Why Extrusion Process Development is Important
Insta-Pro International has an active R&D center in Urbandale, Iowa, where process development occurs. New equipment or components, ingredients, and complete feed or food products, are all evaluated here. Recently, a development session highlighted some important concepts – I took a picture of it because it was so apparent.
First, a little background on what can be seen in the picture – the line with an arrow at the end highlights the flow of production over time. Similarly, “A” product was made before “B” product, which was made before “C” product, which was made before “D” product. The product was laid on the floor to highlight the differences, and curved around following the line due to space constraints.
Without going into too many details of what was occurring, we were making small, shaped pellets using our new Medium Shear Extrusion technology. We used the same dry ingredients throughout, and only made changes at the extruder (namely, changes in both the rates of moisture and dry ingredients being fed into the machine) over a short period of time. This is what was interesting to me. So, what was going on here?
At “A”: uniform pellets were being produced, and the estimated output was 1,200 pounds/hour (using extrapolation).
At “B”: moisture was increased, product uniformity decreased, and product clumping was observed.
At “C”: dry feed rate increased (feeding into the preconditioner) while maintaining the moisture level in “B”; product pellet uniformity improved (clumping went away).
At “D”: dry feed rate AND moisture were further increased from “C”; the product was visibly lighter in color; estimated output was now 2,800 pounds/hour (using extrapolation).
All of this happened in a matter of minutes, and with only a few changes to the extruder by the operator. It is remarkable, then, how important it is to have a well-defined and well-executed process. The only way to ensure the production of a consistent, quality, and safe food or feed product is to fully understand your processing procedures, have well-trained operators who can execute the procedures, and come up with quality control points that can be used to track product quality and changes to your process. This will make sure that your process (and hence, your final product) is not changing throughout a production day. In addition, producing 1,200 versus 2,800 pounds/hour will make a big difference on whether or not you have enough product to sell, and perhaps, whether or not your company makes a profit.
In conclusion, please speak with us at Insta-Pro International about process development R&D – we can help you make consistent, quality, and safe feed and food products.