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Future technology for product diversity: The new crunch

14 October 20198 min reading

“We need to be able to evaluate the options for the product development process step-by-step in a realistic fashion in the laboratory. For this purpose, we offer our clients technical solutions. This is because any possible risks of new procedures must be checked out reli-ably before proceeding to production with them in large quantities. This means that we need recipes and real products, for example, for the sensory test, texture analysis, or color value optimization during development. The TwinLab opens up a wide field in this regard: Raw materials can be extruded in various geometries in sophisticated process conditions.”

Julian Foerster
Application Technician
Brabender GmbH & Co. KG Michael Landers
Application Technician
Brabender GmbH & Co. KG

Gluten-free flatbread, Omega 3 noodles, chocolate rice, lupine puffs, woodruff licorice, vegan hot dogs? Extruder products are some of the most trendsetting and promising options for product in-novations on the market. There is practically no other process that offers so much potential for entirely reshaping a food matrix. Therefore, practical equipment with extrusion devices are now necessary tools for product developers in the baked goods, pasta, and snack industries.

With the TwinLab-F 20/40, Brabender has now introduced its current top model for the R&D labor-atory world. We spoke about the background, possible uses, and innovative device features with the application technicians in Brabender’s extrusion laboratory, Julian Foerster (JF) and Michael Landers (ML).

Extruded foods — Where is the trend headed? ML: With extrusion as a modern key technology, new developments for snack products, breakfast cereals, flatbreads, noodle products or confectionery can be prepared at lab scale. Innovative foods are made possible by varying the parameters of screw speed, temperature, and shear dur-ing their interaction at extrusion.

JF: At the moment, for example, protein texturization of plant-based raw materials for the booming market of meat substitute products is in high demand. Laminar structures are created in the prod-uct during the wet extrusion with subsequent cooling of the denatured proteins. This meat-like texturing provides sufficient bite and the desired mouthfeel.

Which current challenges from the industry need to be solved in the laboratory? ML: We need to be able to evaluate the options for the product development process step-by-step in a realistic fashion in the laboratory. For this purpose, we offer our clients technical solutions. This is because any possible risks of new procedures must be checked out reliably before pro-ceeding to production with them in large quantities. This means that we need recipes and real products, for example, for the sensory test, texture analysis, or color value optimization during development. The TwinLab opens up a wide field in this regard: Raw materials can be extruded in various geometries in sophisticated process conditions.

Market-driven solutions with new raw materials and innovative products — Where does lab scale extrusion come in? JF: Our TwinLab has been designed primarily for research and development. It enables contem-porary and flexible product design from a range of raw materials: Not just “classic” corn, wheat, rice, or soy, but also with other legumes such as peas, lentils, or lupines. Above all, this also in-cludes innovative products made of potatoes, vegetables, or nuts in the snacks segment. Raw material mixtures with fibers, oils, sugar, or micronutrients are also possible.

ML: For this purpose, the TwinLab has six openings for dosing solid or liquid ingredients, four on the top and two on the side of the liner. I would like to name a few typical examples of the practi-cally unlimited applications: Hot extrusion for direct or indirect expansion, such as for snack foods or breakfast cereals, cold extrusion for pasta, and wet extrusion for textured products. Various die geometries enable almost an unlimited variety of imaginative shapes: The default is the round die head, which can be configured to diameters from 1 to 7 mm with die inserts. The TwinLab produc-es expanded flatbread, confectionery, or snacks with the ribbon die head. And the tubing die head even makes macaroni...

What can the new TwinLab extruder do? JF: The range of applications focuses mainly on recipe and product development. In addition, it can also be used to create samples for quality control or for the optimization of production pro-cesses. The new TwinLab is a twin screw extruder at lab scale. We have used it to test a wide range of shapes, colors, and flavors. During development, it was important to us to be able to ad-here to realistic processing conditions. This saves on costs, is consistently quality-oriented, and ongoing production is not impacted for our clients.

Depending on the application, the screws for the TwinLab-F 20/40 can be individually configured with conveying, kneading, and mixing elements.

ML: Along the length of the liner, four heating and cooling zones provide optimizable temperatures in every process area. With screw speeds of up to 1200 rotations per minute, it offers users great flexibility with regard to specific mechanical energy (SME). The twin screws can be individually configured with conveying, kneading, and mixing elements depending on the process sequence. This allows for a wide range of product simulations with different shear forces and allows the TwinLab to be used for a wide range of purposes. With a width of 60 centimeters, it also fits in even the narrowest of laboratories.

Where do you see the application-related advantages for product development? ML: Well, I could go on for hours about that. But I’ll name four main arguments for practice-oriented product development with laboratory extruders such as the TwinLab instead of experi-ments which interfere with production. For one, you can vary your application ideas in a wide vari-ety of ways with regard to raw material, formulation, machine, and product. Secondly, you have the option of establishing methods for measuring your quality parameters from the raw material to the end product in advance. Thirdly, you require significantly less time for your tests, save on material, and have almost no product wastage. Last but not least: You do not need to worry that your ongoing quality management system will be impacted in the first place.

JF: Universities and other research institutions are also increasingly involved in such practice-oriented product development. In collaborative projects with the sciences and businesses, we at Brabender support our clients with extrusion technology know-how.

Smart workflows are the talk of the town at the moment — does this apply in the laboratory as well?

Various die heads are available for creating
extrudates in different shapes

JF: Yes, we can offer our clients huge advantages with the Brabender product family in this re-spect. The TwinLab is controlled via our MetaBridge software. It allows multiple laboratory devices to be networked — for evaluating, exchanging, and linking measurement data. Off the top of my head, I have two examples: The Moisture Tester MT-CA is used to measure the moisture level, first in the raw material and then the extrudate, as an important parameter for expansion and shelf life. The degradation of starch in extruded products made of flour is a key product characteristic that can be analyzed easily and quickly in the ViscoQuick.

ML: And there are two additional technical aspects for laboratory staff: The process unit is sepa-rated horizontally and can be folded up vertically — a feature that only a few models on the market offer. This not only allows for the visual evaluation of individual processing steps, but also allows for convenient screw removal and fast cleaning. Furthermore, in addition to various alarm and safety features for operation, the TwinLab also fulfills the highest hygiene requirements according to EU Regulation 1935/2004 — not entirely unimportant in this day and age.

So is lab scale extrusion worth it as a building block for a corporate future strategy for baked goods and snacks? ML: Product development at lab scale is an essential path to innovative food assortments. We offer our clients suitable technical equipment for lab scale extrusion, the advantages of which are clear: Economical use of resources, speed and flexibility on the path to the pilot product, and quality-assured production. This allows a return on investment to easily be realized with the corre-sponding innovation philosophy in the company.

JF: New and ongoing development of products is indispensable, both grain-based and using al-ternative raw materials. The food industry and consumers wish to have interesting products — preferably with added value in terms of taste and health. We at Brabender believe that extrusion as a technical application will play a key role for new consumer goods. That is why we are glad to invite clients to have a look at the TwinLab on site in our customer and technology center in Duis-burg — and not just look, but also experience it in operation live and with their own materials!

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