Tetra Pak has unveiled what it claims is the world’s fastest carton filling machine – over 11 units per second – and says the concept was only realisable due to the launch of new eBeam non-contact and dry sterilisation technology.
Based on low-voltage electron beam (LVEB) technology, Tetra Pak said the eBeam concept development (with Comet Group) – that works by firing electrons at the speed of light onto packaging to kill pathogens – was showing great potential and that it hoped to incorporate it into filling machines within three to four years.
Advantages over the current method of using hydrogen peroxide to kill pathogens on packaging, then removing it, include lower energy consumption, lower carbon emissions and higher line capacities, the firm said, while plant operations could also be simplified by cutting out handling of bulk chemicals and simplifying quality control.
‘Super high speed’ packaging
Applied to Tetra Pak’s A3 filling machine for high speed packaging at Anuga FoodTec 2012, along with other novel technologies, the ‘Hyperspeed Concept’ machine shown to journalists was seen processing 40,000 cartons per hour as opposed to the current industry ceiling of around 24,000.
Laurence Mott, vice president, Technologies and Service Products, Development and Services, told DairyReporter.com that Tetra Pak was demonstrating the concept machine to customers to showcase its innovation capabilities.
Discussing the eBeam concept (pictured) Mott told this publication: “We don’t believe it’s been used in the liquid packaging industry before. Various companies have tried to do this, but the difficulty is not necessarily discovering the concept, but ensuring you have all the correct supply chain in place to manufacture such systems in a controlled fashion.
“The gestation process has been about us making sure that we get this right. It’s the aseptic system of the machine, and there isn’t any room for compromise there. It has to work absolutely perfectly.”
So would blue-chip brands be early adopters if the Hyperspeed Concept was rolled-out in 2015? “That’s a little difficult to predict, and that’s the kind of feedback we want from customers. But any customer today who has invested in speed technology, and sees the benefit of it already, would be interested in this technology,” Mott said.
Huge client benefits
Private label producers could also be interested in such high speed lines, he added, since while the technology didn’t necessarily bring with it consumer benefits, it provided “huge benefits” to Tetra Pak’s customer base.
Meanwhile, the eBeam concept did not sterilise better, or make the material any better, or safer, Mott said. “But it offers some unique advantages in terms of cost and capacity, coupled with a simplification at the customer site,” he added.
Mott said: “If you are a head of operations at a large dairy, you realise the complexities of handling chemicals and storing them, training for staff, etc. If you can get rid of all of those worries, and save money at the same time, we think it’s a winning concept.”
So would the new non-contact sterilisation method supplant hydrogen peroxide as an industry standard method in coming years?
Mott replied that it was difficult to say. “For sure as we move to high speeds in future, I think the technology will become more and more attractive, along a 2015 timeline. But it’s hard to envisage a tipping point.”