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Pushing the boundaries in blockforming

Source:Ringier     Date:2012-02-27
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UNNECESSARY product loss is an issue that reduces producers' ability to maintain environmental performance – and ultimately impacts the bottom line. Reputations are hard to earn and easy to lose, and staying out in front demands constant innovation.

To cheese producers, the name 'Tetra Tebel Blockformer' isn't new; it's become synonymous with high throughput, accuracy and hygiene with low product loss and maintenance requirements – incorporating expertise gathered over three decades of blockforming in more than 600 towers across the world. Whilst the name might be familiar, however, the advanced engineering and technologies to be found in the latest generation of blockforming solutions are not.

Blockforming refers to mellowed cheese curd that is conveyed from the cheddaring machine to the tower of the Blockformer unit. Here, the curd undergoes cycles of vacuum and vacuum release.  As the cheese curd moves downwards through the tower, the vacuum cycles, helped by gravity, compress the cheese curd. By the time it reaches the bottom of the tower, all the whey has been pressed out, the curd is fused into high-grade cheese, which is cut into uniform blocks, typically 20 kg each. The blocks are then automatically packed in bags.

Improvements on the 'best'

For Tetra Pak, making the best even better demands solutions that push the boundaries of quality, environmental performance and operational efficiency. This has resulted in improvements based on advances in technology, observing our machines in operation, and understanding the challenges faced by today's cheese producers.

The Blockformer now features a new door system that's been designed specifically to reduce waste. Its industry-first double action has separate lifting and closing operations, allowing the smooth transition of blocks to the conveyor and a tight seal against the chamber. It's a combination that ensures minimum curd losses and no leaking during CIP.

As the price of power and the pressure for greener production increase, energy costs are also a key component in environmental and operational efficiency. In a conventional blockforming system, vacuum pumps run at maximum speed all the time, with obvious ramifications in terms of power consumption. With this latest generation, however, frequency controllers determine the speed required at any given moment, and the pump slows down in the event of a temporary stop on the line. This is a far more sophisticated and 'smart' solution that delivers considerably lower energy consumption, which reduces the operational costs and environmental impact.

Convenience, cost and safety

Coming as a complete package, the whole unit includes all of the engineering, piping and valves and – importantly – Tetra Pak's long-term technical support, to assure blockforming with guaranteed performance. It comes in a 'plug and play, ready to go' module, with conveyors, vacuum sealing and metal detecting – all centrally managed by a new, user-friendly control system that enables producers to control one or multiple blockformers from a single screen.

Maintenance costs are another enemy of efficiency, but the more robust tower design reduces the likelihood of component failure and extends operational lifetime. In addition, it includes a new elevator cylinder based on a simple pneumatic system, for easy, accurate operation and long-term precision.

The system has been redesigned with the highest food safety standards and effective CIP in mind. The tower is fully welded and free of dirt traps. An open space between the liner and jacket enables easy and thorough cleaning. There are no dimples in the liner plates that can wear and break and end up in the product. In addition, the elevator cylinder is made with a hygienic stainless steel surface.

Operator safety is another major priority, and Tetra Tebel Blockformer incorporates a well-provAir Max 90 LTHR Suede

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