Resource-saving and consumer-safe cleaning of pipelines with flexible, contour-adaptive suspension pigs made from basic foodstuffs

Workgroup: Confectionary machines

Research Partner and Scientific Guidance:

  1. Fraunhofer_Institut für Verfahrenstechnik und Verpackung IVV Freising, Dr. Enrico Fuchs
  2. Technische Universität Dresden, Professur für Lebensmitteltechnik, Dr. Susann Zahn

IGF: 22267 BG
Financing: BMWK
Laufzeit: 2022 – 2024

The highly competitive market of the food industry requires the alternating processing of different product series in the same production lines. Before the product change can be performed, the production line must either be cleaned or purged with the next product. Depending on the product, this results in large quantities of waste as well as mixed products. These products can only be further processed or offered to the customer to a limited extent. The chocolate industry is an extreme case because pipelines filled with chocolate cannot be cleaned with water-based cleaning fluids.

In the industrial application, a pig is a cleaning and inspection device that separates two product phases in pipelines by displacement. This conveying method can move highly viscous liquids up to granulates almost residue-free from pipelines. The pigging of today’s production plants is usually associated with high investment costs and doubts about process reliability. Complications occur due to the pipeline geometry, which is usually not designed for pigs, and the possibility of injecting or removing the pig.

The "FlexPig" project aims to develop contour-adapted pigs consisting of an oil-based suspension of food base materials. A high percentage of solids should enable the pigs to adapt to complex pipe geometries and displace the predecessor product without a mixing phase. The pig suspensions can be described by rheological and tribological correlations and can be adjusted to the characteristics of the product which needs to be displaced. In addition to these functional relationships, it is also possible to achieve optimum characteristics for the discharge of a product by varying and combining the solid phase over the pig length. The result of the project will be industry-proven contour-adaptive suspension pigs that are stable over longer pipe lengths and contribute to resource-saving handling of production goods.

The IGF project presented here by the Research Association of the Industrial Association for Food Technology and Packaging (IVLV e.V.) is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action as part of the program for the promotion of industrial community research (IGF) based on a decision of the German Bundestag.