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  • Karel Schmiedberger

How the AMARU freeze dryer is made


Food freeze dryer AMARU before shipping
Food freeze dryer AMARU before shipping

Maybe I have forgotten something on the website or described it wrong, but I have encountered several times the astonished question of a prospective customer or even a customer: "Do you really make it yourself???". The amazement is nothing special. It's easy today to slip into the idea that the individual with whom we've been negotiating a purchase so far will take our order, throw it through a window into a building, and a team of manufacturing technicians will take over and ship the finished product out the other side. After all, how often today do we just click and wait for a package at the front door?

We're not that far along yet, and inwardly I kind of hope it never gets that impersonal. Before we sell AMARU to anyone, we ask the prospective buyer's plans and ideas. That way we are able to eliminate the possible disappointment of something the lyophilizer can't or won't do. But what does it look like when you sign a draft contract and send in a deposit?

The description below assumes that there is no AMARU in stock at the moment, not even a staged one.

Part 1 - Purchase of parts

The very first thing I have to do is inform my colleagues, Honza and Pavel, that we have work to do (besides the one we are each employed in). Together we go through the parts inventory and in Basecamp (project organizer), Honza and I start clicking off the first To-dos (tasks) with each order we send.

The first phase in Basecamp. Almost everything is ordered.
The first phase in Basecamp. Almost everything is ordered.

We have some parts in stock. Either they don't take up much space, or it is not possible or not worthwhile to order them in smaller quantities. On the other hand, we do not keep in stock more expensive electronic parts that would unnecessarily expire the manufacturer's warranty, or parts that can be bought in a short time (e.g. steel profiles).

Part 2 - Start of production

As soon as we have the "iron" in place, we can start with the actual foundation, namely the steel structure. Anyone who has ever welded anything knows how iron can work. And since we offer the possibility of assembling two AMARUs on top of each other, we have to "play" with millimeters. It actually takes more time to measure the clamping profiles. The welding itself is only a sliver of the total time.

When the construction is complete, including all drilled holes, the first journey awaits the emerging AMARU, namely to the galvanizing plant. It will return to us after a week. There's plenty of time to clean up the workshops and work on the product chamber. The precise winding of the coil onto the stainless steel chamber is a three-man job and requires zen-like calm, much like playing Zengo tower.

Once the structure is back from the galvanizing plant, it's time to join the two parts, make a few more finishing touches, and take a trip to the cooling unit manufacturer. Here, AMARU will stay longer before it gets its turn. However, we are working with the supplier to shorten the delivery time in the future.

Part 3 - Finishing

After the AMARU has returned to our workshop, the preparation for the final stage begins. Honza spends the day wiring the components in the electrical cabinet, Pavel works on the vacuum distribution and I assemble the shelving system. Next comes the installation of the vacuum sensor, PLC unit, minor adjustments to the vacuum pump and the moment when the switch is flipped and AMARU comes to life for the first time.

Shelf systems of AMARU food freeze dryer in production
Shelf systems before completion

By this time the cover sheets usually arrive from Moravia. These need to be mounted on the AMARU, the necessary holes drilled and immediately transported to the powder coating plant. Painting usually takes a week, so there is time for finishing touches such as outlet pipes, door hinges and at least a week of functional tests to check that everything is working as it should.

During the tests, it is necessary to check that the vacuum in the chamber reaches 100 mTorr and that the cooling is able to reach temperatures below -40°C. In the end, however, the best test is still one or more water lyophilizations. This will verify that the AMARU is achieving the desired drying rate. By carrying out a conventional process, we thus verify a number of functions at the same time.

AMARU freeze dryer before finishing in production
AMARU is alive, the cover plates are finished and it's time to take them to the powder coating plant

And what do we do if a test doesn't go as it should? Well, for example, if we don't get the pressure we need, it's a chore to find the leak. We test the chamber itself before it is fitted, so we need to go through all the vacuum lines, transitions, valves, clamp couplings, the chamber outlet and of course measure the readings on the vacuum pump itself.

Because it's not just about delivering the product itself, we also need to do some sort of inventory to make sure all the accessories are ready to go, from the chamber seal to the stand or storage system to the freezer. The AMARU may not be 100% ready yet, but it is time to prepare the documentation and arrange delivery for removal.

Folder with documents for new food freeze dryer AMARU
Documentation folder ready for the customer

Part 4 - Transport, installation and training

It's D-Day and the moment of truth. Before the customer sees their own AMARU for the first time, they need to train the muscles and get the device(s) into the van. All three of us always go on the "trip". AMARU is no lightweight, but more importantly, everyone involved in the three-month production process wants to be present at the handover of his or her piece of work. And actually, it's also such a benefit when you can go on a trip with your friends and get to know the customer, his ideas and plans.

So one job ends and another begins. You need to make the customer's initial enthusiasm last. That's why from the moment of handover we advise, occasionally re-visit, answer questions and actually check a little bit if everything is working as it should. I am delighted when the customer tells us what flavour he has come up with and what the result was after drying.

Final installation and commissioning at the customer's site
Final installation and commissioning at the customer's site


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