Copenhagen-based Niro said it developed the system using TV cameras as a means of ensuring food products end up with a standard quality and to reduce stoppage time in production. The cameras show a continuous picture of the spray zone allowing operators to ensure that there are no leaks or any build-up of solid matter and that the spray dispersal within the drying chamber remains at an optimum level. The cameras can also be used to determine if the high pressure shut off valves are leaking. "This helps avoid unnecessary shut downs, improves product quality and reduces the risk of heat build up within the chamber," Niro stated. Leaking nozzles in spray dryers can disrupt the droplet dispersal within the chamber. A build up of solid matter can make the drying chamber overheat and, in extreme cases, may even cause fire and an explosion. In the past monitoring the nozzles was impossible to do while the spray dryer was running as these are fully enclosed in the chamber. "The new system, however, allows operators to watch the mist emerging from the nozzles and identify any abnormalities immediately," Niro stated. "They can then intervene if necessary or take corrective action - but only when it's needed. Unnecessary shut downs are eliminated." Gerhardt Jacobsen, Niro's dairy safety and environmental resource manager, said the new system is particularly useful for detecting leeks from nozzle gaskets during production and from the nozzle itself during the start up and shut down of the spray drying equipment.
The camera also allows operators to monitor the fines in the spray zone to determine the best possible product quality.
Niro plans to develop the technology further by allowing managers to automatically monitor the camera image. The additional feature will allow the spray dryer to be shut down automatically if a risk of explosion arises.