GEA launched its new RAY™ PP (Pilot Plant) batch freeze dryers during Anuga FoodTec in Cologne. The RAY™ PP machines are designed for small-scale and R&D drying of general food products such as instant coffee, fruit, vegetables, herbs, meat, seafood and pet food, as well as very sensitive products such as lactic acid bacteria, enzymes and lactoferrin.

The new dryers more closely mimic the characteristics of larger industrial plants allowing more accurate scalability to full production. 

The RAY™ PP batch freeze dryers follow the GEA RAY™ 1 that has given excellent service for many years to universities and laboratories worldwide, and to commercial customers to help in the development of drying profiles for industrial plants. The new machines, however, can handle sublimation capacities of up to 2,5 kg/m²/h, significantly better than their predecessors and equal to the performance of industrial capacity machines. This allows processors to refine drying procedures at a small scale before investing in full industrial plants.

Over time the sublimation capabilities of our industrial freeze driers have developed significantly,” said Morten Pedersen, GEA Area Sales Manager. “The coffee industry in particular has seen sublimation capacity double in the last few years. Our new RAY™ PP dryers are more than capable of supporting this capacity for applications throughout the food, nutrition and health industries.

The new RAY™ PP line consists of two sizes of dryers: the new RAY™ 1 and RAY™ 2. The RAY™ 1 uses two freezing trays providing 0.76 m2 of drying surface; the RAY™ 2 has four trays and can accommodate the larger trays from GEA’s continuous freeze dryers (CONRAD™). Sublimation capacities are 15 kg and 30 kg of water per day respectively with production capacities of 4 kg and 8 kg/day respectively. This enables the production of larger samples for customers or for use with tasting panels. Alternatively, the RAY™ PP can work with small samples of just 100 grams for R&D purposes.

RAY™ PP Design

In designing the RAY™ PP dryers, GEA has included some important features that significantly improve performance. For example, the vapor traps are located at the bottom of the cabinet; this allows a larger surface area, lower pressure loss; and a better distribution of the ice on the condenser. The heating system has also been changed from direct electrical to indirect heating via hot water heat exchangers. This is identical to larger industrial plants and gives better scalability, allows for wet cleaning of the entire cabinet and the heating plates to be cooled with water to give a more accurate/flexible heating profile.

GEA has also included a range of features for control and monitoring such as: loss of weight registration during drying; adjustable vacuum during drying; adjustable set-point for condenser temperature; online monitoring and control of product temperature; integrated batch reporting; automated drying endpoint determination; the ability to manually overwrite drying profiles during operation; and the storage of drying profiles.

Upholding the pedigree of GEA freeze dryers

The RAY™ PP dryers benefit from GEA’s 50 years’ experience in designing freeze drying technology. In common with larger machines in the range it provides highly efficient drying, vacuum evacuation in under eight minutes, minimal pressure losses even with products that contain high levels of non-condensable gasses, a PC-based control system with access to all parameters and trend curves, a short changeover time and water-based de-icing.

They offer the easiest, most efficient way of developing new freeze-dried products in the food, nutrition and health industries. As the principles are the same as the larger dryers, the results from the two units can be directly scaled up to an industrial level.

Complete units for easy installation

GEA delivers both the RAY™ 1 and RAY™ 2 dryers as complete units that have been fully tested prior to delivery. Installation can be completed in a few hours by simply connecting the unit to power, water and drainage. The dryers are fully operational after only a few days of operator training.

As with all GEA equipment, RAY™ PP customers have access to the experience and know-how of GEA process specialists to help with commissioning and training on site and to provide continued support during the development of new products or the optimizing of existing products. Of course, all GEA equipment is backed by its global service support network for ongoing maintenance and spare parts throughout the service life of the equipment.

Morten Woldstedt Pedersen explains the benefits and innovations of the GEA RAY™ Pilot Plant Freeze Dryers at Anuga FoodTec

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