Answer: Much faster than the old state of the art, concludes product developers at Sealed Air Corp.’s Cryovac division in Duncan, S.C. Working with fitment supplier International Dispensing Corp. (IDC) and Alfa Laval, Cryovac engineers began work on a rotary filling system for low-acid fluids that can fill up to 30 2-gal. bags per minute, compared to 8-12 bags per minute for in-line fillers, according to engineer Jeff Walker, program manager-SpeedFlex. After securing a letter of nonobjection from FDA, Cryovac and IDC introduced the system last fall at trade shows in Las Vegas and Munich, Germany.
To meet throughput requirements, many beverage processors have had to rely on multiple bag-in-box fillers, which become “the bottleneck in their process,” says Walker. The IDC/Cryovac SpeedFlex system can deliver two to three times the throughput of those machines, lowering operating costs and freeing floor space. Filling with a six-head machine means production runs can be completed faster, freeing time for multiple product changeovers.
“The bags are flex resistant in a nonmetalized format and provide superior performance,” says Walker, who maintains metalized bags are prone to pinholing. The IDC fitments accommodate a range of flow speeds and help lower the cost of production, he adds.
Sequencing the filler’s controls was one of the most time-consuming aspects of development, and the basic machine had to be modified with larger piping. “There are a lot of parts,” and making sure they meshed properly was the most challenging aspect of the project, he says.
The rotary design and multiple filling heads contribute to the faster speed. For low-acid filling, FDA requires a 4-second dwell after the tap and spout area are sterilized with hydrogen peroxide, according to Walker. That requirement is satisfied during the staging between sterilization and fill-head presentation.