GEA: Safety Is Served

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

GEA Offers Maximum Hygiene And Food Safety With Aseptic Blow Fill Bottling Technology

It was ten years ago that GEA launched its innovative rotary Aseptic Blow Fill (ABF) bottling technology to the world. Since then, the concept has evolved to capture the imagination of sensitive beverage and liquid dairy producers globally. Now, the same technology that raised eyebrows a decade ago, has undergone further transformation—while the technology still delivers maximum hygiene and food safety, it also provides total control of the process parameters by eliminating any possible risk to the products. This ensures top performance in terms of filling speed, accuracy and flexibility.

The Benefits Of Aseptic

As consumers worldwide demand more healthy products without added preservatives, it has become increasingly obvious that aseptic production is here to stay. In principle, an aseptic plant is designed to ensure that a commercially sterile product is filled into a sterile bottle while inside a sterile environment. This eliminates undesired microorganisms from the entire process, thus allowing the product to remain shelf-stable, even at ambient temperatures—all without the use of preservatives. Removing the need for a cold chain in this way opens new markets for manufacturers, reduces storage costs, and helps to reduce product wastage both at the wholesale and consumer levels.


The Benefits Of Aseptic Blow Fill (ABF) Bottling Technology

The principle behind ABF is to sterilise the preforms with H2O2, not the formed bottle, then blow them with sterile air in a sterile environment to maintain this sterility throughout the filling and capping process. This minimises the use of chemicals, requires no bottle rinsing, enables a simpler and smaller layout and reduces energy consumption with respect to already existing solutions.

As the preform is made of thicker material, this solution is less sensitive to bottle shrinkage upon sterilisation treatment. This minimises the weight of the bottle, yielding significant savings and accommodating increasingly innovatively-designed shapes. The system uses almost no chemicals and energy consumption is kept to a minimum by the elimination of air conveyors and rinsing turret. The whole system is more compact than traditional technology and requires fewer operators.


New Developments With ABF 2.0

The ABF 2.0 is the second generation of the GEA ABF technology for shelf-stable, sensitive beverages and liquid dairy products, using dry H2O2 for the sterilisation of PET preforms and featuring a truly aseptic blowing module. Its main aim is to ensure food safety in this demanding market.

When it comes to food and product safety across the whole machine lifecycle, ABF 2.0 is most suited to highly sensitive products. For an aseptic process to be safe, a very solid process is required—fully automatically monitored in all aspects and operations, with no space for compromises like semi-automatic processes or manual procedures. The GEA ABF 2.0 has all of the above requirements.

ABF 2.0 is an evolution from the original that includes many mechanical improvements and incremental developments. With this new evolution, potential risk of contamination is eliminated by ensuring that every step of the sterilisation process is carefully controlled and properly managed. The aseptic process is now also performed with a significant reduction in energy consumption. Every process parameter and critical point is carefully monitored and traced to ensure reliable and repeatable sterilisation performance. This helps to guarantee the safety and quality of the final product, in-line with customer and consumer expectations.

In this version, the preform does not need any tilting movement: this saves space and reduces maintenance costs. A new oven with fewer optimised heating modules has achieved a relevant reduction in power usage. The introduction of an air recovery system in the blowing module has reduced energy usage in that area. The overall footprint of the machine has been reduced too, freeing up space in the factory. These innovations combine to provide users with a noticeable reduction in Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

The aseptic blowing wheel is located within the sterile zone where the filling and capping processes are performed. This means that the sterile bottles never leave the sterile area until the filling and capping is complete. The simultaneous decontamination of internal and external surfaces of the preforms ensures that the environmental contamination level is always under control. The environmental cleaning and sterilisation processes are completely automated and performed via a control panel without any manual manipulation from operators who can represent a potential risk of contamination.

The bottle caps are sterilised using the GEA Sterilcap VHP R module. This is a unique solution that provides gentle sterilisation treatment at reduced temperatures to avoid overheating the caps and includes a buffer to optimise the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) of the line.

The ABF 2.0 is capable of handling a diverse range of sensitive beverages, from still, clear drinks with or without particles, to carbonated drinks—high or low acid. Most bottling plants handle a wide variety of bottle sizes as well, so GEA made sure that the format changeover system on the ABF 2.0 is fast and simple. This has enhanced the flexibility of the machine so that it appeals to the widest range of customers, especially those with multiple SKUs. As companies work to answer to market need of product variety, the flexibility of plant operations is vitally important. The ABF 2.0 provides the versatility and control that they need.

With ABF 2.0, GEA can provide an additional level of refinement that gives users ultimate control over the whole aseptic bottling process, enabling them to produce high-quality, safe products for their discerning customers worldwide.


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