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Pet food extrusion focuses on precision

Apr 02, 2023

As the core processing step for pet food production, extrusion plays an important role, however it doesn't make sense to focus exclusively on extrusion if precision material handling is not achieved in each step along the way from grinding to packaging.

Brand Insights from Bühler

Pet food producers continue to work relentlessly to increase productivity in order to minimize costs and keep their customers happy, while also maintaining the highest quality standards. As the core processing step for pet food production, extrusion plays an important role, however, it doesn't make sense to focus exclusively on extrusion if precision material handling is not achieved in each step along the way from grinding to packaging.

Similar to smartphones and smart cars, the pet food industry is increasingly looking to smart mills as the future of pet food production. Bühler's Smart Mill initiative began four years ago and aims to help manufacturers improve quality at pet food plants across the board, by eliminating human error, improving efficiency, and optimizing safety.

There are four levels of smart mills in North America:

As the pace of technological change continues to accelerate, this might be a good time to consider what level your plant has attained, and perhaps more importantly, how you’ll reach the next level.

The goal of the Smart Mill initiative is to cut raw material and production costs by achieving these four targets:

The granulation control loop features an Intelligent Control System, an Intelligent Adjustment System, and an Intelligent Analyze System. In the granulation control loop, particle size distribution can be precisely monitored and controlled using the hammer mill's automatic speed adjustment and online particle size measurement.

Depending on granulation feedback for the particle size measurement, the target value is set on the Bühler control system for the frequency of the hammer mill. Consistent particle size leads to more homogenous mixing and pre-conditioning. Benefits of precise particle size distribution include:

The extrusion system is efficient and flexible, providing eco and specific mechanical energy (SME) control. It's also operator-friendly, providing bulk density control of the final product, and quality control through pre-conditioner control. This enables the delivery of premium quality, precooked product before extrusion.

The extrusion system saves raw material and energy throughout the entire process and enables manufacturers to produce a wide range of product, including diverse size, shape, density and texture variation.

The pre-conditioner enables precise moisture and thermal energy management, and the multi-stage conditioning system is installed alongside the extruder for easy cleaning. Having a separate conditioner and retentioner provides a number of benefits:

In addition, large particles allow only a short time for mixing and a long time for penetration, while small particles allow a long time for mixing and a short time for penetration.

The Bühler system allows manufacturers to monitor pre conditioner as a critical control point, providing a warning alert before the temperature drops too low, and a critical alert if the temperature falls to the critical range. Operators can monitor the performance of the whole system, including the steam temperature of the pre-conditioner, and a higher temperature for the validation process.

Typical critical parameters include:

Versatile screw configuration translates into product versatility, and the SME module and mid-barrel valve control mechanical energy input into products. The extruder module significantly reduces downtime for formulations that require different levels of SME without changing the screw configuration.

The density control system allows operators to precisely control pellet density by steam injection, venting or vacuuming. The sanitary startup discharge system (SSDS) or End Barrel Valve protects food safety. It is installed just before the die, so if the temperature of the product flow doesn't reach the target safe temperature, it is diverted and recycled to optimize food safety and minimize waste. When the temperature of the product flow reaches the target safe temperature, it is sent to the die for cutting and shaping.

SME and bulk density controls on the extruder provide a wide range of product bulk density options without the need to change the extruder barrel component. This enhances efficiency and flexibility by enabling changes to product density without stopping the line and provides SME and bulk density control at the operator's fingertips. The advanced control system also enables automatic SME and thermal/pressure adjustment.

Precision product moisture control and energy efficiency provide consistent and stable product moisture content and the highest energy efficiency. Benefits of the Bühler dryer include:

Bühler provides innovation for a better world, helping manufacturers increase productivity, minimize costs and maintain the highest safety and quality standards. To learn more about Bühler's single-screw extruder and see how these innovative products can help you operate more efficiently, visit our website.

Brand Insights from Bühler Smart Mills Smart Mill Goal Particle Size Reduction Bühler Extrusion System Focuses on Precision Pre conditioner On-line Pre Conditioner Control Forced Screw Feeder Transitions Material from Conditioner to Extruder Extruder Modules Enable Precise SME and Bulk Density Control Online Bulk Density Control Bühler Dryer Learn More