Cutting Edge

Chilling Out on the Waves

Innovation@Linde: How a creative idea turned into a perfect cryogenic freezing solution for the food industry.

Imagine ocean waves gently washing the shore. Vacations or adventures at sea probably come to mind. When Steve McCormick pictures waves, however, he thinks of cryogenic freezing. Why? Because the motion of the ocean inspired a flash of genius by him and his team: the CRYOLINE® CW freezer. Developing it was no vacation – but certainly an adventure.

Steve McCormick, Head of Market Segment Food & Beverage

The greatest inventions often have the most humble beginnings. In this case, it was an empty cardboard box. Steve McCormick, Head of Market Segment Food & Beverage, and Linde's chief expert on food applications, grabbed the box and threw some shrimp in it. Then he did something that would change the world of food freezing significantly: He started to smack the bottom of the box repeatedly with a plank of wood. Steve and his team of engineers watched the shrimp bounce - as if tossed by ocean waves, and become covered on all surfaces and crust frozen by the dry ice. They all knew then: An idea was born. An idea that would turn into one of the greatest success stories of the Linde food team.

To understand what the engineers had discovered that day in 2002, one needs to understand the problem that they faced: The shrimp producers in Thailand – Linde’s clients – were in dire need of a new way to freeze their product; a way that would prevent the crustaceans from sticking together when frozen.

There were freezers around at the time that allowed for individual quick freezing (IQF) of small items like shrimp: Those were flighted freezers, which frosted the products as they were falling through a cascading series of belts.  This, however, didn't satisfy the Thai producers need for a machine that could handle both IQF and trayed products, and often resulted in reduced IQF quality, broken shrimp tails and higher gas consumption. "We had a hole in our product line," says Steve.  "We knew we had to solve that.”

CREATIVE CRYOGENICS

The challenge was set: The team had to invent nothing less than a completely new type of freezer. One that constantly turns small bits of product, so they don’t freeze together, but at the same time does not break them. The experts were racking their brains. “We looked at dozens of concepts of how to do this,” Steve recalls.

They kept casting their minds back to the cardboard box: Why not use a standard belt freezer – but integrate an actuation from below (like that plank of wood) which makes the belt vibrate and tumble the shrimp? A great idea – but only the start of the road to invention. The first prototype they built created a rather violent motion. The shrimp jumped heavily – and often broke. “It looked like choppy waves on a rough ocean,” says Steve. “That’s when we thought: We need a gentle wave, like rollers coming ashore.”

That was the breakthrough. To create the effect, the engineers designed an elegant system of timed camshafts, not unlike the mechanics inside a car engine. “It made the belt move in a beautiful, calm wave. When we ran the first tests on it, we knew we had an excellent product.” The CRYOLINE® CW – nicknamed CRYOWAVE®  was born.

Individually frozen shrimp

The CRYOLINE® CW (CRYOWAVE®)

»We were looking for a freezer that would increase throughput, efficiency of CO2, be more sanitary and easier to clean«

PUTTING THE IQ IN “IQF”

Over the years, the freezer was perfected and equipped with exceptional hygienic features by incorporating it into Linde's  CRYOLINE® MT hygienic platform: Every surface is sloped so that water drains away and all joints inside of the freezer are fully welded.  Scott Boyles, the Cryowave product life-cycle manager even found a way to eliminate greased bearings and simplify the cam drive system.  "Nobody wants grease near their food - even if it's edible", says Scott.

The results are spectacular: The CRYOWAVE® is running in more than 60 food plants around the world today, with a lot more in the pipeline. It is perfectly suited not just for seafood, but for all IQF products: poultry strips, gourmet pasta, meat balls, pizza toppings, vegetables, fruits – you name it.

That was the breakthrough. To create the effect, the engineers designed an elegant system of timed camshafts, not unlike the mechanics inside a car engine. “It made the belt move in a beautiful, calm wave. When we ran the first tests on it, we knew we had an excellent product.” The CRYOLINE® CW – nicknamed CRYOWAVE®  was born.

Looking back on the path to the CRYOWAVE®, Steve gives a straightforward synopsis: "Our sales teams told us they needed something, we gave them a product to sell and they sold the heck out of it.  It's been a very good success story for us.” And how did the engineers celebrate when the first CRYOWAVE® was running? A bottle of champagne? A shrimp cocktail with perfectly intact crustaceans?  “We’re not champagne or cocktail people,” says Steve. “But we might have had a beer.”

CRYOLINE® CW – the multi-purpose freezer

Catch the wave and get all the information on our hottest freezing machine.

Back to top