Last year, in celebration of Germany’s most famous folk festival—Oktoberfest—GE Additive Munich decided to design and 3D print a titanium and stainless steel beer stein. The project, as it happily turns out, was not a one-off, as the GE Additive team in the Bavarian city want to make 3D printing an Oktoberfest tradition of sorts.
This year, GE Additive’s CEC Munich team partnered with Kaspar Schulz GmbH, the oldest brewing equipment manufacturer in the world which supplies equipment to brewers around the world. The companies partnered to deepen the intersection of additive manufacturing and brewing, going beyond novelty projects (such as the titanium stein) to see the impact AM can really have on the brewing industry.
Kaspar Schulz was founded in 1677 and today—ten generations later—it is still run by the same founding family. Over the centuries, the company has remained close to its heritage while also staying at the cutting-edge of beer production. This made it the perfect partner for GE Additive and Matthew Beaumont, the site leader at the company’s CEC Munich, reached out to propose a collaboration.
“We love working with early adopters in any industry,” Beaumont said. “So the combination of a family business with a proven heritage of applying modern design, engineering and manufacturing made me think they would be great for this project.”
Jörg Binkert, the head of R&D at Kaspar Schulz, added: “We were very pleased that GE Additive approached us. We were already familiar with 3D modeling and making designs with CAD, but additive manufacturing was something new for us. But once we started looking, it didn’t take us long to find a couple of good applications that could really be improved by using additive technology.”
Two pints—I mean, two parts
Ultimately, the collaboration resulted in the redesign and additive production of two parts for Kaspar Schulz’s beer equipment manufacturing: an access door knob and a racking blade.
In the case of the access door knob, GE Additive helped Kaspar Schulz transition from milling to additive manufacturing. Up until adopting AM, the brewing company had milled the doorknobs from stainless steel.
Beaumont explained: “For the access door knob, Kaspar Schulz currently mills the part out of a block of stainless steel. This is something that we see regularly in aircraft manufacturing, but it was a surprise to see it in use here too. Using additive, we were able [to] demonstrate savings in terms of material use, manufacturing time and include the possibility to customize the part with their company logo—at no additional cost or effort.”
The second part, the racking blade, was even more ambitious and it enabled GE Additive to truly showcase the benefits of adopting AM. The part, which is part of the lauter tun—a machine that separates the wort from the solids of the mash—had much room for improvement. Specifically, Binkert and his team hoped to design a racking blade that had a better filtration effect for the spent grain bed so that the rinsing process could be more thorough and time-efficient.
“Our team was quickly able to come up with a design to efficiently loosen the spent grains and inject water, throughout the bed, during rotation,” said Beaumont. “The design of a thin blade that has internal channels to distribute water evenly is only achievable using additive manufacturing.”
Binkert and his team believe that the redesigned racking blade will result in significant time savings in the lautering process. “The way that we have been able to change the way we introduce water, during the sparging process, is unique and without parallels,” he said. “We anticipate [we] will be able to reduce time by 30% and even improve the yield.”
Raise a stein, it’s nearly Oktober!
GE Additive and Kaspar Schulz first partnered about six months ago with the view of completing a first design in time for Oktoberfest 2019. In the end, however, they were able to do far more than come up with a first design: they conducted simulation analysis, finalized the design and even performed basic functional tests.
The next step in the ongoing collaboration will be to verify the final use of the new parts in the complete brewing process. “We want to verify the benefit via chemical analysis of an actual batch of wort,” said Beaumont. “And of course a taste test by the project team!”
When the time comes, it would only be fitting, I think, for the GE Additive and Kaspar Schulz team to clink their 3D printed metal steins and guzzle down the newly brewed, AM-enabled beer.
“The use of additive technologies for the brewing or the beverage industry in general can have an evolutionary effect as opposed to a revolutionary effect,” concluded Beaumont. “Functional integration, reduction of the number of joints and seals are the quick wins that additive can offer without a massive change to the machinery. Beyond that, there can be incremental improvements to individual steps in the brewing process by taking advantage of the design freedom that additive allows. The racking blade is a great first example of that potential.”