Leybold’s dry-vacuum pumps are inspiring change in food packing processes.

Did you know that modern vacuum pumps can increase your food packaging outputs by more than 20 percent per day? In addition to unparalleled vacuum performance, Leybold’s customers in the food packaging and food processing industry care increasingly about generating significant energy savings and decreasing their service and maintenance costs by up to 50 percent through a new generation of dry vacuum pump technology.

Not many suppliers can say they are true partners in process innovation. Leybold has established itself as one of these elite few and is inspiring change in the food packaging industry. The company, headquartered in Export, Pa., and Cologne, Germany, provides vacuum components, and standardized and fully customized vacuum solutions, complemented by vacuum technology accessories and instrumentation.

For research, manufacturing and analytical processes, Leybold products can be found in a wide variety of industries, ranging from automobiles and aerospace to research institutions and the food industry. “There are a multitude of applications in the food industry where vacuum components are required, and our applications specialists have built decades of expertise in this area,” states North American President Carl Brockmeyer.

Leybold is actually the oldest vacuum company in the world. Leybold started operations in 1850 and grew to develop a long history of cutting-edge products, including the first molecular pump in 1909, which was the forbearer of modern turbomolecular pump technology. The company created many of the vacuum principles that are used in the food and beverage industry. “In 1935, we invented the rotary vane pump,” Brockmeyer says, adding that its competitors began using it in the 1960s and 1970s when the packaged foods business saw a boom. “A lot of the technologies that we developed decades ago are still in use today.”

While many food and beverage companies are still using oil sealed vacuum pumps, a tried and true technology invented by Leybold, the company is once again pioneering change to improve food packaging and processing with its DRYVAC series, a dry compressing vacuum pump line.

A New Alternative
Throughout its history, Leybold has not been the largest player in the U.S. food industry, Brockmeyer admits. “We recognize that our existing customers in this industry represent only a portion of those who will benefit from recent product innovations and are focusing on new ways to share our expertise with an expanded set of food processors and packagers,” he states.

Brockmeyer further explains that in speaking to business owners in the food packaging industry, “We regularly hear that they are under a lot of pressure to reduce costs whilst maintaining high food packaging quality. Many believe that the only way to achieve this is by incorporating the standard oil-sealed rotary vane pumps into their broader system. However, what they under appreciate is that this is costing them time and money, due to higher maintenance costs for regular oil and vane changes loss in production efficiency, and system failures.”

Although the low cost of the oil-sealed pump makes it hard to compete against them, Brockmeyer believes there will be a “game-changing” shift with its dry vacuum pump technology.

Oil based vacuum pumps utilize a thin film of oil, which runs the risk of contaminating the food. However, this process was previously deemed acceptable “because there wasn’t an alternative for the longest time,” Brockmeyer explains.

Dry pumps offer many advantages, including the fact that the dry screw design eliminates the presence of oil, thus eliminating the risk of the back-streaming of oil into the food. The absence of oil in the process may also increase the shelf life of the product being sealed.

While food quality and a reduction in potential contaminants may be enough to prove this solution for some, “We realize that the greatest benefit may come in the form of sheer profitability increases,” Brockmeyer states.

Oil degrades over time, and just like in your car, it requires regular changing, typically every three to six months for average packaging processes. Oil changes can result in hours of downtime, and when you are processing multiple products per minute, this downtime translates to significant reductions in output. In addition, users typically keep many spare pumps on hand to remedy this problem, resulting in increased overhead costs and a higher asset base to run their business.

Dry vacuum pumps solve this issue. No oil means no downtime for oil changes and shifts the calendar for periodic maintenance from months to several years. “Many are simply not aware of the dry-pump alternative,” Brockmeyer says. In fact, more than 90 percent of the food industry uses oil-sealed pumps “because it’s cheap and it’s been the standard for so long,” he explains.

Freeze Drying
Dry-vacuum pumps also have applications in freeze drying. “In the process, when the target is to remove all the liquids of the fruit or pet food, for example, to conserve it for longer periods of time, a lot of water vapor is created and carried through the pump,” he says, noting that a mix of oil and water in an oil-sealed pump will lead to an emulsion and therefore a faster decay of the oil and eventually the pump itself. In addition, the emulsion results in a loss of pressure and throughput.

“If you were to have a dry-sealing pump, which can handle high loads of water, you don’t have that problem,” Brockmeyer says, noting that the water vapor gets pumped straight through the pump. If you keep it running, it just pumps itself dry, resulting in a consistent and reliable vacuum throughput.

“People are not aware that they can use a dry pump and reduce their operating expenses,” proclaims Brockmeyer, “because they get more out of their existing equipment – I have yet to meet a business that is not excited by the prospect of higher production volumes.”

A Cleaner – Greener Alternative
“If you are packaging marinated meat for example, the vacuum pump will be contaminated with that marinade,” Brockmeyer says, noting that cleaning can be a difficult process with an oil-sealed pump. Once an oil-sealed pump becomes contaminated and requires cleaning, it usually must be moved to an offsite location for maintenance. “However, with dry-sealing vacuum technology, you don’t have that problem.”

The dry-vacuum pumps can be cleaned easily. “With our Screwline dry screw pump series you can manually clean it with a pressure washer, close it again and you’re good to go. With our DRYVAC dry screw pump series, one can perform a liquid flush of the pump and go back online. Both pumps can also be hosed down if there is food and residue stuck in there from the packaging or processing activities. That’s a feature no one else in the market has.” This game-changing approach is hygienic and oil free and once again reduces downtime issues, improving throughput.

Dry vacuum pumps are also a cleaner solution for the environment. The pumps are truly a green solution, as they incorporate energy saving modules. They can be significantly more energy efficient, compared to oil-sealed pumps. These pumps eliminate oil vapor exhausting out of the building and eliminate the need for the disposal of contaminated oil (from the vacuum equipment). In one example of a facility with roll stock type equipment, Leybold was successful in eliminating the thermal forming pump in the tray sealing package with a single dry pump, reducing the overall energy demand.

Defying Expectations
The advantages of the dry sealing technology has already begun to draw in many food packagers. It changes many underlying assumptions of vacuum packaging and vacuum processing.

The total cost of ownership in dry vs. oil based pumping technology is in itself a reason for the industry to take a hard look at this new alternative. Lower maintenance costs and more uptime could turn a positive ROI in as little as a year for most in this industry. “There’s so many angles to look at,” Brockmeyer says.

A Dry Future
Leybold has had success in converting customers to the dry-sealing technology. “Whenever we get a foot in the door to tell our story, customers choose this solution. They are stunned by the energy and cost savings they achieve,” Brockmeyer says. “People are amazed when they see the technology,” he adds. “It’s really something people didn’t know was possible, because everything else has been accepted as the status quo for the last 40 years.”

Those adopting this technology early are realizing a competitive advantage driven by their new found process efficiencies. Leybold plans to keep pushing forward with this innovation. The company wants to see dry-pumping technology become the standard in the general vacuum industry, and it is preparing to launch an extension of the existing DRYVAC pump family plus a new product line called VARODRY for the general vacuum industry to complement the ex­isting industrial dry pump portfolio later this summer.

Leybold plans to have customers test the product so they can provide feed­back, as well as build buzz and aware­ness around the product. “The future is dry,” Brockmeyer declares. “This will not only create an increased awareness of dry vacuum technology in the market, but require anyone late to the game to get on board in order to stay competitive.”

Top Talent
Brockmeyer is a Leybold veteran who joined the company in 2012. However, many of the company’s employees have a tenure of over 30 years.

“It shows me that they have great passion for the brand and the products, as well as toward our customers and the markets that we play in,” Brockmeyer says. “This enthusiasm is a key factor to Leybold’s innovation. We are nothing without our talent. Every single employee here is a talent and should be treated that way.”

High Priorities
Manufacturing quality and workplace safety are high priorities at Leybold. The company strives to meet ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS (ISO45001) at all of its production sites. Leybold also has a division dedicated to providing technical consultation to customers in order to ensure the best possible solutions are developed by its Systems division. “With this approach, we are able to design, engineer, and assemble custom systems that address the exact and complex requirements of our customers,” Brockmeyer says.

“This truly sets us apart from our competition, as it offers an extremely unique value to our customers,” he continues. “At the same time, it allows us to assess the core market requirements from a vantage point, which generates excellent feedback for our product development teams.”

There is no doubt that Leybold is a valued partner to its customers and the industries they serve. Those adopting this technology early are realizing a competitive advantage driven by their new-found process efficiencies. Leybold plans to keep pushing forward with this innovation. The company continually strives to advance vacuum technology and deliver unrivaled expertise and solutions, which not only improve the performance of their products, but also provide a positive impact to their customer’s bottom line.

Stay tuned for what is to come from this vacuum pioneer. If you have yet to explore what dry technology could mean for your processes, we encourage you to take a look.