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Infra-red to produce environmentally-friendly confectionery

03 February 2010

Shortwave, infra-red emitters from Heraeus Noblelight are being used by Plantic Technologies of Jena to optimise the deep drawing of bioplastic insert trays used in confectionery packaging

The high power, rapid heating of short wave infra-red prevents embrittlement of the trays and has significantly reduced reject rates.

Bioplastics are produced from renewable raw materials, are not petroleum-based, are bio-degradable and can be composted, so that they are very environmentally-friendly. Plantic Technologies has developed and patented a bioplastic made of vegetable starch from non-genetically engineered maize and can be used to manufacture trays, blisters and sorting inserts in chocolate packaging.

To do this, the foil must be heated and then deep drawn. Using conventional plastic foils, this takes place in several stages, each involving a few seconds heating, until the deformation temperature is achieved. However, with corn starch foil, properties such as strength, flexibility and stability can be detrimentally affected by long heat-up times. This is because water can leach from the foil in the heating process, which can lead to embrittlement.

In collaboration with Heraeus, Plantic investigated several possibilities in an effort to optimise the foil-heating process. Short wave emitters demonstrated that they were particularly suitable for the task, as using high power, they could bring the foil to the deformation temperature of around 140ºC in approximately two seconds. This is so fast that there is virtually no water loss. As a result, a heating module with overlapping emitter ends and several short wave infra-red heating zones was installed. This ensures a homogenous temperature distribution across the foil prior to deep drawing and it has also been shown that the fast response emitters can significantly minimise reject rates at process start-up.

Heraeus specialises in the production and application of high quality energy sources covering the electro-magnetic spectrum from ultraviolet to infra-red. It has over 40 years experience in infra-red technology and offers the expertise, products and systems to provide efficient and effective solutions to drying, heating and curing problems throughout industry. In its in-house Application Centres, it carries out practical tests and trials for customers to identify optimum process solutions.


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