In recent months we have seen a rise in the number of magnets being ordered by customers active in the sugar industry. I asked my colleague Arthur Jonkman what lies behind this. Arthur explains, “The European sugar market was protected until a few years ago. Sugar prices were held artificially high in the EU through import taxes and production quotas. This market was recently liberalized and export restrictions have been lifted.
Sugar manufacturers are no longer limited in what they can produce and export. This has therefore also led to an increase in the demand for magnets. Magnets remove pieces and particles of iron from sugar, which is not only necessary to ensure a good finished product such as the sugar we buy in the shop but is also a requirement demanded by industrial buyers of the sugar products who process the sugar in their products, such as food manufacturers. Machines can also be brought to a halt by a stray particle of iron, and that results in an expensive production standstill, which is preventable through the use of magnets.”
Sugar in foods
Arthur continues, “Whether you look at cookies, peanut butter, jam, baby food, bread or ketchup, you will find they all contain sugar. Obviously the consumer does not want to find a nail in a bag of sugar, but the food industry’s ever-higher quality requirements now force sugar producers to filter even the very smallest particles –down to 1 micron– out of sugar as well. Otherwise they could be faced with damage claims or may be refused a quality mark. Thus, the demands are becoming increasingly stringent.”
Arthur says, “Coarse bits of iron enter the production flow right at the very beginning, when harvesting sugar beet in the field. To pick them out we hang ‘capture magnets’ above the infeed line outside the factory. You might be surprised to learn we often find ammunition hanging from them! Then the beets are cleaned and cut into pieces. When they fall through a chute we can mount chute magnets that remove the remaining –visible– pieces of iron.
Very tiny particles
During the next step in the process the beets are boiled, which produces a thin syrup and a thick syrup. The thick syrup is then boiled further and centrifuged to produce crystallized sugar which then enters the drying phase. ‘Clean flow magnets’ are used here, which filter out the very smallest iron particles. These are invisible to the naked eye, but removing them protects machines, results in a qualitatively good finished or semi-finished product and prevents damage claims.”
“We use magnets in the final phase of the sugar process and take into account that sugar production is a continuous process, which cannot simply be stopped whenever we like. Cleaning of the magnetic bars must therefore take place continuously; otherwise the magnet would become saturated with iron particles and become less effective. Crystal sugar flows well, so a static system is adequate. When you process powdered sugar, however, it often clings to the bars – the sugar cakes together and impedes the flow. We solve this problem through the use of rotating magnets that keep the product moving. We have supplied all the magnets used by the Dutch Sugar Union for years and are therefore thoroughly familiar with the problems that can arise when processing sugar. With all our experience, we have a solution for every situation.”