News about the spray tower 12 project

On this page we report on the construction of the new spray drying plant and inform you about everything worth knowing about our new "spray tower 12" and its possibilities. If you have any questions about our new tower 12 or about contract drying in general, please contact Ms. Simone Oeder, Head of Sales Contract Drying. 

Successful commissioning and start of regular operations  

17.11.2023 | Since our last newsletter, a number of things have happened and it's time for a brief update. Following the completion of our new "Tower 12" spray drying plant in the spring, we have started the commissioning phase of the entire plant at full speed. Exciting months lie behind us, bringing with them a number of challenges, but also many successes. After the hygienisation of the plant after completion of the construction phase, all production areas were extensively tested, evaluated, improved and optimised and then tested again. Initially separately for the various production areas such as the wet mixing room, spray drying or packaging systems. Our own high quality requirements and the feedback from the first completed audits and customer visits were incorporated into this optimisation process. 

Once the test phase was completed, all hygiene sluices and the strict hygiene zone concept were activated and the plant was set to high hygiene status in order to start the first dummy productions. It was a great moment for the team when, after so many months of construction, technical installation and testing, when all the components in the plant worked together for the first time for a complete spray drying production, resulting in the first finished product. In the meantime, the first productions of real customer products have already taken place and we are now transitioning into normal operation. And the project team can hand over the baton to the production team. 

Time-lapse video of the construction from "Tower 12"  

Unlike the 90 seconds shown in this time-lapse video, it took a little over 2 years to build our new Tower 12 spray drying plant. Among other things, almost 8,000 cubic metres of concrete, 1,250 tonnes of reinforcing steel and 5.5 km of piping for building services were installed. The spray tower and the entire plant are designed for high-care production of spray-dried components for infant food, such as vitamins and minerals. With the start of the first regular productions, we can now successfully complete this extraordinary project.     

Official inauguration ceremony for Tower 12  

05.12.2022 |  As part of the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of Uelzena eG end of September, there was an official ceremony for the inauguration of the new spray drying plant. In addition to the board of directors, supervisory board, management and employees involved in the project, the planning companies and executing contractors as well as representatives from politics, authorities and associations were invited as guests. Lower Saxony's Minister of Agriculture Barbara Otte-Kinast held the keynote speech at the small ceremony.

Accumulated knowledge from practice  

05.12.2022 | The construction of a separate new plant with state-of-the-art equipment is only one side of the expansion of our capacities for contract spray drying of products for the infant high-care sector. At least as important for its operation are experienced and skilled employees who will operate the new facilities once they are up and running. A systematic transfer of knowledge was therefore a central component of the project planning from the very beginning.

For this purpose, a five-person team from the drying division was formed as early as the end of April 2021 and taken out of the daily production process to concentrate exclusively on the "Tower 12" project. Together they bring decades of experience from the mixing room, spray drying and powder filling areas to the project. In this way, the planning on the drawing board was optimally supplemented by the perspective of field-tested production experience.

During the construction project, the tasks of this team included the processing of defined work packages in coordination with the overall project manager, as well as checking the hygiene, building and plant concept for plausibility from the production point of view. The team also provides intensive support during the plant commissioning phase. And not to forget, the familiarisation and training of the employees who will work in the new plant in the future.

New capacities for fresh water, ice water and waste water  

26.07.2022 | Alongside the construction of the new spray drying plant, there were a number of complementary projects to create the best possible conditions for the plant expansion. These include, for example, the expansion of the fresh water supply and the increase in capacities for compressed air and ice water, as well as the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant. 

High level and integrated concepts for product and work safety  

26.07.2022 | The aim of producing particularly safe infant-quality products is of central importance in the design of our new Tower 12 spray drying plant. In addition to a sophisticated hygiene concept, this also includes ensuring safe production, both in terms of the product and for our employees.

The topics of occupational safety, ergonomics and employee protection were therefore integrated into the planning for the new plant from the very beginning in order to create not only optimum production conditions but also working conditions.

A not insignificant aspect of the planning was the most ergonomic possible design for the production environment, which includes, for example, the optimal design of traffic and walkways, safe and convenient access to machines and equipment, good lighting, or the correct placement of switches, controls, and work platforms. Avoiding the lifting of heavy loads, e.g. by using scissor lifts and other lifting aids, is also important for health protection. Likewise, spacious changerooms, sanitary rooms and recreation rooms in the new plant contribute to preventive health care for our employees.

In addition to a good fire and explosion protection concept, work safety in a spray drying plant also includes, in particular, extensive containment measures to prevent contact with dust and potentially hazardous substances.

The feed section for active ingredients is therefore completely encapsulated and also operates with a powerful extraction system, so potential dust remains completely within the encapsulated space. The containers with the ingredients are opened in so-called glove boxes, which are operated from the outside using long gloves. The feed stations for carriers also have an extraction system and partial enclosure to minimize dust exposure.

The avoidance of dust is also an important component of the sophisticated modern hygiene concept of the new spray drying plant. The same applies to the extensive avoidance of water in the drying and packaging areas.

The plant is divided into different hygiene zones, from exterior to high care, which are strictly separated from each other structurally. They can be accessed through separate entrances with hygiene locks. Each zone has its own clothing and shoes for the employees, which remain within the zones. Pressure differences between the rooms prevent cross-contamination. Ventilation and filter systems separated according to hygiene zones supply the plant with conditioned air. 

As for the employees, there is also a strict hygiene concept for materials such as raw materials and pallets. For example, pallets must be exchanged as soon as they move to another zone. The use of conveyors and crane rails also prevents contact with the floor when transporting materials.  

For safe production, avoiding water in the production zone is the top priority. Sophisticated cleaning concepts keep all critical areas as dry as possible. Of course, wet cleaning cannot always be completely avoided, but if it is, it is carried out as safely as possible: Cleaning and drying of demountable plant components such as the sieves of the spray tower or the small packaging unit takes place in separate washrooms outside the white and high-care zones. The spray lances of the tower can be put through special sluices in the wall and cleaned in the adjacent room. Special wet cleaning lances are available for cleaning the spray tower itself and water leakage into the white area is prevented during tower cleaning.

During regular operation of the new plant, the hygiene concept will be permanently verified by continuous environmental monitoring. For parts of the plants, we are planning certification according to the strict "EHEDG" standard for hygienic plant design.

Data management and process automation for a secure production  

16.03.2022 |  In addition to the technological equipment of the spray tower, the wet mixing area and the packing section, the topic of data acquisition, data management, process automation and in particular the programming of interfaces is one of the major challenges in the construction of our new spray drying plant "New Tower 12".

From the initiation of the production order to mixing, spray-drying, packing and storing in our high-bay warehouse up to the registration of the finished products in the merchandise management system - virtually all production steps in the new plant are highly automated and cross-linked with each other. The basis for this is the collection and evaluation of extensive data and an optimal interlinking of our existing ERP system (SAP) with the control software via the automation and control system for the new plants.

The data exchange takes place in both directions. Master data such as parts lists, inspection plans, work schedules, recipes and data for automated label printing are transferred from the ERP system to the control system of the spray drying plant via an individually programmed interface. Conversely, during production, the control system delivers a variety of data back to the ERP system, e.g. consumption of all raw and packaging materials or extensive batch information, process parameters and start/stop times of production lines for the automated creation of detailed batch reports. This results in a total transparency across all production steps.

An important component of the data management is a sophisticated scanner system. This is used not only to register all raw materials and ingredients during the production process and report them to the system, but also to check and approve the individual production steps. For this, the scanned material and the specifications from the system must match before, for example, the next step in the mixing or spray-drying process can be initiated or packaging can be started. This minimises possible sources of error.

For the automated control of all systems, the project team must determine a large number of process steps and parameters for each individual spray product in advance and enter them into the recipe system. This recipe then controls the entire production in a largely automated way: from mixing to drying to filling, the control system guides the plant operators through the entire process. The combination of our experienced staff with their many years of know-how and the new data-supported production technology with the comprehensive cross-linking of all systems ensures the highest degree of control and safety in our spray-drying productions.

Recipe-controlled processes and flexibly usable technology for concentrate production  

To produce an optimal spray product, the upstream process of concentrate production is of crucial importance because the mixing process directly influences the quality of the later spray product. The special challenge here are the very different starting products with their specific requirements regarding their processing. Extensive facilities with different technologies and flexible combination options for plants and processes were therefore two central requirements in the project planning for the wet mixing area of our new "Tower 12" spray drying plant.

It will be equipped with two separate, combinable mixing lines and high-performance high-shear mixers with dispersing unit for mixing in powders and other raw materials. In these two mixing lines, aqueous phases and fat phases can first be produced separately and then combined and emulsified. We can specifically control the degree of emulsion by regulating the speed and pressure in the homogenizer, among other things. The emulsion quality has a direct influence on the physical parameters such as solubility, color and active ingredient content of the finished spray dried powder.  

The entire mixing process is mostly automated. The required raw materials are taken directly from various feeding stations, e.g. for big bags, sacks, containers or drums, according to the recipe. All further process steps are also specified by the control system and recorded and documented in detail during each production run. This automated process and the scanning of all raw materials before they are added allows comprehensive and simple traceability via batch reporting and ensures reproducible production processes and high product quality and safety for our spray drying productions.    

Active ingredients can be added via special containment systems in a separate active ingredient room with an airlock and a very high hygienic standard. This minimizes potential dust exposure.   
The ready-mixed spray batches are temporarily stacked in a separate concentrate store in tanks with anchor agitators that are gentle on the product and are then transferred to the spraying tower by high-pressure pumps. For optimum product protection, the output of the pumps can be individually adapted to the individual product. If required, flowing agent is added directly at the tower via a gravimetric dosing system.

The spray tower is flying in  

The hoisting of the tower and other plant equipment such as the cyclone, filter system and external fluidised bed was certainly the most spectacular action during the entire construction work. On schedule and in the best weather, they were inserted at the beginning of September via the still uncovered roof into the more than 30 m high tower building of our new spray drying plant. Particularly when fitting the 15 m high tower section into the provided opening in the intermediate ceiling, the crane driver's sure instinct was needed. 

Modern spray technology with a high degree of automation  

07.09.2021 |  A 15 m high spray tower with a flexible, modern nozzle spray system represents the "heart" of our new spray drying plant "Tower 12". It is configured for a capacity of 650 - 750 kg per hour, depending on the type of product being sprayed. The tower and the entire plant are designed for infant-high-care productions.  

A specific challenge is the wide range of different products with their very diverse requirements that will be sprayed on the new tower. First of all, a specific, individually adjusted processing process is defined for each product.  

For an optimal control of the spray-drying process, a continuous measurement of different process parameters is carried out. Thanks to the comprehensive documentation of all process settings, detailed batch reports can be automatically generated for each production batch. This ensures a seamless control and allows a wide analysis of each production.           

By individually adjusting of e.g. the nozzle configuration or the fine powder recirculation, we can control important parameters in the spraying process such as particle size distribution, flowability and bulk density in a very targeted manner. If required, a gravimetric dosing system automatically adds the flowing agent directly into the tower. Finally, the powder properties can be further modified in the fluid beds. This results in an optimal spray product according to the specific requirements of our customers.  

The cyclone air speed for exhaust air cleaning can be individually adapted to the respective spray dried product. Even at low air speeds, the cyclones have a high degree of separation and are therefore particularly product-protecting.   

The powder is first filled into big bags directly under the spray tower, from which it is later packed into bag-in-box systems of 5 kg to 25 kg capacity on the largely automated, separate packing lines. The decoupling of the packaging process from the spraying tower ensures more flexibility in the packaging options as well as an optimal use of the tower capacity. 

A spray tower on the move  

02.09.2021 | After a journey of several days by cargo ship across the canals from the Netherlands to Uelzen, "Tower 12" arrived at our factory. With its 15 m length and 6 m diameter, the centrepiece of the new spray drying plant was too big to be loaded onto a normal truck. Delivery by water was the obvious choice to avoid complicated heavy goods transport by road for the long distance to be covered. For the last few metres from the WSA harbour in Uelzen to the factory site, the spray tower was loaded onto a specialised transporter using a mobile crane.

Topping-out ceremony for new spray tower - Structural work almost completed  

02.09.2021 | During the last months, the new spray drying plant has grown considerably and is now visible from afar. On 2nd September, the traditional topping-out ceremony was held with a small celebration. The focus of the construction work was on the structural work for the entire building. In the meantime, we have progressed to the top floor ceiling and the shell construction is almost completed. Meanwhile, the first interior walls have been built, so that it is now becoming clearer and clearer where each planned room will be located in the shell of the building.

All the basic pipes, empty conduits for electric cables as well as floor inlets, direct drains and gullies have been set, checked and accepted. In addition, there were earthworks for the foundations of the pipe and connecting bridge as well as for the ramp to connect to the high-bay warehouse.    

The weather also co-operated for the most part; in total, we only had to register about one week of "bad weather".  In addition to heavy rain events, this also affected excessive wind, which prevented the cranes from transporting the material to the required location in the structure. The construction of the tower building is fully on schedule, so that we were able to start the "Hoist In", i.e. the installation of the main components of the tower, on time at the beginning of September. These are the main tower body, the external fluid bed, the cyclones and the filter.

A particular current challenge in the project, on the other hand, is the tense situation on the construction raw materials market, which makes it difficult to get all the required materials such as cables, insulation materials, windows, façade elements, stainless steel pipes, etc. to the construction site on time. We are all the more pleased that we have largely succeeded so far and that we continue to keep our schedule.

Energy efficiency and sustainability focus in project planning of "Spray Tower 12"  

06.05.2021 | Whilst project planning our new spray-drying plant, Tower 12, we placed particular value on the best possible energy and resource efficient design of the entire plant with an eye to sustainable production. The plant technology used here will be state of the art in terms of energy. 
The spray tower will be clad and insulated to reduce heat losses and to save energy. Heat exchangers (recuperators) in the ventilation systems will ensure effective preheating of supply air for the spray tower through recovery of heat from the exhaust air. Wherever possible, the process heat used will be recovered and losses reduced to a minimum. Frequency-controlled burners in our boiler house will ensure gas-saving steam generation. 

The entire plant will be equipped with modern, energy-saving LED lights. Presence switches will be installed in most production rooms and stairwells so that lighting is automatically controlled via presence detection. This will also reduce energy consumption. Existing electric motors, e.g. for pumps, will be equipped with frequency inverters so that their output is adjusted automatically and according to demand via the plant control system, e.g. with the aid of flow meters. This means that only the output actually required will be used. 

These numerous energy-relevant measures will keep the energy consumption of the production systems as low as possible. 
All cleaning processes will be optimised to save resources and also reduced to a minimum using various measures. A technical highlight here is represented by the highly modern containment systems used for active substance dosing and powder filling. These ensure that dust emissions to the environment during the supply and discharge of powders are extremely low, up to Level 4 OEB. In addition to positive hygienic effects for the environment and cleaning requirements, these investments also serve to protect our personnel, particularly those working in production and packaging. 
A series of important environmental protection measures are also planned. We will be using dedusting systems for Tower 12 to reduce the exhaust air dust emission of the spray tower to < 5 mg/Nm³ air, far exceeding the current standard. The investment in very effective splitter silencers for the air outlets on Tower 12 will result in a significant reduction in noise emissions. The forecast is that no increase will be heard in the noise output of the entire plant when the new plant technology is operational.

The shell construction of the new spray-drying plant is under way  

30.04.2021 | A  The new plant is slowly starting to appear and the building complex on the site is gaining in height: The ground floor walls are up and the ground floor ceiling has been cladded, reinforced and concreted since February. 

The greatest challenge for the shell construction was the very harsh onset of winter in February with snow and with temperatures sometimes dropping below -15 °C, which put a stop to any construction site activities for around two and a half weeks. Nevertheless, we managed to achieve our scheduled goal with regards to the start of test production thanks to a major joint effort with the companies responsible for construction and plant engineering. This was only made possible by all parties being willing to compromise and work together. For example, the construction process for several building sections was rescheduled to further optimise the installation and commissioning process. 

Contracts have been awarded for two complete packaging lines following the successful tests at the manufacturer: Filling of powders into composite bags and carton packaging and labelling.

"Spray Tower 12" - a new plant for contract drying  

11.02.2021 | Just 18 months construction time from the initial preparatory ground work to handover of the finished and tested plants to production – that's our schedule for building the new spray-drying plant in Uelzen. 

This state-of-the-art plant, known internally as “Tower 12”, is designed to spray-dry vitamins and minerals, as well as other ingredients, to the highest quality requirements. “High Care” is therefore the highest priority when designing and equipping the new spray-drying plant for the contract drying division. This includes, for instance, a strict hygiene zone concept with hygienic airlocks to separate the different areas, containment systems on the active ingredient dosing and filling plants, cleaning concepts with separate washing and drying rooms to clean plant components, and sophisticated ventilation and filtering systems for the fresh air supply. 

In addition to the actual spraying tower, which boasts an average capacity of 750 kg powder/h, the new plant also comprises additional core areas such as feeding stations for ingredients and active ingredients, its own wet mixing area with various technologies to treat the raw ingredients supplied by our customers before the spraying process, filling plants for 5–25 kg aluminium pouches, engineering rooms and social areas. This creates a completely self-contained new spray-drying plant, which offers state-of-the-art hygiene and efficiency. In energy terms, the plant will meet the latest standards and enable production that is both sustainable and conserves resources. A bridge with an automated conveyor belt connects the plant to Uelzena’s fully automated high-bay warehouse, which was commissioned in 2019. 

The new drying plant will be equipped by the experienced plant engineering company Tetra Pak, who is supplying and installing the critical components such as the spray tower, wet mixing area, and feeding stations. The main installation phase for plant engineering starts September 2021. Commissioning is scheduled for the start of 2022, which will be followed by a generous test phase lasting several months. Normal operation is envisaged for the tower from mid-May 2022, significantly expanding the capacities and technical possibilities of the contract drying division to produce baby food-grade products under high-care conditions.  

Cornerstone ceremony for the new spray-drying plant  

05.02.2021 |  At the end of November 2020, the first ground-breaking and excavation work began for the construction of a new spray-drying plant, which will expand Uelzena eG’s contract drying division in Uelzen. In the past few weeks, the foundations were laid. The cornerstone ceremony took place on 5 February in the presence of Jörn Dwehus (CEO),  Wilhelm Günther (Vice-Chairman of the Board) und Michael Esan (Project Manager). Following an old tradition, the engraved stainless steel foundation stone contained a current newspaper, a set of coins and a document about the building project. Shell construction should be completed in August, after which systems engineering will begin.