New microwave spectrometer brings in-line excellence to processing
The US-based company said its ε scan system has been “uniquely designed” to analyse and measure a range of properties – including moisture, salt, fat and protein content - in foodstuffs. The breakthrough is that the technology has been moved in-line to provide “real-time, accurate process information and enables users to save time, materials, production capacity and energy”, said Thermo Fisher.
“Many products are at-line whereas our product is in-line and is integrated into the product stream,” company marketing technology manager Rick Cash told FoodProductionDaily.com. “
One of the drawbacks with at-line systems is that results are not available instantaneously and processors may be forced to wait 15-30 minutes, which can lead to downtime, he added. The new device performs measurements every second.
“The ε scan marks a significant step forward in food processing technology – its ability to deliver consistent measurements and generate usable data eliminates the need for multiple laboratory samples, saving both time and valuable resources,” said Cash. “It optimises up time and promotes continuous productivity.”
He added that other in-line systems exist but their use of near infra-red (NIR) technology limits their ability to penetrate the product. A major advantage of Thermo Fisher’s microwave technology is that it can scan the entire diameter of the product.
“Unlike other in-line measurement systems that penetrate only millimetres into the product, the ε scan measures through the cross section of flow allowing users to control their processes with more accuracy and efficiency,” said Cash. “Food processors want to see the in-line data match lab results as closely as possible. Our system does this by seeing through the whole product and providing a complete analysis.”
This enhanced ability can be key especially on busy processing lines where it is not uncommon for residue to build up on the surface of the processing equipment. Having a greater depth of penetration can ensure more comprehensive analysis and better product formulation data, said Cash.
The system has been designed for use in the meat, dough, dairy, confectionery, nut butters and emulsions industries, and can measure bulk properties of a process material down to a fraction of a percent, said the company.
The return on investment varies from customer to customer but, thanks to the equipment’s versatility, can be realised in a number of ways, said Cash.
“For a meat processor, the equipment helps ensure that the lean content of his product is at exactly the right level – which cuts down on product giveaway,” he added. “Its continuous supply of data facilitates consistency of product formulation which can eliminate the need for companies to adjust their cooking processes from batch to batch.”
Thermo Fisher declined to provide exact details on the price range for the system but said it was “competitively priced compared to other analysers”.