Crunchy crisps are one of the most popular snacks. But crisps are easy to break.
How can fragile foods such as crisps be handled safely in automated factories? Filling a packet at high speed without creating a mass of crumbs is a challenge that space technology has helped to overcome.
A German food packaging company, wanting to find a new way of putting crisps into bags without them breaking, approached ESA's Technology Transfer Programme for help.
It was realised that, in some ways, dropping a potato crisp into a bag is similar to landing a spacecraft on another planet. The speed of descent, atmospheric conditions and airflow will decide whether it will arrive safely.
By studying the way crisps behave as they fall, the Technology Transfer partners were able to design a new food bagging system that became part of a state-of-the-art packaging machine.
This machine could handle awkwardly shaped, lightweight foods 30-50% faster than existing equipment. Despite its high speed operation, the soft landings meant breakages would be cut to a minimum.
Profits went up as crisps went down – into the bags! Now, the new space age machine is being made available around the world.