Microdat launch One Trip Keg Filler

Microdat launch One Trip Keg Filler

Brewery beer and cider kegs have traditionally been reusable which necessitates a keg washer filler to reprocess the keg when it’s returned after use.  The standard beer keg is a sealed pressure vessel with a complex central double valve arrangement, usually called a spear, as a part of the valve arrangement is a long spear like tube. To wash a brewery keg correctly it must be turned upside down so that the keg can be drained during washing. Filling and dispensing a keg can be undertaken in either orientation ie. valve up, or valve down.  Traditionally kegs are filled after washing, whilst they are valve down and then dispensed with the keg standing upright (valve up).

A key plant item on all traditional keg lines are the machines which sort and orientate the kegs such as selective turners which sort and place all returned kegs valve down (with no valve cap). It is also necessary to externally wash the keg, remove last trip labels and carry out various checks on the kegs and its integral valve assembly, prior to re-processing the keg via a washer filler. All of the preparation process and the actual washing and sterilisation utilise considerable resources ie. plant, manpower, energy and the process also produces chemical effluent and waste.

After filling, the now heavy keg has to be turned through 180 degs, checked for leakage, re-labelled, capped and stacked for storage and distribution.

A one trip keg on the other hand is delivered palletised and ready to fill. Thus a one trip keg production facility is very simple, requiring a much lower capital investment and operational costs. For a typical kegging plant a one trip kegging facility could be up to 6 times lower in cost to purchase and operate.

When you then consider the capital costs of reusable stainless steel kegs, the cost of recovery of used kegs and the potential for losses and theft, the economics for one trip kegs and one trip keg production facilities begins to provide a real economical alternative to traditional kegs and kegging plants.

Microdat, the leading UK manufacture of kegging plants, has teamed up with Ecokeg Keg to deliver solutions for one trip kegs. The Ecokeg as a package has now returned to its origin ie. its Australian inventors who can guarantee a quality and reliable product and since it is compatible with traditional kegging facilities ie filling and dispense, it is the easiest of the one trip kegs to integrate into a production, distribution and dispense operation.

Ecokeg Keg and Microdat as a partnership offers the industry a solution to deliver product trials, long reach distribution and the export trade via existing kegging facilities when practical and Microdat’s kegging expertise is readily available to advise on machine set up and even undertake plant control changes, such that an Ecokeg could be treated just like any other product or size change on a traditional kegging facility.  However, since in practice you will be disabling or bypassing the majority of a traditional kegging facility, unless you have substantial spare production capacity, it is often viable to consider a separate Microdat One Trip Kegging facility.

The range begins with a simple one head keg filler called the PKF35.  This unit is designed to very simply produce filled one trip kegs via a single operator from pallet to pallet. It can even be made available on a short term trial and rental basis should you wish to test your market with One Trip Kegs.

The PKF35 is very simple to operate but has all the necessary technology to ensure a consistent, reliable and hygienic fill. The PKF35 when matched with its partner product, the Single Keg Lifter (SKL30), enables one operator to break down the new pallet of Ecokegs pass the lightweight, virgin, sterile and pre-gassed keg to the Palletised Keg Filler, which with a well-designed beer supply should be capable of filling 35 Ecokegs per hour. The operator’s task is simply to place the new keg on the low level platform, engage the head and activate the fill. The keg is then automatically processed by checking the seal between keg and machine, flushing and cleaning the new spears face (to ensure sterility even on a new virgin keg and spear). The filling process is then undertaken via a meter fill system which measures and manages the fill, such that data can be readily available for contents monitoring and management for the likes of HM Customs and Excise etc. Microdat can even integrate a manual labelling system so the label can be produced from the machines held data whilst the keg is being filled. During filling the operator can be preparing the next keg or stacking in multilayers the full kegs via the SKL30. This solution meets all the UK’s requirements for manual handling which limits manual lifting to 19 kgs for a female and 25 kgs for a male. Even a lightweight 30 litre Ecokeg keg is over 30 kgs.

At the end of the filling operation the PKF35 seals the keg and again washes and blow dries the kegs spear and face. A “G” type or “A” type (Flat Top) spear is recommended whenever possible as it’s easier to clean and dry the spears face, a well type spear is more difficult to blow dry.

On completion of the process the head automatically disengages leaving the head free to be engaged with the next keg whilst the filled keg is capped, labelled and removed, from the generous twin keg filling platform. A key feature of the machine is that manual handling and lifting is completely minimised. The full keg can be easily slid off the filling platform onto an adjacent pallet, stacking should be either a two man operation or via a manual handling lifting aid like the SKL30.

The format of the PKF35 can also be doubled up to provide a twin head machine if higher production levels are required.  A twin head PKF35 (PKF65) along with a twin head keg lifter TKL30 should deliver around 60 to 65, 30 litre stacked and palletised Ecokegs per hour.

For higher levels of production and automation Microdat can then offer its automated Gantry Robotic solution. This provides complete automation of a one trip kegging facility where an operator simply loads in pallets of empty Ecokegs and removes stacked pallets of filled, capped, labelled and even shrink-wrapped full keg pallets.