Industrial Utility Efficiency

Food Packaging OEMs, Vacuum and Air Quality at IPPE

We visited the 2024 International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) with the objective being to discuss hygienic vacuum and compressed air system designs within thermoforming and other meat/poultry/cheese packaging systems. We were able to discuss the sanitary designs they deploy and some protective measures they have in place, should the manufacturing plant provide compressed air which is not clean and dry and therefore conducive to hygienic manufacturing. 

The 2024 International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) had a terrific year with 1,432 exhibitors covering 620,850 square feet of exhibit space, setting two new records. IPPE is the world's largest annual feed, meat, and poultry and egg industry event of its kind and is one of the 25 largest trade shows in the United States. IPPE is sponsored by the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, American Feed Industry Association and the Meat Institute.

The 2024 IPPE had 31,353 registered attendees from the poultry and egg, meat and animal food industries. There were 9,063 international visitors, a third new record, from 133 countries represented at IPPE. The largest group from a single country outside the U.S. was Canada, with 14.9% of registered attendees. As in previous years, Latin America had the strongest international presence, representing 45% of international visitors.

“We are very pleased and excited about our strong attendance numbers and this year’s record-breaking trade show floor. The turnout for the 2024 IPPE was outstanding, and the feedback from attendees has been extremely positive regarding time spent on the trade show floor, education sessions offered and opportunities to connect with colleagues and vendors. We expect next year’s IPPE to build on this success to ensure we continue to provide the best possible experience for attendees and exhibitors,” the three organizations said.

A week-long comprehensive schedule of education programs, which updated industry professionals on current issues and complemented the exhibit halls, helped drive attendance. This year’s educational line-up featured more than 80 hours of education sessions, ranging from food safety design principles to worker safety to sustainability initiatives for the meat, animal food, and poultry and egg industries, and more.

Compressed Air Purity for Hygienic Meat Packaging

JLS Automation was exhibiting their range of robotic packaging systems, from product loading through case packing, for food-safe meat and poultry packaging. Their machines feature “VOB Vacuum on Board” technology featuring single-stage venturi systems for pick and place. VOB 2.0 was developed in conjunction with Penn State University and the firm states compressed air consumption has been reduced by more than 50% vs. prior field installations. John Kertesz, the Director of Sales for JLS® South said, “Our high-speed VOB technology is virtually clog-free and assures sanitation as there are no clogged airlines to contend with or clean.”  When asked about compressed air purity they find at manufacturing plants he said, “Although we regularly specify ISO 8573.1 (at specific Quality Classes) compressed air from the manufacturing plants, we often still find water in the compressed air arriving at our machines.” For this reason, the JLS Automation systems feature compressed air filtration modules.


John Kertesz and Garrett Wampler at the JLS booth (left to right). Their robotic packaging systems equipment can feature compressed air filtration and pressure regulation units. 


A senior sales engineer, at a significant food packaging OEM, requested not to be identified but said, “We often recommend the use of servo-motor driven cylinders (in our machines), instead of pneumatic cylinders, because we can’t count on the manufacturing facility to consistently provide clean, dry compressed air.”

Sealed Air had a large booth and I spent some time looking at their Cryovac® Auto Load 75 High Speed Bay Loader. At the front end of the machine I could see compressed air blowing a bag open. “We use a high velocity nozzle to give a quick burst to open the bag and then two air amplifiers provide the compressed air volume needed to inflate it,” said Sealed Air Mechanical Engineer, Jeff Iocco. He continued, “Since meat products are then inserted into these barrier bags, we require completely dry, oil-free compressed air to ensure a hygienic system.” He explained that for this reason, the Bay Loader features a significant bank of compressed air filters (and a flow meter) on-board to protect the system from impurities, which might arrive from the plant’s compressed air system.


Jeff Iocco at the Sealed Air Cryovac booth. Their units feature compressed air filtration, regulation and flow measurement.


There are many laboratory testing and regulatory consulting firms, supporting the meat/poultry/dairy industries with their sanitary and hygienic manufacturing processes.  I’ve spent the last couple of years speaking with many of them and what I’ve found is that most offer the service of testing compressed air purity focusing on microbiological contamination. Sue Ann Seitz is the Senior Director of Sales for Certified Group, a firm with labs across the country. She said, “Certified Labs has 32 laboratories in North America and we offer compressed air as a service. Our consultants use systems like the Parker CAMTU for compressed air and the Sampl’Air system to ensure there is no microbiological risk coming from ambient air.”  When I asked her if this was an important part of their business she said, “There are some customers who request this testing, but no there is not a high level of demand.”

Most people agreed that acceptable compressed air purity, supplied by the manufacturing plants, is inconsistent and usually unmonitored. The solution being provided by the food packaging manufacturers is to offer on-board filtration systems to protect the food products from contamination.


Compressed air blows directly into a bag to open it before being filled with product. 

Hygienic Vacuum Systems in Thermoforming and Chamber Packaging

Scott Werner and Meghan Babineaux at the Aerzen Rental booth.


Vacuum thermoforming machines can use either compressed air or vacuum (or both) to create the pocket where food products are then placed. Kansas City based MULTIVAC is a leading manufacturer.  I spoke to their Director of Marketing, Jeff Ray, who has been in the industry for more than thirty years. He said the design trend today is leaning more towards vacuum systems to pull the pocket, as opposed to compressed air pushing to create the pocket. “Multivac leads with hygienic system design down to the smallest details including using different nozzles for compressed air than for vacuum.” Clarifying that not every OEM performs hygienic design to this level he continued, “As a leader in thermoforming in medical packaging, we’ve brought these principals to protein packaging and also make sure we vent out the exhaust valve on the vacuum system.” This ensures that no hydrocarbons or contaminants are in the ambient air around the thermoformed trays.


The Multivac R105 thermoforming machine.


The most prevalent vacuum pump I saw, within the thermoforming machines on display, was oil-lubricated rotary vane technology. Examples were spotted within a MULTIVAC thermoforming system and the REISER Variovac Optimus thermoforming system.


The Reiser VARIOVAC Optimus featured a rotary vane vacuum pump and compressed air inlet filtration.


The Amcor Moda Vac high-speed rotary vacuum chamber packaging machine is used for meat, fish, seafood and cheese packaging.  As I walked up, I saw two large rotary screw vacuum pumps standing next to the packaging line. There was a gentleman there who turned out to be Shelly Oliverios, from Atlas Copco. “Rotary meat packaging machine OEMs are switching to rotary screw technology to reduce maintenance costs, save energy with VSD’s and increase the speed of the machine.” When asked how they are able to increase machine output he said, “the system provides two stages of vacuum down to 0.5 Torr and the screw provides more flow per horsepower.”


The AMCOR MODA VAC with DSS + V supported by rotary screw vacuum pumps.

An Energy Efficiency Idea – AODD retrofits

The fun thing about trade shows is one runs into ideas, people and technologies spontaneously. This occurred when I saw the GRACO booth talking about their AODD Husky pump, which uses 30% less compressed air than their prior design.  Optimizing AODD pumps is on the short list for factories wondering how to reduce compressed air demand – after they’ve gotten their compressed air leaks under control.


Rob Woodward at the Graco booth with their electric AODD pumps.


Now, some knowledgeable readers might say, “hey, that pump was launched in 2010 so big deal.” Well, they’re right. The real news is Graco’s Rob Woodward told me they launched a drop-in replacement, all-electric, AODD pump with patented FluxCore technology featuring a direct drive permanent magnet motor with a control system at the end of 2022 - still old news, but hold on. During the second half of 2024, the unit will accept 480 volts, which according to them is a game changer for installation of retrofits in the field.  They say the FluxCore system is 83% efficient vs. 17% for their legacy pneumatic AODD pumps.


Scott Schroeder and Max Mather at the Hixson booth.


Brock Simmons and Shawn Simmons (left to right) at the Multi-Skill Training booth.


Will Sumner and Mathias Konne at the Staubli booth.


John Medemblik next to a Central-Vac Air Purge System at the Walinga booth.


Next year’s IPPE will be held Jan. 28 – 30, 2025, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. Show updates and attendee and exhibitor information are available at

About IPPE

The International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) is a collaboration of three shows - International Feed Expo, International Meat Expo and the International Poultry Expo - representing the entire chain of protein production and processing. The event is sponsored by the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), the Meat Institute and U.S. Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY).

About AFIA

Founded in 1909, the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), based in Arlington, Va., is the world's largest organization devoted exclusively to representing the business, legislative and regulatory interests of the U.S. animal food industry and its suppliers. The organization's membership is comprised of more than 650 domestic and international companies that represent the total feed industry-manufacturers of commercial and integrated feed and pet food, ingredient suppliers, pharmaceutical companies, industry support and equipment manufacturers. AFIA members manufacture more than 75% of the feed and 70% of the non-grain ingredients used in the country. AFIA is also recognized as the leader on international industry developments and holds membership in the International Feed Industry Federation (IFIF).

About the Meat Institute

The Meat Institute is the leading voice for the meat and poultry industry. Formed from the 2015 merger of the American Meat Institute (AMI) and North American Meat Association (NAMA), the Institute has a rich, century-long history and provides essential member services including legislative, regulatory, scientific, international and public affairs representation. The Meat Institute's mission is to shape a public policy environment in which the meat and poultry industry can produce wholesome products safely, efficiently and profitably. Together, the Institute's members produce the vast majority of U.S. beef, pork, lamb and poultry and the equipment, ingredients and services needed for the highest quality products.


U.S. Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY) is the All Feather Association progressively serving its poultry and egg members through research, education, communications and technical services. Founded in 1947, USPOULTRY is based in Tucker, Georgia.


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