Container Sterilization GEA Aseptic Blow Fill System ABF 1.2

Suitable for both high and low acid operations, the ABF 1.2 combines an aseptic blow molding module with aseptic filler and capper modules, and features a dry hydrogen peroxide-based sterilization technology for preforms and caps.

The ABF 1.2 is the latest evolution of the world’s first rotary aseptic blow molding machine with an integrated aseptic filler and capper. It’s designed to sterilize the preform with hydrogen peroxide when leaving the oven, then blow the preforms with sterile air in an aseptic environment and maintain this sterility throughout the filling and capping process.

The concept

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

The preforms are sterilized as soon as they leave the oven, where they are heated to optimize their thermal profiling, minimize energy consumption and the use of the sterilizing agent. The internal and external surfaces of the preforms are treated with vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VHP) using a robust, controlled and condensation-free process to minimize residue values and achieve a 6 log decontamination performance.

After the sterilization process, the preforms enter the sterile zone – where the aseptic blowing wheel is located – and are blown with sterile air supplied through a filtered circuit that includes a dedicated VHP sterilization system.

The fresh-blown sterile bottles are transferred by the neck from the aseptic blower to the aseptic filling module without leaving the sterile zone. The aseptic filler is enclosed in a pre-sterilized microbiological isolator, in which sterility is maintained during production with an overpressure of class 100 sterile air. As well as the filler module, the capper module in the ABF 1.2 system is specifically designed for aseptic applications and completely enclosed within the microbiological isolator.

Benefits:

  • Full automated sterilization of the blowing, filling and capping modules, which is effective, repeatable and automated, needing no operator intervention
  • Low chemical and no water consumption during production
  • Minimum VHP residuals in the container
  • Limited downtime (3 hours cleaning and sterilization cycles) for product changeovers
  • Microbiological validation according to specific protocols for sensitive beverage industry
  • FDA approved technology

Performance

The versatile ABF 1.2 aseptic production system can process extremely sensitive, high and low acid, still or carbonated beverages, with or without particles. It can deliver a 6 log reduction for both cap and preform decontamination in a single sterilization phase and offers continuous aseptic production runs of 165 hours without stoppages or intermediate cleaning. Production speed from 12,000 single-serve bottles per hour can be achieved with a wide range of formats (up to 2.5 liters).

H2O2 technology for cap and foil sterilization

Detail of the Sterilcap VHP R cap sterilizer

Similar to the preform sterilization system, the ABF 1.2 cap sterilization module – Sterilcap VHP R – also uses VHP at the correct concentration and temperature. The specially adapted design, including a rotary cap buffer that guarantees the necessary redundancy required by the blow-fill technology, ensures that all the cap surfaces are exposed, preventing any ‘shadow’ areas and avoiding the risk of cap deformation.

The cap sterilization module can be used to treat both sport and flat caps. Offering rapid changeovers without any mechanical intervention and without losing sterility, the ABF 1.2 solution offers maximum flexibility when treating aluminum foil closures with Sterilfoil VHP L technology.

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The GEA Aseptic Blow Molder is an integral part of the ABF 1.2 system. It is an aseptic blower that produces sterilized bottles by aseptically blowing preforms that are previously sterilized with hydrogen peroxide vapor (VHP).

Specifically designed with aseptic functionality in mind, the GEA Aseptic Blow Molder is placed in the same sterile zone where the filling and capping processes are performed. It has been designed to be completely sterilizable.

Blow molder aseptic design

The specific and unique design of the aseptic blow molder module features three distinct zones: the electrical components are located above the sterile zone and any apparatus that requires lubrication is below. Everything inside the sterile zone is chemical-resistant. Periodically, the internal surfaces of the blower can be cleaned by foaming and sterilized by vaporized hydrogen peroxide (VHP), which is also used to treat the air pipes and stretching rod housings before starting the production cycle.

The environmental sterilization process is completely automated requiring no manual intervention from the operator, therefore greatly decreasing any risk of system recontamination.

The aseptic blowing process

The preform blowing process is performed with sterile air; this requires both the use of microfiltration to sterilize the air and VHP to sterilize the piping. For this reason, GEA has developed a patented air blowing block that can be sterilized to maintain high levels of reactivity and reliability and decrease the pressure drop and dead volume.

Sterile stretching rod (patented)

All the parts that touch the sterilized preform and/or the bottle must be sterile before starting production and therefore it is mandatory to have a sterile stretching rod. The GEA system (patented) allows the stretching rod to be kept inside a sterile housing, sterilized with VHP. The magnetic joint between an internal magnet connected to the stretching rod inside the aseptic housing and an external one connected with a standard moving system by an electrical motor also enables the magnets to disengage automatically if a preform jams during the stretching phase.

Molds changeover

Molds changeover is done in a specific, isolated area under laminar air flow conditions. The assembly system enables operators to change molds easily. After the changeover, the system performs a rapid cycle of VHP sterilization before aseptic production is restarted.

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GEA AseptiCheck®

Protect the operation of your aseptic beverage plant and safeguard the final quality of your product by safely controlling the risks regarding every process parameter of an aseptic filling system.

Dowiedz się więcej o Serwisie GEA