Visitors to Munich’s drinktec in September 2017 are in for a real treat as GEA unveils its Sterilfoil technology for the first time at the exhibition. This new technique for fitting sterile foil caps on HDPE bottles and PET bottles makes GEA able to offer its customers a complete range of aseptic closure options. This provides its customers with unique flexibility allowing them to choose the bottling and capping system that best suits their needs.

It is essential for today’s dairy processing companies to be flexible. A plant must be capable of producing multiple product lines and offer the facilities for its technologists to develop new products and bring them to market quickly and profitably. By bringing its entire range of bottling and capping technologies together, GEA has provided its customers with infinitely flexible systems designed for today’s market and capable of being adapted to meet future demands. It has underlined its position as an innovator, market leader and trusted partner to dairy processors worldwide.

Single aseptic line with foil closure by GEA Sterilfoil VHP L

Sterilfoil VHP L is an integrated aseptic system for closing HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) bottles, containing high or low-acid beverages, with aluminum foil. GEA has introduced it across its entire range of aseptic rotary bottling systems. When used with GEA’s ABF (Aseptic Blow Fill) technology, it is possible to blow the bottle, fill the product and provide the foil closure in a single aseptic line for PET bottles. With Sterilfoil, GEA has used all its experience and engineering expertise to create a reliable system that can cap up to 48,000 bottles an hour in size ranges from 200 milliliters to 2.5 liters. Screw overcaps can be fitted during a subsequent operation if required.

Decontamination up to 6 Log

Sterilfoil is a simple linear system mounted on the top of the capping area and integrated within the microbiological isolator of the machine. The system uses VHP (Vaporized Hydrogen Peroxide) to provide highly effective microbiological decontamination of the aluminum foil up to 6 Log (on B.atrophaeus) and beyond. Foils are pushed along a sterilization chute and then treated on both sides to provide simultaneous internal and external sterilization by pressurized VHP. 

The sterilization chute is electronically heated on both sides to avoid H2O2 (dry Hydrogen Peroxide) condensation and any foil jams that could affect the production efficiency. GEA uses silicon surface heaters to ensure that the temperature remains uniform along the surfaces.

Why foil?

HDPE bottles are demanded in the dairy industry especially for the packaging of ESL (Extended Shelf Life) milk, milk-based products and drinkable yoghurts. HDPE provides a natural barrier to light and oxygen – comparable with that provided by a cardboard carton – that would otherwise seriously affect the shelf life of these sensitive products. HDPE bottles can also be designed to look attractive on retailers’ shelves.

As HDPE is a naturally pliable material, foils are mandatory for sealing as it is impossible to guarantee an airtight, robust seal using a screw cap alone. Screw caps are often fitted as an additional safeguard, especially to the large format bottles. Foils are also used on PET bottles when the cap design cannot ensure a perfect seal with the neck of the bottle or when the brand owner wants to deliver premium product awareness. 

For all aseptic rotary blow moulding systems

GEA has developed the Sterilfoil technology as part of all aseptic rotary blow moulding systems (ABF = Aseptic Blow Fill). Since its launch in 2011, GEA ABF is a technological milestone for integrated blowing, filling and capping functions within a sterile environment, transformed aseptic bottling technology and slashed the total cost of ownership at a stroke. The principle of ABF is to sterilize the preform, not the formed bottle, with H2O2 at the exit from the oven, then blow the preforms with sterile air in a sterile environment and maintain this sterility throughout the filling and capping process. This process minimizes the use of chemicals, requires no bottle rinsing, enables a simpler and smaller layout and reduces energy consumption.

Continuing the innovation

Since 2011, GEA’s engineers have continued to refine the ground-breaking design of the ABF to keep its leading position in the market. A recent technical upgrade, for example, is the introduction of electrical stretching rods that significantly widen the blowing process window. The introduction of GEA Sterilfoil VHP L as part of the GEA’s ABF offering further extends the flexibility, making maximum use of precious natural resources and helping to keep costs under control for operators.

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