Brabender – Thinking Beyond Boundaries
Brabender, a technological market leader in high-quality laboratory equipment for the food, feed, rubber and plastics industries is stepping into new fields of business.
Germany-based Brabender is an expert in designing and manufacturing measuring devices and process technology at lab scale for raw material control, quality assurance and product development. With its high quality, precise process and measurement technology, Brabender optimises the efficient and sustainable use of raw materials and resources together with its customers for better, innovative products and thus a better world – so much the company slogan that encapsulated the core business.
Established in 1923 by Carl Wilhelm Brabender, the company is proud of its almost century-long history marked by significant innovations, including Brabender’s flagship products – the world’s first Farinograph (wheat flour quality tester) launched in 1928, followed by the first Plastograph (laboratory tester for plastic materials) eight years later. More recent innovations include ViscoQuick – a state-of-the-art viscometer for the characterization of flours, starches and other viscous and pasty masses; MetaStation – a new generation of drive units with web-based software, TwinLab-F 20/40 and TwinLab-C 20/40 – extruders for Food&Feed and Rubber&Plastics applications respectively; and the FarinoAdd-S300 used for analysing gluten-free materials, to name just a few.
Brabender’s solutions, often custom-made to meet specific customer requirements, are mostly applied in the food, feed, rubber and plastics industries but are also used by universities and research institutes. Its Farinograph is world-wide the most applied instrument for measuring flour quality in the milling and baking industries and is the heart of the Brabender 3-Phase-System for baking.
In recent years, Brabender’s portfolio has been changing in line with new requirements for a higher level of automation and digitisation providing time savings, convenience, connectivity and efficiency, as well as new requirements emerging form novel applications.
Jessica Wiertz, Manager Applications, affirms that the focus on new fields of business has intensified: “We have recently stepped into several areas which are new for us, such as gluten-free materials, meat analogues, proteins, algae, feed and aqua feed.”
Giving some examples of this new direction, she mentions the PlantPROMISE (Plant PROtein Meat alternatIveS using Extrusion) project initiated by the Wageningen University in the Netherlands with Brabender being one of the partners, focused on the development of new, high-quality meat replacement products, as well as on a better understanding of quality attributes of meat analogues.
Gluten-free materials is another area of increased focus – Brabender is collaborating with University College Cork to investigate the addition of water and other decisive criteria for gluten-free raw materials and formulations, using its Farino-Add-S300 and other Brabender solutions.
Jessica Wiertz points out that international partnerships and networking are a key part of the game. In October last year, Brabender became a member of Bridge2Food, the research network for plant-based food ingredients, in which all the value chain takes part. “The Bridge2Food ecosystem is a unique industrial-scientific network”, she explains. “Plant-based foods are an emerging market that requires further research, as well as machine development and analytical techniques. Within the ecosystem, Bridge2Food connects relevant partners to jointly tackle these challenges”.
Brabender offers the network its expertise and wants to gain further experience in the application of alternative protein sources to further develop and adapt its product portfolio to the needs of the market.
Matthias Mayser, System Architect, New Technologies, adds that bio-based polymers are another area that the company has been focusing on recently. To this end, Brabender joined BioFon in May 2020 a network of companies from research, industry and certification institutions intended to strengthen the development and establishment of biopolymers through project cooperation. By using bio-based raw materials, the use of fossil raw materials is reduced, thus supporting climate protection. In addition, biodegradable biopolymers will counteract the accumulation of plastic waste in nature and the oceans.
“We are involved in a number of novel research projects focusing on environmental issues, such as the development of packaging materials from algae, a joint initiative with the Technical University of Dresden and the University of the Philippines,” continues Matthias Mayser.
He explains that the research project deals with macroalgae as a viable alternative to fossil-based plastics. Brabender contributes its expertise in raw material characterization and extrusion processing. Successful investigations were carried out using different Brabender analytical devices for characterization and quality assessment of the macroalgae raw material and the development of a suitable measuring method. Extrusion processing of the macroalgae into a film by means of a Brabender TwinLab-C twin-screw extruder and Univex flat film take-off was also successful.
“Rubber waste recycling is yet another field we are involved in, participating in a project to develop a new one-step recycling process, using our Brabender TSE 20/40 twin-screw extruder,” says Matthias Mayser. The new process to be developed should enable small- and medium-sized manufacturers of EPDM rubber to independently recycle their production waste into a secondary raw material that can be used for new products.
Open for business
Jessica Wiertz reflects that the recent pandemic has accelerated progress towards more efficient ways of working, highlighting new opportunities in terms of digitisation, online conferences, webinars and expertise exchange. The company has introduced remote visits to its new lab facilities for customers to join live trials (also with the customers ‘materials), training and workshops, and has used the time spent without customer visits and travelling to intensify product research and development.
Despite limited travel, Brabender’s global reach remains unrestricted – indeed, quite the contrary. With its laboratory and manufacturing facilities in Germany and the US and a network of international sales partners, the company is set to stay close to its customers, providing its expertise and support throughout the product life cycle, says Matthias Mayser. “We foster long-term relationships with our business partners, some of whom have been with us for decades. Human capital is a key part of our business and we greatly value both our own employees and our business partners.”
Jessica Wiertz affirms that Brabender is continuously looking for new partners to promote innovative ideas, products and processes. “Over the years, the traditional company has transformed into an innovative business, an active participant in emerging developments. Supported by investment in digitisation and automation, we will continue to develop from a supplier of lab devices to an R&D partner aiming at gradually increasing our market share in the existing and new markets, such as battery technology, ceramics and cosmetics.”