Fast and easy product changes, compliance with food and pharmaceutical standards, a pleasant working atmosphere and high energy efficiency for sustainable resource conservation. These are the guidelines for the Austrian market leader Kora Füll GmbH in the contract filling of nutritional supplements and cosmetics. The Piab vacuum conveyors are the perfect link between the process steps. Because they meet just these criteria.
When filling 300 different products a year and running one to three days per variety, product changes have to be fast and easy, ensure plant efficiency. If you are active – like the Kora Füll GmbH in Ernsthofen near Linz – in the premium segment of dietary supplements and cosmetics, then the requirements of EU directives for food and pharmaceuticals must be complied with, as well as the regulatory safety requirements for the handling of hazardous substances. With a team of 20, the group of companies, including the packaging arm, generates almost four million euros in sales per year.
When filling superfoods with the help of the piFLOW®p vacuum conveyor, the powdered products or granules are filled into small stickpacks - similar to sugar sticks for coffee in the catering trade. The sticks can be easily torn open for immediate consumption or dissolution in water. The packaging - usually plastic or coated paper - runs from a roll on the side into the stickpack system. The corresponding product is fed from above. In addition to the filling quantity, the size of the stickpack can be set and the tear point defined via the control of the stickpack system. The system automatically seals the floor before filling. When the desired portion size is reached, the top part is welded and separated from the endless packaging tube material. The finished stickpack then runs through a conveyor belt directly into the respective carton - provided it meets the requirements. If this is not the case, the stickpack falls as a scrap into a container under the production equipment.
When deciding on Piab's piFLOW®p for filling powders in the stickpacking plant, the possibility of rapid product change played a decisive role. At this powdered superfoods are filled in serving units from 1 to 80 grams in addition to sports drinks ."The simple and uncomplicated cleaning of the Piab vacuum conveyors was the decisive factor in our decision," explains Merlin Wintersteiger, Managing Director of Kora. "Thanks to the quick-release system with filters and gaskets, the entire conveyor can be disassembled, cleaned and reassembled for the next production in just a few steps, and it was important to us that the conveyor can be cleaned not only in the shortest possible time, but also thoroughly so that no residues of the previous production contaminate the next - especially in the case of allergens an absolute no-go."
Wintersteiger further explains, “the modular design of the piFLOW®p vacuum conveyors enables Kora to remain highly flexible concerning future changes in this fast-moving market. Because Piab's systems can just as easily be retrofitted and expanded or supplemented with additional modules to be prepared for new requirements."
Piab's piFLOW®p conveyors for powders and bulk solids are perfectly matched to the high standards of operational safety and hygiene in the food and pharmaceutical industries. They are made of electropolished stainless steel and materials that comply with US FDA and EU 1935/2004 regulations. As a conveying line, a suction hose made of PU is used. An internal steel spiral helps to minimize the electrostatic charge of the product or diverts it to equipotential bonding. The filter in the upper part of the conveyor is cleaned with a filter shock after each conveying cycle. The device control is located in a separate control cabinet.
In order to be prepared for all cases, Kora has the dust-tested ATEX piFLOW®p version in operation. In this case, all plastic or rubber parts, including filters and seals, are made of antistatic nitrile butadiene rubber (NBR).
One of the important decision-making criteria for Piab is the good cooperation. Wintersteiger explains, "For Kora, that means above all spare parts safety, service assignments when they fit our schedule, and a local contact person. Quick support in case of need helps us to reduce downtimes. Based on the joint experiences, we plan to convert our entire demand for vacuum conveyor technology to Piab in the future."
In particular, Wintersteiger’s employees appreciate the significantly lower noise level on the new vacuum conveyor, which has improved the working environment accordingly. Together with the reduction of dust in the room and the associated cleaner hygiene level, both the occupational safety and the general well-being of the employees were increased.
The reason for the quiet operation is the use of Piab's patented COAX® multi-stage ejectors in the vacuum pump. These combine the suction capacity of a blower in the volume flow with the final vacuum of simpler rotary vane pumps. Depending on the product, conveyor speeds of 2 to 25m/s can be set. In addition, the pumping speed can be varied above the set feed pressure. The capacity of the conveyor is up to 500kg/h with a conveyor length of 10m.
The vacuum is generated by the COAX® technology by the discharge of compressed air from a nozzle system. This allows both a high efficiency of the system and an absolute vacuum level of 250mbar maximum. Blockages in the delivery line are almost impossible. Since no mechanically moving parts are present in the vacuum pump, the system works maintenance-free. The vacuum pump is mounted directly on the conveyor. The collection volume of the conveyor can be adapted to different requirements depending on, for example, the product density.
As independent comparative tests at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU in Dresden have shown, Piab's COAX® ejectors work twice as fast as other ejectors and deliver three times more flow than conventional ejectors with identical air consumption. This allows the pump unit to perform well even with low or fluctuating supply pressure and is particularly energy efficient. It saves on compressed air and electricity costs and blends perfectly into Wintersteiger's vision of achieving a positive energy balance in the long term.