Container Sterilization Aseptic Blow Fill System ABF

ABF system sterilizes, blows and fills PET bottles within a sterile environment meeting the most stringent validation protocols both HA and LA.

Aseptic Blow Fill (ABF) is the world’s first rotary aseptic blow moulding machine with an integrated aseptic filler and capper. The principle is to sterilize the preform with Hydrogen Peroxide at the exit of the oven, then blow the preforms with sterile air in a sterile environment and maintain this sterility throughout the filling and capping process.

The concept

The system reduces the use of chemicals and doesn’t need any water in production. Energy usage is kept to a minimum by the elimination of air conveyors, sterilization and rinsing carrousels, and water UHT sterilization. The whole system is more compact than traditional technology and requires fewer operators.

ABF is an extremely flexible system that can blow and fill up to 48,000 bottles per hour on 500 ml bottles, and can operate for up to 165 hours without any need for intermediate SOP during production.  It operates at different levels of decontamination appropriate for each product: this allows products with different shelf lives – low acid and high acid aseptic beverages - to be filled on the same system.

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Aseptic blow moulding

Preform sterilization treatment with Hydrogen Peroxide
Preform sterilization treatment with Hydrogen Peroxide

Airstar is the first truly aseptic blow molder and is an integral part of the ABF system. It was designed with asepsis as a core concept from the beginning. A key design decision was to blow the preforms ’upside down’, enabling all non-cleanable components to be located outside the sterile zone.

Electrical components are located above the sterile zone. Mechanical components and all components that require lubrication are located below the sterile zone. All surfaces in the sterile zone are accessible and are very easy to clean.

The sterile preforms are blown with sterile air. The sterile bottles are then turned into the upright position and transferred to the Aseptic Filling carrousel.

Lightweight bottle

GEA’s revolutionary ABF technology, that uniquely sterilizes preforms before they are blown into their final shape, has enabled a reduction in the weight of the bottle to be filled. As the preform is made of thicker material than the bottle itself, it’s possible to work with higher temperatures during sterilization without any risk of shrinkage that would affect the shape of the bottle.

This allows the weight of the bottle to be reduced compared with traditional aseptic systems. For example GEA designed a new type of lightweight PET bottle that was 25% lighter than previously used: just 12g compared with 16g for a standard 500 ml bottle for aseptic filling. Further innovation to the bottle shape was possible, thanks to the cooperation with Bericap, by the 33/15 neck, double-thread finish.

Aseptic filling in 12g bottles is the new aseptic way to protect and preserve customers’ products. The relief graphics on the 12g bottle, inspired by the ‘Study of Hands’ sketch by renaissance master Leonardo Da Vinci, illustrate the main message for GEA Procomac customers:  you are in safe hands.

Reducing the weight by 25% also has a fundamental impact for manufacturers: it reduces the bottle cost by 25%, saves natural fossil resources, helps protect the environment, reduces transportation cost by lowering overall load weight, and significantly reduces recycling costs.

Cap sterilization

Sterilcap VHP cap sterilizer
Sterilcap VHP cap sterilizer

The perfect cap sterilization system for the GEA Procomac ABF is the Sterilcap VHP, based on the DRY sterilizing effect of H2O2 in vapor form at the correct concentration and temperature. The design of the chutes inside the machine ensures that all the cap surfaces are exposed to prevent any shadowed area.

Sterilcap VHP combines a reliable and effective treatment that achieves up to 6 Log reduction with gentle handling of the caps without removing the slipping agent and avoiding any deformation.

Sterilcap VHP is very compact and is located on top of the filler to feed the capper by gravity. It is able to treat both sport and flat caps on the same machine. Changeover can be performed quickly, without any mechanical intervention and without losing sterility.

In addition to an excellent sterilization performance, the Sterilcap VHP is designed to create a buffer of caps to guarantee the necessary redundancy required by the blow fill technology: if there is a jam in the flow of caps the aseptic blow filling bloc can be emptied with no loss of preforms or bottles.

Sterilcap VHP can also be offered in a stand-alone configuration as a retrofit on GEA PAA wet aseptic lines for dry solution and sport caps handling.