Günther Maschinenbau GmbH

Needleblock for meat processing

a case from Günther Maschinenbau GmbH

To ensure food safety, not only components which come into direct contact with food need to be made of materials which comply with food contact regulations. This system is an example for the curing of meat made with salt, brine and a small quantity of water - according to the maximum quantity permitted by the regulation. The application is a component of a fully automated system developed to enhance flavour and shelf life by saline injection using needles.

The block

Using metals for the block in such applications is generally difficult due to the poor sliding properties of metal on metal. In contrast, metals can easily slide on plastic. Furthermore, metals often react sensitively to chemicals, with the top layer of the metal being attacked. For these reasons, the block in which the needles move is often made of compliant materials such as PE, as was the case here. PE has excellent sliding properties, but, on the other hand, there is a serious danger of deformation, which could mean a high risk of pieces of plastic in food.

The needles

The metal needles operate in a block: the process of curing requires the needles to move in and out, pricking the meat to inject a flavour solution. There is no direct contact between the block and the meat, but there is a risk, in case of wear or damage, that fragments may fall into the meat. Furthermore, high pressure is built up in the system, because the needles move through a spring mechanism and prick the meat approx. 2-3 mm deep, meaning that the block needs to have good mechanical strength.

Blue acetal for food to comply with all requirements

An excellent alternative to PE is Ensinger's acetal for food, TECAFORM AH (POM-C). Over and above the compliance with FDA and EU 10/2011, Ensinger's POM-C has significantly higher mechanical stability than PE. Moreover, the sliding properties are far higher, so it can meet the requirements of the application.

TECAFORM AH can be processed faster and more accurately, meaning less rework is necessary. In contrast, not all forms of PE can be processed, resulting in certain restrictions on procurement. Selecting the thermoplastic material TECAFORM AH can thus cut processing costs. Another improvement is the use of TECAFORM AH blue, the acetal blue compliant with FDA and EU 10/2011 developed by Ensinger for food applications. Blue is not only a popular colour in the food industry, it also significantly reduces the risk of plastic contamination in food because of its optically detectability. Blue is a strategy for detectability – optical detectability by the finishing line operator. TECAFORM AH blue, as the natural grade, is also chemically resistant to detergents.

After a training course for introduction of EU 10/2011, in cooperation with the customers, the needle block was the first application which was adapted for optical detection. A prototype was developed and, after successful tests, customers were encouraged to convert more components.

Needle block made of TECAFORM AH blue

Acetal materials for food APPLICATIONS

Acetal is one of the most commonly used thermoplastics in the food industry thanks to its versatile properties and light weight. Find our main acetal products below or see our complete TECAFORM AH (POM-C) range here.

TECAFORM AH blue

TECAFORM AH blue is a POM-C acetal copolymer that is colored brilliant blue in order to optimize the material's effectiveness in food plants that use optical detection equipment to identify unwanted particulates in the food product.

TECAFORM AH natural

TECAFORM AH natural acetal is an unfilled POM-C with a unique balance of physical properties not available in most other thermoplastics.

​TECAFORM AH black

POM-C black is a copolymer acetal material manufactured by Ensinger under the tradename TECAFORM AH black in standard stock shapes for machining, and is extruded in sheet, rod and tube​​.

TECAFORM AH ID blue

​TECAFORM AH ID inductive detectable POM-C is modified with a metal detectable filler that provides excellent protection while monitoring for unwanted particulates.