Fresh eyes and new collaborations can sometimes elicit solutions to problems that established players simply can’t see. This was the case for a new type of high precision valve that was developed for space applications at DLR, the German Aerospace Centre, and is now being applied to the beverages market by KTW Technology.
KTW was founded in 2017 with the aim of finding a better way to fill bottles and cans with flavoured liquids in response to the growing market for energy drinks and flavoured beverages. Having identified the opportunity presented by the novel valve design, KTW developed it further and created the specification for a matching output stage that, together with the valves, would form a complete high speed dosing system.
.KTW is now selling both individual valves and developing standalone filling systems.
“The beverages industry has been looking for an alternative way to fill flavoured drinks for over 10 years,” explains Wolfgang Teichmann, managing director of KTW. “Existing filling systems suffer from the problem that after filling with one flavour, the smell lingers in the pipes and equipment afterwards, despite intensive cleaning.
“Our aim was to create a solution where fewer, faster dosing valves could be used to deliver the flavours as a concentrate at the beginning or end of the filling process, making systems more flexible and energy-efficient, and significantly reducing both the time lost to cleaning and the waste of flavours.”
KTW found its enabler in the quick-reacting, precision valve. The valve is unusual in that it has just one moving part – a ball that sits in a ‘valve seat’, keeping the valve closed until it is moved by a magnetic field to open it.
From comets to cans
The valve was originally designed several years ago for manoeuvring satellites using pressurised cold gas and proposed it for the Rosetta comet lander, although eventually an alternative system was used that didn’t need quick- reacting valves.
“This valve design has a number of benefits over traditional designs, including those with springs,” explains Teichmann. “With only one moving part, it has a very long lifecycle. The direct, stochastic switching function means it is extremely quick to react to the incoming signal and very precise in the dose it delivers.”
The valve offers response times of 1 millisecond or less and can provide incredibly accurate doses from 0.5ml upwards.
“In a typical beverage dosing system, you would normally have a carousel with lots of valves – often over 100 – filling the containers with the final liquid, whereas with our solution you only need one or two valves providing microdoses of the concentrate at the beginning or end of the line,” explains Teichmann. “Speed and precision are vital. We can fill 1,000 cans per minute with 2ml flavor with just one or two valves.”
“Longevity is also important in the filling industry. Diaphragm valves used in the beverage industry typically have a lifetime of 700,000 switches, whereas our valves, with just one moving part, have been shown to last for over 100 million doses with low maintenance. When any maintenance is needed, it’s quick, cheap and simple, taking just minutes to do.”
Other elements of KTW’s new filling station also had to be redesigned to match the speed of the valves.
KTW is promoting the valves for additional uses, including compressed air applications. KTW has other opportunities in mind, including applying chemicals in precision agriculture and for the production of spotted microarrays in biotechnology. He would also still like to see them used for space applications, highlighting their ability to cope with very cold liquids and gases.
More about KTW ? Check www.ktwsystems.de