones. 

“We have a long-standing partnership with Krones. Over the many years of our relationship, Krones has proven to be a dependable partner for beverage production machinery and equipment – and an important sounding board for us when it comes to determining which technologies we need for our products,” says Gietzen.

Turnkey Line For 87,000 Cans Per Hour

Krones delivered the canning line, which is rated at 87,000 cans per hour (based on the 0.25-liter can), as a turnkey project. “Of course, it’s always easier if you have just one contact for everything, because every interface has the potential to cause problems,” says Gietzen.

The heart of the line is the Modulfill Bloc FS-C, comprising a Modulfill VFS-C can filler and a Modulseam seamer. The block is equipped with a small cleanroom for improved hygiene. Prior to filling, the empty cans are checked by a Cantronic inspector. Krones also delivered the process technology, which included a Contiflow mixer for beverage preparation and the VarioClean CIP system as well as a LinaFlex pasteuriser downstream of the filler. 

For packing and palletising, Spitz uses a Variopac Pro TFS packer and a Pressant PalBloc 1AJ palletiser block which incorporates a Robobox T-GS grouping system. The entire line is monitored and managed by SitePilot Line Diagnostics.

“We installed the new Krones canning line to expand our overall capacity in this segment because we’ve seen very high demand from the market – from the private-label side and from the B2B segment,” explains Jörg Knebusch, Division Manager, Beverages. “We have identified the can as a model for the future,” Knebushc adds.

The new line more than doubles production capacities for cans and gives Spitz more flexibility. The existing canning line could only handle the different formats sequentially. With the second line, the team responsible at Spitz can now better combine orders as needed.

Thanks to the new variant of the Modulfill Bloc, Spitz can ensure a higher standard of hygiene than a conventional block – let alone a stand-alone filler and seamer – can provide.

“Our decision to go with this particular Krones line stems from the fact that we had repeatedly received specific requests for beverages that are unpasteurised but at the same time contain very little CO2. I’m thinking, for example, of interesting water blends that are ‘lower’ in sugar, carbonation, calories, etc. This line’s hygiene concept opens up the possibility for us to cover this beverage segment well and safely fill sensitive beverages,” says Jörg Knebusch.

Photo Courtesy Of Krones

What Makes The New Concept Special From A Hygiene Perspective?

The Modulfill Bloc FS-C is a block solution for filling and seaming cans. In it, Krones combines two individual machines: the Modulfill VFS-C can filler and the Modulseam seamer. In this variant for Spitz, Krones has encapsulated them in a small clean room.

The concept of a small clean room ensures that the sensitive filling and seaming area is self-contained and thus no air or dust particles can be carried in from outside. The cleanroom has been kept as small as possible – so the volume of air to be filtered is around one-tenth of the volume for a filler with a large cleanroom cover. That reduces the burden on the HEPA filters, which ensure that the circulating air is free of particles, and the integrated ventilation, which generates a slight excess pressure so that the filler is charged with clean air only.

The small cleanroom is designed to a dry-floor concept. That means the filler is fully enclosed so that no product or other liquids can drip onto the hall floor. Thus, on the one hand, the filling area is securely separated from the surrounding environment and can be fully cleaned, while, on the other hand, the hall floor doesn’t get soiled. 

The Modulfill VFS-C can filler has a new filling valve that works with a high-precision inductive flow meter. It has no corners or edges and is completely cleanable while the main bearing is grease-free, lubricated instead by an automatic oil-circulating system, which improves cleanliness in the drive area.

The machine is cleaned fully automatically, with both inside and outside cleaned simultaneously with hot caustic, which has proven highly efficient in a small clean room. When foam cleaning is used, it is also automatic but inside and outside must be cleaned sequentially since the foam would otherwise stick to the hot machine. 

Since the inside and outside of the machine can be cleaned simultaneously, daily cleaning times are shorter by around one hour – time gained that can be used for production. At the end of the day, the operator has benefited from higher line uptime and can therefore put more cans on pallets with the same size filler. 

This also reduces the volume and variety of cleaning media needed since CIP and COP can be done with the same cleaning media. Moreover, this design eliminates the need for CIP cups.

Photo Courtesy Of Krones

Small Batches, Frequent Changes

But hygiene wasn’t the only factor that played an important role in the decision to use the Modulfill Bloc FS-C. As a contract filler Spitz, too, is following the general market trend toward smaller batches, which inevitably entails frequent changeovers. 

“The challenge for us is to process the wide variety of our customers’ products and at the same time use this high-speed line as efficiently as possible – so we can fill small batches, with frequent product and format changeovers, securely and economically,” explains Gietzen. 

A number of features on the line ensure that these product and format changeovers happen quickly:  

  • Height adjustment is fully automated
  • Adjustments to the drag chain pitch are fully automated
  • Handling parts that can be replaced and adjusted quickly make for fast changeovers to different can sizes
  • The combination centering bell can be used for several can sizes
  • A unified operating concept and a shared touch screen for the filler and seamer and pre-programmed type settings entered directly at the touch panel make changeovers easier

Spitz is already operating the new line in four shifts – and thus nearly at full capacity. The main products handled on the line are carbonated beverages like energy drinks and CSDs, but still ones are also covered. In all, seven can formats (slim, sleek, and base) and sizes (from 150 to 500 milliliters) are filled and then put into a variety of secondary packaging. 


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