UZWIL, SWITZERLAND — Continuous real-time online analysis of quality parameters of raw material, intermediate and final products during corn processing allows for adjustments of processes and optimization of quality and yield.

Bühler offers two online measurement systems — the NIR multi online analyzer MYRG and the online particle size analyzer MYTA.

The strength of the MYRG lies in the ability to analyze raw material and finished product across variable measuring points in real-time during the production processes. A single spectrometer of the latest NIR generation can evaluate the data from up to six different measuring points.

The MYRG includes Bühler pre-calibrated applications. The sensors are positioned after pre-cleaning to measure moisture and the contents of crude fat and fiber, polar starch and protein from the raw material.

At the other end of the process, the sensors measure the parameters of the finished product — whether it is flaking grits or corn flour — as it arrives in the hopper scale. Bühler can also provide NIR calibrations to measure protein, crude fiber and starch content in the final corn product.

Bühler’s online particle size analyzer MYTA optically measures granulation. A camera with a strobed LED in conjunction with laser diffraction measures the shape and size of both course and fine particles in a size distribution between 10 μm and 5,000 μm — a range that covers most grain processing products.

The compact design of the measuring probe is suited for retrofitting in existing production plants.

At LifeLine Foods’ facility in St. Joseph, Mo., an online NIR sensor has been installed to measure and monitor primarily the fat and moisture content in snack grits. The sensor is located after the degerminator and milling section at the batch hopper scale. Fat content is an important indicator that gauges the performance of the degermination process.

The process is set to the quality specifications set by their customers, according to which only a minimal germ/bran content is tolerated in snack meal. Traditionally, a product sample is taken to the reference lab every two hours to measure moisture and fat contents. If the specification limits are exceeded, operators need to adjust the process accordingly.

Using Bühler`s online NIR system to measure fat content in real time, minimizes human effort and reduces the time it takes from measuring product characteristics to taking action from two hours to minutes. The automatic process adjustments guarantee consistent and efficient production within the set quality specifications and reduce the probability of false decisions based on erroneous representative measurements.

Trenton Jacobs, mill manager at LifeLine Foods is impressed with the findings. After a six-month test period, the results provided by the online system in comparison to laboratory tests convinced him of the system´s benefits. LifeLine Foods is a leader in the corn milling industry, making products used as ingredients for corn flakes, snacks, soups, tortillas and taco shells, brewing and distilling ingredients, corn meal and flour, as well as industrial lubricants and ethanol.

“The online monitoring systems enable our millers to focus on their craft, while also educating them to the impacts directly tied to processing or input changes,” he said.

The LifeLine Foods example demonstrates how online process analysis can reliably supplement or even replace many of the measuring processes performed in laboratories. Switching from traditional methods to online measuring processes eliminates the need for manual sampling and analysis and the associated laboratory costs.

Providing real-time quality data automated online systems allow for continuous adjustments optimizing quality and increasing throughput.

They also allow for greater consistency, save resources and ensure a level of traceability.

Bühler’s online process analyzers for measuring particle size and ingredient determination can be retrofitted in existing production plants. LifeLine Foods uses both sensor systems at their plant.

“Ease of use paired with accurate and immediate results has provided the exact value we were looking for,” Mr. Jacobs said.