GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft, Germany, established an in-house test laboratory at its facility in Hamilton, New Zealand. The new laboratory will enable GEA engineers to carry out extensive tests and design powder packaging systems to optimize production and reduce waste.

For example, new lab equipment measures seven vital characteristics of any given powder, and enables engineers to design systems to suit each individual product.

“Until now, working out how any given powder would behave was something of a ‘black art’ or at least a ‘black science,’ relying very much on experience and gut feel,” says Chris Singleton, engineering manager. “We have used outside labs in the past, but the turnround was very slow and it was very expensive. Having our own lab means we can get accurate quantifiable numbers quickly and relatively cheaply and use them in the design process.”

Having accurate information about the powders also enables GEA’s engineers to advise customers on the design of factors such as the optimum wall angle of the filling hopper and the most suitable discharge diameter from vessels. GEA will also size and shape vessels to ensure customers don’t have any problems with product transport or clogging during discharge.

The new laboratory is also able to carry out the more traditional tests to classify powders for flowability, bulk density and particle size distribution. A vacuum filling test enables engineers to measure the accuracy that can be achieved when filling containers such as packs or cans with the customer’s product.