Filling technology at drinktec—The rise and rise of aseptic

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2016-10-31_10h40_11How do you get your carefully produced beverage into its transport packaging, in precisely the right quantity, in a safe and hygienic way, as gently as possible and above all efficiently?
This, in essence, is what it´s all about in the discussion about the right filling technology. All the technological developments and filling innovations of the engineering companies and packaging producers—for glass, PET, cans and cartons—focus on these issues. And at drinktec 2017, the World´s Leading Trade Fair for the Beverage and Liquid Food Industry, all these players will be coming together and presenting their latest ideas and technological achievements. drinktec is the perfect place for fillers wanting to review the status quo in technology.

On around 80,000 square meters of exhibition space—that´s about two-thirds of the total available hall space—drinktec will be presenting product-specific process technology for producing and processing beverages, milk and liquid foods. One important and ever larger area within processing technology is packaging technology. This includes of course filling technology, in which drinktec has for many years been a pioneer. Sustainability, resource consumption and of course hygiene are the important themes here. SIMEI, a wine technology trade fair which in 2017 will for the first time be an integrated part of drinktec, will showcase solutions specifically designed for bottling and packaging wine.

drinktec gathers together a ‘Who’s Who’ of the sector
For Thomas Ricker, Executive Board Director in charge of bottling and packaging equipment at Krones AG, Neutraubling, drinktec is a kind of “status update for the sector. Which supplier is developing what, where is the sector headed? In Munich you can ask these questions and get answers. drinktec is the number one fair for us, it´s where we present our innovations to the international trade audience. Here we have a chance to meet in person the customers that you are not in daily contact with. Because drinktec is a veritable ‘Who´s Who’ of the international beverage and liquid food sector.”

Three major trends
What will be happening in the area of filling beverages and liquid foods in 2017? Three major trends are emerging in filling technology:

  • 100 percent product safety through consequent hygienic design
  • Maximizing the filling performance
  • Strengthening sustainability and reducing consumption of media.

“This is being made possible through continuous improvements along the entire product route, for example, by increasing the degree of automation of filling valves or by using intelligent filling valve components,” explained Thomas Ricker, Director at Krones.

A block configuration, mechanically and electronically combining individual machines into a single unit, has also proved to be an excellent tool in further optimizing filling processes. The inline production of PET containers and immediate filling without intermediate conveyors also facilitates the use of lightweight bottles.

Qualities of glass with the weight advantages of PET
“In filling, PET bottles are becoming increasingly important. With suitable coating processes the optimum qualities of glass can be combined with the weight advantages of the PET bottle,” says Chairman of the Executive Board of KHS AG, Dortmund, Professor Dr.-Ing. Matthias Niemeyer. Innovations like a lightweight 1-liter PET bottle for milk and milk-based beverages underlines this drive. It can be filled aseptically, it protects the product, reduces production costs and is fully recyclable. Niemeyer also sees efficiency and flexibility benefits for the user through direct connection of the blower, labeller and filler. These benefits are especially clear in the case of the high-performance requirements of the global players.

Availability is key with aseptic filling
At least for the filling of sensitive, weakly acid beverages in PET containers, aseptic seems to be emerging as the favored option. Already a wide variety of choices are being offered by the manufacturers and used by the fillers, always carefully targeted to the specific application. Whether cold-aseptic filling with paracetic acid or dry-aseptic filling with hydrogen peroxide, whether sterilization of the finished container or already of the preform, whether an individual machine or blocking of units—the best solution for the application depends on the requirement criteria of the operator.

In aseptic filling in particular developments can be expected which go in the direction of flexibilization of the system concept, in expanding the performance levels and using sterilization technologies that help reduce the overall consumption of a system. Given the rising number of products, the availability of a system is a key theme, especially in aseptic filling. Availability is expressed in the total cost of ownership (TCO), a parameter that fillers are having to pay more close attention to.

In dry-aseptic filling, preform sterilization is state of the art; in wet sterilization it´s about further reducing media consumption. At drinktec 2017 visitors can explore together with the exhibitors, the advantages and disadvantages of the different sterilization technologies.

Practical solutions
But the power of drinktec is to be found not only conversation with the exhibitors. The supporting program and the discussions with experts from the sector are also a valuable attraction. In the drinktec Forum, for example, experts from research and development will be giving their considered assessment of what the future holds for the sector. They will be presenting usable, practical solutions that point the way forward. Hygiene will also be a main focus in the drinktec Forum. Highly interesting of course for the all important filling technology and in particular for aseptic filling.

drinktec as a barometer of trends
“At drinktec in Munich, the future of our industry becomes visible,” says Professor Dr.-Ing. Matthias Niemeyer. “For this fair it not only a meeting place for customers and manufacturers, it is also a barometer of trends.” drinktec is very definitely a key event when it comes to filling technology—the visitors are sure of that. At the last drinkect 97 percent of the visitors gave top marks to the areas on containers, packaging and closures, and to filling and packaging technology.