Under the slogan "The Perfect Slice" GEA, one of the world's largest suppliers of systems for the food processing industry, invited customers and business partners from Germany and abroad to visit its site in Kempten to exchange news and views with fellow professionals over a four-day period in October. Numerous delegates found information about slicing and loading systems in the food industry and about technologically leading solutions for various processing applications.

The participants in the seminar, who came from a number of different countries, were experienced for a well-balanced program of presentations and live demonstrations on processing lines for both the cheese, the sausage and meat sectors. One of these lines, for example, included a GEA DualSlicer 1200 with a new interleaver working in combination with a GEA OptiScan pre-scanner system together with a GEA Check 4000 weigher and a GEA ShingleLoader 600. Other systems, such as the GEA MegaSlicer XXL 1200 and the GEA PowerPak - thermoforming machine for packaging showed the diverse options available for the production process. The audience of industry professionals showed keen interest in the GEA OxyCheck, up to now a unique in-line system for monitoring the quality of remaining oxygen content and the intactness of MAP packaging.

The GEA team, which was drawn from the Sales, Application Technology departments and from Product Management, along with external business partners reported on technology trends, options for process optimization, food safety, the returns expected from investing in the high quality systems and the processes upstream and downstream of the slicing and packing technology. 

GEA DualSlicers in action at van der Sterre slicing a variety of cheeses.

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Innovations for the perfect slice of uncalibrated logs

Developed for integration into fully automated lines, the GEA DualSlicer consecutively slices two calibrated logs such as round sausage, or two uncalibrated logs such as cheese, cooked ham or raw ham. It delivers consistent slice quality and constant slice thicknesses – even with softer products – at an output of up to 1,600 kilograms per hour. Automatic product loading from the rear is fast, reliable and protects the product. The decisive requirement for the technology was to generate the perfect slice. For a sliced food producer, the perfect slice is defined by low give-away and a high percentage of on-weight portions. This translates into high yield. Thanks to a number of innovative features, GEA engineers could minimize idle cuts while improving product output.

Prime concern: high product utilization

GEA components – gripper, rotor head and positioning conveyor – are corresponding to maximize product utilization due to fewer idle cuts. Thanks to independent drives for each of its two grippers and an adjustable rotor head that works in combination with the three-stage-portioning conveyor, GEA DualSlicer keeps give-away low. When used with the GEA OptiScan, where two logs are simultaneously scanned using x-ray, the line achieves exceptionally high yield. Slice quality is further increased by the GEA DualSlicer’s ultra-stable and thin blade in combination with automatic shear-edge adjustment.

X-ray detects the unpredictable nature

Because natural products have inconsistent form and density, the GEA OptiScan 600 is a pre-scanner system that uses x-ray to detect irregular outer contours, holes, under slices and irregular distribution of fat and meat. It then calculates the ideal slice thickness and number of slices per portion prior to slicing.

High performance requirements in terms of speed, operating safety and handling

The GEA DualSlicer is fitted with a new interleaver designed to meet improved speed, operating safety and handling requirements. The interleaver has two completely separate film drives which allow it to adjust to products of different lengths in each track. There is also an option to select a fixed overall paper length per portion for variable slice numbers and excess length for each track. This allows the customer to set a fixed tare weight on the calibrated check weigher at the end of the line for the weight of the interleaver film. Furthermore there is no need to stop the machine to change the paper roll or deal with jams.

The conference program and particularly the live demonstrations for the cheese, meat and sausage product groups offered plenty of opportunity for knowledge exchange and networking with customers and experts. "This event was characterized by perfect interplay between the guests, the slicing and packaging experts, the sales and application technology teams and our external technology partners. It reflected the Group's exceptional closeness to its customers," said Jens Christmann, Head of Sales Steering Food Processing and Packaging, summing up the well-received and successful days at the site in Kempten.

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