Sugarplex: sugar processing at a high level

The economic and compact pin mill for the sugar industry

The milling of sugar is a big business. More than 170 million tons per year are produced in 120 countries. The biggest raw sugar production is in Brazil with approximately 37 million tons. The biggest consumption of sugar is in India with an expected 27 million tons in 2020/21. Dust explosions in sugar producing plants were always common, and unfortunately there are still dust explosions every year which can have quite serious consequences. In terms of safety, the grinding of potentially dust-explosive products is associated with special demands with regard to technology, quality and the execution of a grinding plant.

The up to 10 bar (g) pressure-shock-resistant design of the grinding system is the most common one, but needs, however, a significantly higher effort for the quality and durability of components.

It is important that there are no fibrous pieces in the final product, only powder. The fineness can be adjusted by changing the sieve. With the help of the frequency converter, the speed of the grinding mill can be changed and thus quickly adapted to the conditions of the feed product.

Barbara Kästl, Senior Manager New Business Development, Hosokawa Alpine

It is hard to imagine a cake or dessert without the use of vanilla. Whether in the form of pods, powder, extract or as an addition to sugar: the fruits of the tropical orchid genus vanilla are precious and in great demand. From the cultivation areas in Madagascar, Uganda and Papua New Guinea, the pods are exported all over the world for further processing – as well as to Hamburg. There, for 140 years, the company Aust & Hachmann has specialised in the trade and production of high-quality natural vanilla products for 140 years. For a long time, the Hamburg-based company acted exclusively as an intermediary, but now, as part of a cooperation with Hosokawa Alpine, they have been able to decisively expand the product range: by using the Ultraplex 250 UPZ fine impact mill, the family-owned company is now able to produce the finest vanilla powder.

A sophisticated solution for a demanding product

Grinding vanilla brings with it several challenges. After harvesting, the vanilla beans are dried and fermented, producing vanillin, the main flavouring substance. The pods are then bundled and transported onwards for grinding. The product is dosed into the mill via a rotary air lock and enters the inside of the mill via the mill door. There, the vanilla meets the UPZ beaters and is ground into the desired fineness. As natural products, however, the vanilla pieces are not homogeneous and have different properties depending on the batch. For this reason, the mill needs a possibility for flexible adjustment.

The process engineering solution of the Hosokawa Alpine Ultraplex fine impact mill stands for versatile grinding. This versatility is due to the high variability of the grinders and screens: "It is important that there are no fibrous pieces in the final product, only powder. The fineness can be adjusted by changing the sieve. With the help of the frequency converter, the speed of the grinding mill can be changed and thus quickly adapted to the conditions of the feed product," explains Barbara Kästl, Key Account Manager at Hosokawa Alpine. The high air flow of the UPZ grinding discs cools oily products and prevents clogging or smearing of the screens used. In addition, there are various sieve inserts with which the customer can influence the texture of the vanilla.

All customer requirements taken into account

As a food processing company, Aust & Hachmann oHG is certified to the highest hygiene and health standards. The fine impact mills must meet these strict requirements - an aspect that the Food Division at Hosokawa Alpine controls and takes into account in the design of the mills. The Ultraplex systems are easily accessible to guarantee thorough cleaning. The bearings are protected against dust by air flushing. To prevent powder explosions and ensure the best fire protection, the mills are designed to be pressure-shock resistant and certified to ATEX standards. From time to time, the process engineers also have to improvise in terms of installation space: "The rooms of our production facility in Hamburg are relatively low, which was a challenge. Fortunately, the mills could then be designed very compactly without compromising functionality and operating safety," says Christopher Schmidt, authorised signatory and technical manager at Aust & Hachmann oHG.

The technology is convincing in demanding everyday production: The Hamburg company has been working with the Hosokawa Alpine fine impact mills since 2015 and there was recently the commissioning the third Ultraplex 250 UPZ. Here, process optimisations such as a larger rotary valve and fluidisation to prevent product build-up have been carried out on an ongoing basis. In addition, a 28/40 Rotoplex granulator is used for cutting the vanilla beans and for pre-breaking larger lumps after sterilisation. To ensure that the vanilla powder is always of the same high quality and particle size distribution, the Alpine e200 LS air jet sieve is also used for fineness analysis, thus completing the overall system.

Living corporate responsibility

The fine impact mills are designed and used exclusively for vanilla production. Allergens, foreign flavours and cross-contamination can thus be excluded. However, Aust & Hachmann oHG not only takes responsibility for the quality of the high-quality end products such as vanilla cut, vanilla powder, vanilla extract or vanilla beans. "We have been bringing vanilla to customers from all over the world for more than 140 years. Therefore, we know the value chain of this special plant very well and see where there is a need for improvement and help," explain Christopher Schmidt and Berend Hachmann, managing director of Aust & Hachmann oHG. Together with the founding family Hachmann, they have therefore set up a foundation that provides social support to small farmers in Madagascar. Due to the costly cultivation, vanilla has sometimes traded more expensive than silver in recent years, and crime in the cultivation areas is on the rise. In order to improve the farmers' living conditions and ensure sustainability, the foundation works to ensure that all steps from cultivation to the fermented vanilla bean can take place locally. This allows farmers to charge higher prices - and to grow plants that are later used to refine products around the world.

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