GEA has launched its new MaxiFormer rotary drum former for the high-volume production of formed chicken, pork and meat replacement products. This new technology offers very high production capacity, better consistency, improved filling accuracy, less product waste and significantly lower operating costs when compared with alternative forming systems. The GEA MaxiFormer is available in 1000 mm and 600 mm width.

One of the key new features of the GEA MaxiFormer is the innovative step-filling system (patent pending) that manages the communication between the Handtmann vacuum filler (a product of a partner company of GEA) and the former to minimize the pressure used and to fill each cavity carefully and progressively. This reduces wastage, improves filling accuracy, creates a higher quality formed product with excellent shape retention, and minimizes down time for cleaning. “Handtmann was happy to partner with GEA on the development of the new filling concept and provide the vacuum filler with customized functions for the GEA MaxiFormer,“ said Joachim Frommann – Head of Sales of Albert Handtmann Maschinenfabrik GmbH & Co. KG . “This partnership has now resulted in a unique forming concept with excellent performance and flexibility in shaping products.”

Excellent filling accuracy

GEA MaxiFormer with Handtmann vacuum filler. (Photo GEA)
GEA MaxiFormer with Handtmann vacuum filler. (Photo GEA)

The unique drum design of the MaxiFormer creates a more rigid structure that ensures consistent filling pressure across the entire width of the drum. This allows more accurate filling and achieves a standard weight deviation that is 50 percent less than its nearest competition. The drum also has a unique knock-out system that uses dry air at high pressure applied only to the relevant cavities, not the whole drum. This significantly reduces air usage and, therefore, energy costs. 

Paul Verbruggen, Product Manager Further Processing at GEA, said that this better weight control means less product giveaway and the knock-out system uses up to 40 percent less air. “This means that we can be confident in achieving the lowest total cost of ownership in drum forming,” he explained.

Its size and the new features that GEA has included in the design bring the GEA MaxiFormer to the next step in drum forming. According to Marcel Janssen, Head of Sales Steering and Support Further Processing at GEA, it also makes it much more efficient than any competitor. “Especially for 1000 mm wide lines, running one GEA MaxiFormer 1000, compared with two 600 wide formers, is cost efficient and space saving and delivers an optimal belt loading,” he explained. “This results in a much higher line throughput with fewer doubles down the line. The direct loading conveyor also eliminates the need for ‘Y’ conveyors and so can achieve a much denser loading without compromising quality.”

More efficient cleaning

The MaxiFormer is complemented by the MaxiClean automated drum cleaner. Unlike ordinary drum cleaners the MaxiClean continually monitors the temperature, flow and pressure of the fluid during cleaning, comparing it with that data from a clean drum. In this way, GEA minimizes the cleaning time for each drum allowing faster product changeover and greater productivity.

Monitoring system detects the perfect mixture

But perhaps the most impressive feature of the new GEA technology is the engineering expertise that comes with it. Luuc van Lankveld, Product Expert Processing from GEA in Bakel, The Netherlands, explained that with any forming machine the quality of the final product is determined largely by the mix. It is essential that the meat is chilled to exactly the right level to achieve the optimum crystalline state, binding in the required level of water with the minimum use of salt and phosphates. Get it wrong and the forming drum can very quickly clog and require immediate cleaning. This creates unnecessary and unacceptable down time for processors. “We have built into the mixer a unique monitoring system that can detect exactly when the mix is perfect for forming,” he explained. “This means that the MaxiFormer can run continuously for many hours without clogging, thereby improving production and saving money for our customers. If our customers ever have difficulties in achieving the optimum mix or product quality, we will be there to help them every step of the way.”

Ben Kop, Manager of Technology Center in Bakel agrees. “Our unique competences form the bridge between meat preparation, vacuum portioning and drum forming,” he explained. “This helps our customers by improving their line efficiency and the knowledge of their employees.”

With the new MaxiFormer, GEA can now supply complete forming lines including defrosting, grinding, mixing, forming, coating, frying, cooking, freezing and packing. 

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