With its new Innofill CAN Compact can filler KHS specifically has the craft brewer target group in its sights, for whose lower output some KHS systems are simply too oversized. “Whereas a big machine can fill up to 132,000 cans per hour, with our compact filler we cater for the segment producing between 10,000 and 48,000 cans per hour,” explains Manfred Härtel, filling product manager for KHS in Bad Kreuznach. Small and medium-sized breweries don’t have to go without cutting-edge technology, however, emphasizes Härtel. “Three years ago we introduced a completely new filling system with our Innofill Can DVD series which enables low oxygen pickup through efficient CO2 purging.
Thanks to our patented purging process it also consumes about 30% less carbon dioxide than conventional systems. Developed for larger capacities, we’ve now scaled this technology to meet the demands of craft brewers.” This adapted model, which is in increasing demand among the producers of high-quality, individual beers in the USA in particular, has produced an extremely compact machine. It’s fully assembled in Bad Kreuznach or in Waukesha for the American market and shipped to the customer as a complete machine in a single container. Unlike its big brother the filler, valve manifold, seamer, control cabinet and paneling of the Innofill CAN Compact form a closed unit. All that’s needed during installation is to connect up a few pipes before the system can be commissioned on a plug-and-produce basis.
Brewers don’t have to forgo top technology, however. One of the prime innovative features of the compact can filler is its extremely hygienic design. In particular, this includes a gapless bell guide with PTFE expansion joints (Teflon) and bells which are lifted and positioned fully electropneumatically to seal the cans – without any mechanical action from cams and rollers. This does away with the need for water lubrication, simplifies cleaning and promises a service life which is up to twice as long as before. KHS also uses PTFE materials in the filling valve, for example to seal the filling valve piston and in the gas membranes. Flavor carryover when changing the product to be filled is thus as good as eliminated. This will please craft brewers especially who often brew a large number of different beers as well as soda pop. Unlike in the past, when they had to start the production week with mild-tasting beverages and work their way up to more intense flavors over the course of the week, the Innofill CAN Compact gives them greater flexibility in the production process without them having to fear flavor carryover. Hygiene is also enhanced by the bells no longer being lowered mechanically onto the cans by a roller and a cam but completely electropneumatically – without any mechanical action in the sensitive hygiene area.
High dimensional accuracy
Another innovative function – as on the big canning machines – is the computer-controlled, volumetric filling system with electromagnetic inductive flow meters for each filling valve. This ensures uniform filling levels in all cans. On the one hand this permits high dimensional accuracy. On the other headspaces of exactly the same size are created in the cans which is essential for uniform undercover gassing with CO2 and foam filling – a major prerequisite when ensuring the lowest possible amount of residual oxygen in the beer. With the standard filling valve can necks from 200 to 206 can be processed without change parts.
The space-saving design is also facilitated by a new central product tank which is installed in the upper part of the filler carousel and has a volume of 200 liters at a 50% bowl level. By way of comparison, on larger machines the product tank holds up to 500 liters. Unlike in the latter plant technology, the tank does not rotate with the filler carousel on the Innofill CAN Compact. The beverage to be canned is supplied to the filling stations by a rotary distributor.
Compact, neat and tidy
Härtel believes that this creates a whole range of benefits. “As we have more space for piping on the actual carousel, the machine is easier to access for maintenance. The layout is extremely tidy – which in turn benefits hygiene. And finally, as the tanks are installed statically, the beer is supplied very calmly and thus gently.” In addition the valve manifold which supplies the filler with product, air, CO2 and CIP solution is fitted into the machine frame, helping to make the smaller Innofill system even more compact. The seamer is also built into the machine frame – both the mechanical equipment and the drive and function control unit which are integrated into the KHS ClearLine HMI.
All told, the Innofill CAN Compact is just one more example of how KHS has also made high-tech innovations tried and tested in their big scale versions available to the growing segment of small and medium-sized breweries. “If craft brewers want us to build a small machine which runs as successfully as our big ones, we don’t take long to develop a new standard,” states Härtel. “The object of the exercise is then to devise an uncomplicated basic machine along the lines of ‘just enough’ in order to keep procurement costs down to a minimum.”
“At KHS small and medium-sized breweries don’t have to go without cutting-edge technology.”