November 12, 2020
OPTIMA presents a new machine for evacuating, gassing and seaming containers of infant formula – the OPTIMA EGS
High-tech for the High Care sectorOptima Consumer has developed a solution concept for the fully automated evacuation, gassing and seaming of infant formula containers. OPTIMA EGS is the innovative machine concept that makes processes safer and more efficient. This newly-developed system is the result of extensive market research, and takes into account the growing demand for reliable manufacturing and product quality in the infant formula industry.
Sensitive products like infant formula demand completely safe manufacturing processes. Optima Consumer responded to increased awareness about product safety by conducting extensive product-based market research. These demands by the market were translated into a new machine concept, the OPTIMA EGS, a machine designed for the fully automatic evacuation, gassing and seaming of infant formula products.
Focusing on safety and efficiency in production and resources
"The OPTIMA FS filling machine and the OPTIMA EGS enable us to supply the centerpiece of infant formula production lines from a single source," says Christoph Held, the Managing Director of OPTIMA consumer GmbH. "The OPTIMA EGS is our response to today's market demands", explains Held. When developing it, the company focused on maximum production reliability, resulting in high product quality and the conservation of resources.
The first OPTIMA EGS is operating successfully at Elb-Milch
The first OPTIMA EGS was put into operation in mid-2019 at the Mittelelbe dairy plant, also known as Elb-Milch. "The OPTIMA EGS is a perfectly adapted system that combines high operating speeds and maximum safety and quality levels", says Uwe Bedau, the Managing Director of Elb-Milch. The company is part of the Krüger Group and has been producing dry milk products in Stendal since 1991. “Officially, the residual oxygen levels are lower than 1 percent, and so are in a range that meets all the requirements of modern infant nutrition. In reality, in production the values are usually much lower than this”, says Bedau.
The footprint of the machine has been reduced by over 40 percent
Another noteworthy feature is its compact design, as the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is an important basis for deciding whether to invest in new machines and systems. Bedau adds, "All of the functions – evacuation, gassing and seaming – are contained within a small area". This effectively lowers the operating costs for the clean room. The space requirement has been reduced by more than 40 percent compared to conventional post-gassing systems. The OPTIMA EGS also operates in complete harmony with the high speeds of the OPTIMA FS filling machine. "These points, along with Optima employees' commitment, has led us to purchase the OPTIMA EGS following the pilot phase", Bedau explains. A Chinese customer has also already commissioned Optima to supply a complete high-care room – the heart of infant formula lines.
Track and tracing of all relevant process parameters
As well as the machine's small footprint, users also benefit from the clear traceability of all the containers. With the OPTIMA EGS, it is possible to assign important production data to each container in a clear and traceable way via the processing procedures. This also includes documentation of all process parameters, for instance the negative pressure stages for meeting the residual oxygen values which are required for each individual can at every step in the process. This is possible because each can is evacuated, gassed and seamed individually. Production data can be stored using the line management system developed by Optima, and critical key figures are clearly displayed. It also means that entire production lines can be networked with machines made by different manufacturers, so optimizing overall equipment effectiveness in a targeted way. When they are used in combination with software tools, for example for predictive maintenance to increase machine availability, Optima Smart Services make production processes even more reliable and efficient.
Patented functional cover prevents contamination
In the past, foreign bodies found in the product have resulted in recall measures being taken, so protecting unsealed cans is vital. This need is met by the patented function lid. The cans are not transported open once the product has been added. They are closed with a function lid during evacuation and gassing. This eliminates the need for the laborious additional function of clinching, so reducing the risk of imploding cans.
An innovative evacuation method reduces the residual oxygen content
Challenging products, some of which contain new ingredients, demand increased product protection. The aim is to achieve reduced residual oxygen levels. This need has been met by an evacuation process which has been specially developed for infant formula. The product is "brought to the boil" in the process via different pressure stages without the need for valves and the oxygen contained in the product is released. Depending on the product, a residual oxygen content of 0.5 percent is achieved with an output of up to 250 cans per minute.
The machine is now available worldwide. Optima is a turnkey partner, developing custom solutions that include additional process steps with harmonized interfaces – from the product concept, comprehensive filling and gassing tests, line simulations with digital twins, design reviews in the Digital Innovation Center to commissioning, and safe, successful production, based on the OPTIMA Total Care life cycle management program.
Right now, the Optima Consumer development team is already working on more key systems to provide even greater safety and efficiency in infant formula production. The next goal for Optima Consumer on the development roadmap is a non-destructive 100% leakage check.
Further information is available at: www.optima-packaging.com/infant-formula-en
The OPTIMA FS (on the left) and the OPTIMA EGS (on the right) – the centerpiece of every infant formula production line. (Source: Optima)
The functional lids ensure maximum reliability in the production process. (Source: Optima)