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Stable Micro Systems breaks through in alginate rafts - APRIL 2009
One small step for man, one giant leap for texture analysis - APRIL 2009
Stable Micro Systems helps bakery manufacturers get a rise in dough - OCTOBER 2008
Stable Micro Systems' Shear Initiative - DECEMBER 2007
Cracks Under Control - New Powder Compaction Rigs from Stable Micro Systems - DECEMBER 2007
Stable Micro Systems Appoints Texture Expert - NOVEMBER 2007
Stable Micro Systems Unveils New Test for Cheese at FIE 2007 - OCTOBER 2007
Dough inflation innovation - OCTOBER 2007
Pasta reaches breaking point at Stable Micro Systems - OCTOBER 2007
Stable Micro Systems launches new test for hard gels - AUGUST 2007
Stable Micro Systems helps out in a sticky situation - APRIL 2007
Stable Micro Systems launches unique hair testing device - APRIL 2007
Stable Micro Systems makes the grade at London's leading fashion college - DECEMBER 2006
New Bread V Squeeze Rig - DECEMBER 2006
Cutting edge Syringe Testing Rig from Stable Micro Systems - OCTOBER 2006
Stable Micro Systems launches User Web-Networks - SEPTEMBER 2006
Peeling goes universal - JULY 2006
Stable Micro Systems analyses abrasives - APRIL 2006
Fresh 'Young' thinking from Stable Micro Systems - MARCH 2006
Wrigley is home to Stable Micro Systems 1000th TA.XTplus - FEBRUARY 2006
Texture Testing is Fine with Stable Micro Systems - JANUARY 2006
Squeezy-peasy extrusion from Stable Micro Systems - SEPTEMBER 2005
Sachet/Tube Extrusion in Pharmaceutical testing - AUGUST 2005
Stable Micro Systems launches automated analysis - DECEMBER 2004

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS BREAKS THROUGH IN ALGINATE RAFTS

APRIL 2009

Stable Micro Systems, global expert in texture analysis and materials testing, has developed innovative technology to evaluate the efficacy of alginate rafts. For the first time, manufacturers can accurately and repeatably quantify the characteristics of alginate gels, which are used to treat gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) or heartburn. The new “alginate raft hook” will help them optimise the cohesiveness, buoyancy, volume and strength of these gels, so improving their efficacy.

Alginate reflux preparations are the leading remedies for GORD. They function by forming a neutral, insoluble floating gel layer (or raft) on top of stomach contents. This prevents gastric acid from rising into the oesophagus, which can damage the oesophageal mucosa and cause burning pain in the chest area. Alginate rafts, which commonly also contain antacids, provide rapid and long-lasting relief from these symptoms.

The efficacy of alginate rafts is heavily influenced by their physical properties. Formulation factors such as the types and quantities of antacids used, their ratio to the alginate dose, the acid-neutralising capability, molecular weight, concentration and viscosity can affect the formation and quality of the raft. Stable Micro Systems’ new alginate raft hook will help OTC medication producers develop effective products that retain optimal physical characteristics.

Previous raft characterisation was often based on pH levels in and below the raft, but these tests were difficult to conduct and their results lacked accuracy. The new test method, on the other hand, is simple and precise and has been adopted by the British Pharmacopoeia. The sample being examined is formed around an L-shaped stainless steel wire probe held upright in a glass beaker for a period of 30 minutes. When the raft has developed fully, the beaker is placed on the test bed of a TA.XTplus texture analyser. The wire probe is hooked onto the texture analyser’s arm and pulled vertically up through the raft at a rate of 5mm/s. The force required to pull the wire probe up through the raft is recorded as the raft strength.

This test method has been published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics, which also outlined how to assess “resistance to reflex by extrusion”, measured by driving the raft through the orifice of a forward extrusion cell. The TA.XTplus can also be used to quantify the raft’s “resistance to reflux by rupture.” This is defined as the maximum force required to break the raft, through a 10mm diameter orifice, with a 9mm diameter cylindrical probe.

The new alginate raft hook is the latest addition to an extensive range of fixtures precision-engineered by Stable Micro Systems for the characterisation of pharmaceutical and healthcare products. The company’s instruments can evaluate characteristics such as powder flow, mucoadhesion, tablet and gel strength and granule compressibility.

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ONE SMALL STEP FOR MAN, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR TEXTURE ANALYSIS

APRIL 2009

In conjunction with NASA, Stable Micro Systems’ technology is now being used to advance space food technology. The Space Food Systems laboratory, located at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, has enlisted Stable Micro Systems’ expertise to ensure that astronauts are provided with food with optimal appearance, colour, odour, flavour, texture and overall palatability. In light of the dramatic temperature changes that take place during a mission and the timescales involved, Stable Micro Systems’ instrumentation provides researchers with valuable, quantifiable feedback on a food’s suitability for space flight.

Long missions and stays on the International Space Station mean that variety and acceptability of food are important for astronauts. Following many years of freeze-dried powders, bite-sized cubes and semi-liquids in toothpaste tubes, a more diverse and interesting range of meals is now on offer. In order to make sure they will withstand the journey and maintain their freshness and taste, repeatable, quantifiable texture analysis is essential.

Jo Smewing, applications manager, Stable Micro Systems, commented: “Our technology can analyse important textural characteristics in an efficient and precise way. New space foods, such as the Space Food Systems Laboratory’s apricot cobbler, appeal to astronauts because of their varied and interspersed textures. Using the Stable Micro Systems TA.XTplus texture analyser, with its numerous attachments to gauge different textural attributes, we can ensure that the dish is perfect, whether it is served down here on earth or up in space.

“We are delighted to be working with such a prestigious partner to provide optimal space food and comfort from home for pioneering astronauts. Our technology is an ideal match for the NASA set-up – offering precision, efficiency and controlled, repeatable analysis. We look forward to helping NASA develop and personalise its menus further and literally taking texture analysis to infinity and beyond!”

Stable Micro Systems’ partnership with NASA underscores its recognised ability to provide innovative solutions for the complex quality demands in food. Every attachment in Stable Micro Systems’ extensive portfolio of texture analysis solutions can be custom-made according to individual requirements.

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS HELPS BAKERY MANUFACTURERS GET A RISE IN DOUGH

OCTOBER 2008

Stable Micro Systems, expert in food quality evaluation, has developed a new test method for the baking industry. The Volscan Profiler is a laser-based instrument that allows manufacturers to measure automatically the volume of a baked product. This gives vital information relating to the inherent qualities of the product, which in turn affect consumer perception of the finished product. Higher volume tends to be associated with a more aerated crumb and superior texture. With the Volscan Profiler, bread manufacturers can control production more rigorously and rapidly eliminate inconsistency, resulting in greater consumer satisfaction and increased profitability.

Bread manufacturers must subject each batch of flour to test baking, to ensure that all bread is made to a uniformly high quality. Insufficient loaf volume at the test stage indicates either very weak or very strong flour, or an imbalance of enzyme activity. This information is then used to modify the dough mix, so that the finished product is capable of being properly handled by automatic slicing machines, and of being packed into standard sized bags. The Volscan Profiler can help to speed up this process, so that the optimum dough mix can be achieved rapidly and efficiently.

The Volscan Profiler works by mounting the loaf at each end and parameters such as flour weight, bread type and shape are recorded by the software. The bread is then automatically weighed and a laser measures the contours of the product at given intervals while it rotates. Previous methods to calculate dough volume include seed displacement, in which the amount of rape seed or pearl barley packed around the loaf in a standard container is measured. This method is time consuming and unreliable due to seed clumping, moisture absorption and potential crushing of the product. Conversely, the Volscan Profiler offers manufacturers a non-contact assessment, the results of which can be obtained in under sixty seconds.

Once the Volscan Profiler has completed its test, bread volume, length, maximum width, maximum height, height of the maximum width and width of the maximum height measurements are instantly archived. This then automatically calculates the volume yield of the bread. The data may be viewed in 2D or 3D, to allow visual comparisons with previous archived measurements. Controlled, repeatable analysis not only provides unambiguous quality assessment standards but also offers precision in physical characterisation.

The Volscan Profiler is just one of Stable Micro Systems’ wide range of texture analysis fixtures that are designed for use in the bakery sector. Others include the Dobraszczyk Roberts dough inflation system and the Bread V Squeeze rig for bread springiness. All Stable Micro Systems’ products can be custom-made according to individual specification.


STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS' SHEAR INITIATIVE

DECEMBER 2007

Bilayer tablet shear rig

Stable Micro Systems, expert in the physical characterisation of pharmaceutical and medical products, has announced the launch of its innovative Bilayer Tablet Shear rig. A unique new attachment for the company's industry-leading TA.XTplus texture analyser, the Community Registered Design has been developed to help manufacturers gauge and optimise the stability of tablets which contain isolated immediate and controlled release component layers. Such formulations are popular as they provide efficacy for consumers as well as ease of production for manufacturers.

Ensuring that one tablet layer does not impact on the other is instrumental to the remedial benefits of bi-layer medication, and to the safety of the consumer. But isolating two release components in separate layer formations can prove complex for manufacturers. The characteristics of each active pharmaceutical ingredient in a bi-layer tablet often differ, leading to problems in tablet composition which may in turn result in cross-contamination. Common issues include layer separation, insufficient hardness and inaccurate individual layer weight control. By testing the strength of bi-layer tablets, pharmaceutical manufacturers are able to identify weaknesses and improve the quality and stability of their products.

The Bilayer Tablet Shear Rig is attached to the TA.XTplus texture analyser, which uses Exponent software to analyse layer separation. The tablet sample is placed in the central cavity of a guillotine-type blade, which is then compressed until the two components of the tablet are sheared apart. The force taken to shear the tablet, as well as the distance to failure, is calculated. The lower the force required to shear the tablet, the more likely it is that the layers will fail during manufacture, packing or consumption. Visual characterisation of the fracture surface enables quantification of the percentage of each fracture failure, which is important in enabling manufacturers to optimise adhesion between the two tablet components.

Stable Micro Systems' new rig is just one of a wide range of precision-engineered fixtures that guarantee accurate and repeatable analysis of pharmaceutical products and materials. Additional test methods assess characteristics such as mucoadhesion, tablet and gel strength and granule compressibility. All Stable Micro Systems' products can be custom-made according to individual specification. 

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CRACKS UNDER CONTROL - NEW POWDER COMPACTION RIGS FROM STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS

DECEMBER 2007

Powder Compaction Rig

Stable Micro Systems, expert in the physical characterization of pharmaceutical and medical products, has launched a new Powder Compaction Rig. Available in high or low tolerance variants, it accurately measures the force and/or punch displacement required to compress powders into tablets. Using Stable Micro Systems' Exponent software, the Powder Compaction Rig guarantees precise measurements that enable pharmaceutical product manufacturers to produce powder compacts with consistent porosity.

Powder compaction is an essential step in the manufacture of many pharmaceutical products. It is paramount that cracking of these products during processing be avoided. Their liability to failure is influenced by the powder's processing properties, such as density variations introduced during die filling and/or compaction. The Powder Compaction Rig enables manufactures to solve such problems. It accurately assesses the force needed for the punch to travel a specified distance, or can be used in target force mode to assess the effect of fill level on tablet thickness.

The Powder Compaction Rig is available in two variants. The High Tolerance version is suited to high force applications where the punch/die clearance is critical. This fixture is auto-aligned using a universal adapter, which saves time and avoids human error. The Low Tolerance Powder Compaction Rig is suited to other powder compaction applications, such as assessing granule friability, where punch/die clearance is less important.

Like many products from Stable Micro Systems, the new Powder Compaction Rig can be custom-made according to individual specification. Other precision-engineered fixtures that guarantee competent analysis of pharmaceutical products include the powder flow analyser, the syringe testing rig, and the capsule tensile testing rig.

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS APPOINTS TEXTURE EXPERT

NOVEMBER 2007

Stable Micro Systems has announced the appointment of rheology expert Steve Smith as northern sales manager. Steve will be the product specialist responsible for coordinating sales and customer support across all of Stable Micro Systems' product range for quality testing in the food, pharmaceutical, packaging, industrial materials and automotive industries.

Steve was awarded his BSc Honours degree in applied chemistry from the former Manchester Polytechnic. He gradually moved south, beginning at CERAM Research in Stoke-on-Trent, before taking his first sales role in the field of materials analysis at Oxford Instruments. Later, he ventured further afield, gaining six years of valuable export sales experience at Reologica in Sweden - a leading manufacturer of stress and strain rheometers and viscometers. It was here that Steve expanded his rheology expertise and application knowledge.

Joining Stable Micro Systems, Steve will be directing his extensive application knowledge towards the demonstration of innovative new materials testing instruments. He will be instrumental in developing new and existing customer relationships spanning Scotland and northern England.

Commenting on the appointment, Mark Proto, managing director at Stable Micro Systems, said: "Steve will play a key role in raising awareness of our product range and in providing application support to our extensive customer base. Steve has worked in materials analysis for much of his professional life, and we are certain he will bring invaluable knowledge to this post. We are delighted to welcome another texture analysis expert to our team of dedicated professionals."

Stable Micro Systems is a leading designer and manufacturer of materials testing and texture analysis equipment. These instruments are already used in laboratories worldwide for testing food, pharmaceuticals, personal care, paints and coatings and products in other manufacturing industries.

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DOUGH INFLATION INNOVATION

OCTOBER 2007

D/R Dough Inflation System

Stable Micro Systems has launched a new, improved version of one of its most successful food texture analysis instruments. In response to the ever-changing quality demands of the baking industry, the new Dobraszczyk-Roberts (D/R) Dough Inflation System, which quantifies the rheological properties of dough, is designed to replicate more accurately the conditions of the baking process. The improved capabilities of the new inflation system include temperature controlled testing and increased dough inflation volumes, bringing the product in line with today's sophisticated testing requirements.

The rheological properties of dough include stress, strain and viscosity. Measurements of these characteristics are important in predicting baking performance and gluten quality. For bread manufacturers, stiffness as the dough inflates (strain hardening) is a desirable attribute. This indicates that the air bubbles will be evenly spaced and will inflate to greater volumes. The D/R Dough Inflation System can help manufacturers to determine baked loaf volume and end product quality. Potential shortcomings can be identified and formulations adjusted, if necessary.

By inflating a sheet of dough in controlled conditions, the D/R Dough Inflation System analyses the deformation of the product during proofing and baking. A piston, driven by Stable Micro Systems' TA.XTplus texture analyser, displaces the air underneath the dough sheet and inflates it to bursting point. Volume, pressure and time results are recorded. These are then analysed using the company's Exponent software to provide a calculation of the dough's rheological properties.

Stable Micro Systems has responded to the increasing diversity of textural properties in new bakery products by increasing the inflation capacity of the D/R Dough Inflation System by 230 per cent. A customised temperature chamber, which enables dough inflation in temperatures of up to 60°C, has also been added. This houses samples during their pre-test equilibration period, as well as providing a controlled temperature environment for more sophisticated analysis. In addition, Stable Micro Systems has introduced the ability to test smaller sample sizes.  This will be of interest to research and wheat breeders where flour is commonly in short supply

Jo Smewing, applications manager at Stable Micro Systems, comments: "The launch of the new D/R Dough Inflation Rig demonstrates that Stable Micro Systems is continually analysing and responding to the changing needs of the baking industry. We regularly review and update our instruments to ensure that we continue to offer the highest precision in texture analysis."

Stable Micro Systems' D/R Dough inflation System is the latest addition to the company's comprehensive range of texture analysis instrumentation for the bakery industry. Other tests include the analysis of bread softness, dough stickiness and dough and gluten extensibility. The company's sophisticated instrumentation offers wide possibilities for tailor-made texture analysis solutions.

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PASTA REACHES BREAKING POINT AT STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS

OCTOBER 2007

Noodle Pasta Loop Tensile Rig

Stable Micro Systems has launched a pioneering new instrument to measure the tensile strength and extensibility of pasta. The Noodle/Pasta Loop Tensile Rig, which attaches to the established TA.XTplus texture analyser, aids manufacturers in testing the resilience and consumer appeal of cooked sheet pasta and noodles. This Community Registered Design is an important advancement in gauging product quality and maximizing repeat purchase.

Guidelines for pasta cooking times are typically trialled extensively to ensure that consumers can produce ideal results at home. In an age of increasing culinary sophistication and a more discerning consumer, finding a precise solution for creating the preferred 'al dente' pasta is of paramount importance. The Noodle/Pasta Loop Tensile Rig allows manufacturers to perfect the formulation of their products with the aid of repeatable, scientific analysis. This, in turn, leads to enhanced customer satisfaction.

The Noodle/Pasta Loop Tensile Rig measures the force required to stretch cooked pasta or noodle samples to breaking point, providing an accurate measure of their extensibility. Previous clamping methods have encountered difficulties due to unequal pressure and failing at the sample mounting points. It is important that the product breaks within the gauge length in order to guarantee accurate test data. For this reason, the new rig comprises a unique annular sample cutter, producing a sample shape that impedes breakage at the holding points.

Prior to testing, samples are mounted to a separating rod fixture on washers that are specifically designed to prevent the noodles from breaking at the point of attachment. Vertical movement of the upper rod is applied until the pasta breaks, while Exponent software records the force required to do so. Controlled testing not only provides unambiguous quality assessment standards but can also indicate how a product may react to further processing during manufacture.

With the introduction of the Noodle/Pasta Loop Tensile Rig, Stable Micro Systems has proven its ability to provide an innovative solution for the complex quality demands of the food industry. The new rig is just one of Stable Micro Systems' wide range of texture analysis fixtures that are designed for use in this sector. Others include a cooked pasta firmness/stickiness rig and a dried spaghetti flexure rig. All Stable Micro Systems' products can be custom-made according to individual specification.

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS UNVEILS NEW TEST FOR CHEESE AT FIE 2007

Stable Micro Systems, North Hall, stand E55, Food ingredients Europe, 30 October - 1 November, ExCel, London, UK

OCTOBER 2007

Cheese Extensibility Rig

Stable Micro Systems, the leading manufacturer of texture analysis instrumentation, will launch its new Cheese Extensibility Rig at this year's Food ingredients Europe. Designed to scientifically evaluate the stretchability of cheese, such as mozzarella, this Community Registered Design helps food manufacturers gauge the consumer appeal of cheese used in toppings, sauces and snack foods.

The extensibility of cheese is an important textural characteristic in a wide range of food applications - in particular, pizza. Freezing, shredding, thawing and even cooking cheese can have a significant impact on its textural characteristics. Reduced-fat products also display very different characteristics compared to full-fat versions. All of this may result in a texture with undesirable mouthfeel. Previously, one of the most common ways to test the stretchability of cheese was to manually lift it with a fork and assess the force required to stretch it, as well as the length to which it stretches. This method is inherently subjective and unreliable.

Responding to the need for an objective, repeatable test method for cheese, Stable Micro Systems developed its Cheese Extensibility Rig. Used in conjunction with a TA.XTplus texture analyser, the rig comprises a microwavable vessel, sample retainer and double-sided fork probe. The cheese is cut into small cubes and then microwaved in the vessel until molten. The sample retainer is slotted into the vessel, which is securely fastened to the base of the texture analyser. After the fork probe is attached, the arm of the texture analyser pulls the fork upwards through the molten cheese and Exponent software measures the force required to stretch the cheese and the distance to breakpoint. Typical results show that the longer the distance, the stretchier the cheese.

For repeatability and replication of consumer experience, a PT100 temperature probe may be used to monitor the temperature of a sample. The test can then be programmed to start when a chosen target temperature is attained.

The innovative components of the rig have been produced using new rapid prototyping techniques, which uses advanced direct laser sintering technologies that quickly generate complex three-dimensional objects directly from computer-based models devised by Computer Aided Design (CAD). This method is particularly useful for the creation of complex or customer-specific components and results in robust, high-quality fixtures that can be produced rapidly according to need.

Stable Micro Systems' Cheese Extensibility Rig is the latest addition to the company's comprehensive range of texture analysis instrumentation for the food industry. Other tests include the analysis of bread softness, dough stickiness, yoghurt consistency and the spreadability of fats. Experts will be on stand to demonstrate the capabilities of the company's testing instrumentation and discuss the wide possibilities for tailor-made texture analysis solutions.

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS LAUNCHES NEW TEST FOR HARD GELS

AUGUST 2007

Capsule Loop Tensile Rig

Stable Micro Systems, expert in the physical characterisation of medical products, has developed an innovative new test method for the pharmaceutical industry. The Capsule Tensile Rig measures the force required to split one half of a hard gel capsule. This allows manufacturers to investigate the effects of certain fillings on the capsule shell and identify changes that may impact their stability and long-term performance.

The simplified manufacture process of hard gelatine capsules and their ability to withstand higher filling temperatures is attractive to many manufacturers. Yet, the introduction of certain types of liquid, such as hydrophilic solvents, to hard capsules can often affect the mechanical properties of the shell, causing them to become brittle or soften. If the texture of a capsule is compromised, it may not be able to withstand handling and storage, resulting in fillings leaking from the capsule.

     

As effects are likely to be progressive, only displaying very small changes initially, compressive tests are often limited in their ability to adequately distinguish the anomalies. Stable Micro Systems' Capsule Tensile Rig is designed to help manufacturers identify subtle degradation, providing valuable information which can be used to avoid subsequent capsule failure. For example, manufacturers can identify the effect of liquid filling on the strength and stability of capsules and therefore reformulate liquid type or capsule accordingly.

Prior to testing, the filling of the capsule is removed and the empty shell is mounted to a separating rod fixture on the TA.XTplus texture analyser. Vertical movement of the upper rod is then applied until the capsule is split apart, while Exponent software records the force required to do so. This test highlights three important parameters; elastic stiffness (if a linear region on the graph is present), tensile force and elongation at break point. A reduction in elastic stiffness and tensile strength occurs when capsules become softer and therefore show a tendency to fail.

Stable Micro Systems' unique Capsule Tensile Rig is the latest addition to its extensive range of precision-engineered fixtures for the pharmaceutical sector. Other test methods include the assessment of tablet and gel strength, tablet coating adhesion force and blister pack integrity. All products can be tailor-made according to individual specification.

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS HELPS OUT IN A STICKY SITUATION

APRIL 2007

Flexible Substrate Clamp

Confectionery manufacturers can now evaluate and improve the functionality of sweet wrappers, thanks to an innovative new test from Stable Micro Systems. The Wrapper Release test provides an accurate analysis of the difficulty required for consumers to remove confectionery wrapping. The results obtained allow manufacturers to select or alter packaging materials to allow for an effortless consumer experience.

A large proportion of boiled sweets and chewy candies are presented in individually wrapped pieces, due to their adhesive nature. The wrapping must be of a unique, non-stick quality to allow it to contain and protect the product, without being problematic to remove. Materials that adhere tightly to the product will split and tear on removal - leading to consumer frustration. The Wrapper Release test will allow manufacturers to develop and select the ideal packaging material for their product, optimising the consumer's experience.

The innovatively designed Wrapper Release rig, used in conjunction with the TA.XTplus texture analyser, incorporates a multi-slot plate and a clamping fixture. A large, rectangular sample of the confectionery product is placed on the underside of the multi-slot plate, while the wrapping material is attached to the upper fixture. During the test, the arm of the texture analyser brings the attached wrapping material down into each hole so that the wrapper repeatedly contacts and withdraws from the product.

The maximum force required to withdraw from the product is recorded, providing a measure of the adhesiveness of the material to the confectionery. For optimum performance, as low a force as possible would be the target. Using the results obtained, manufacturers can identify any issues with current or proposed wrapping materials and make changes accordingly.

The Wrapper Release rig is the latest addition to a wide range of innovative instruments from Stable Micro Systems for the assessment of adhesive products. Other tests include the measurement of peel strength, extrudability, hardness, elongation and 'quick stick' of products, such as labels, sealants, tapes and pastes.

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS LAUNCHES UNIQUE HAIR TESTING DEVICE

APRIL 2007

Stable Micro Systems has developed a revolutionary new test for the hair care industry. The innovative Hair Combing Rig allows manufacturers of shampoos, conditioners and smoothing agents to evaluate the 'combability' of treated hair samples, enabling scientific assessment of their products' efficacy. Used in conjunction with the TA.XTplus texture analyser, the new rig comprises a unique mechanical function that allows continuous combing in order to replicate consumer action. The results produced can be used to substantiate claims of 'improved manageability' and reduced breakage.

Many hair care products are marketed on their ability to de-tangle hair and eliminate the difficulties associated with brushing and combing. Advertising and sales promotion will encourage consumers to try a product, but to ensure repeat purchase the product must live up to its claims. Using Stable Micro Systems' Hair Combing Rig, manufacturers can perform 'before and after' tests that will accurately assess the effectiveness of their products, to allow product optimisation.

When performing a hair combing test, the Hair Combing Rig is positioned on the TA.XTplus texture analyser and the supported length of hair is held vertically, near to the comb. When instructed, the arm of the TA.XTplus brings the comb down through the hair, recording the necessary force as it moves. At the end of a stroke, the comb is mechanically disengaged and moves back to its starting position to begin the next combing cycle.

Both wet and dry hair samples can be tested, depending on the product attribute that is under analysis. High forces indicate that consumers would experience difficulty when combing, while comparatively low forces reflect improved manageability. Use of an automated data analysis macro would also provide additional properties such as tangle location and fixative 'brush-out'.

This fixture is one in a range that is precision engineered by Stable Micro Systems for the testing of hair care products. Other test methods can analyse properties such as the consistency of shampoos and conditioners, the hardness and stickiness of hair waxes and the tackiness of hair fixatives, amongst others. All of the uniquely structured attachments are designed for use with a TA.XTplus texture analyser. Stable Micro Systems' technical experts can custom design instrument fixtures according to individual specifications.

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS MAKES THE GRADE AT LONDON'S LEADING FASHION COLLEGE

DECEMBER 2006

Staff and students at The London College of Fashion (LCF) have awarded top marks to texture expert, Stable Micro Systems. Taking fashion research to the next level, LCF has installed a texture analyser, which is now playing a pivotal role in the college curriculum. LCF has praised Stable Micro Systems for its excellent technical support and the unique testing abilities of the instrument and its diverse attachments.

LCF's Cosmetic Science Laboratory acquired Stable Micro Systems' texture analyser with the help of a Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF) grant. Since being installed, it has been a key part of students' research. Using fixtures such as the flat-ended cylinder probe, lipstick break rig and spreadability rig, future cosmetic scientists are able to perform a wide variety of tests, ranging from consistency of gels, creams, and lotions, to lipstick strength and the spreadability of cosmetic emollients.

The acquisition of the texture analyser has given students the opportunity to learn a new range of investigative skills and gain a unique insight into materials analysis. Reproducible results allow students and staff to incorporate accurate scientific data into their assignments, enabling the creation of credible research projects that are published in journals worldwide.

Thanks to the success of working with Stable Micro Systems' texture analyser during her own post-doctoral research, LCF's Head of Science, Dr. Danka Tamburic spearheaded the decision to purchase the instrument. "We wanted to expand our ability to analyse the physico-chemical characteristics of the cosmetic materials that are used so widely in the cosmetic and fashion industries," explains Dr. Tamburic. "Having had such a good experience with Stable Micro Systems' instrument during my work in previous institutions, it was the only option.

"With the help of texture analysis instrumentation, students in fashion-related areas are able to take their research one step further. We're already looking forward to implementing more tests in the future."

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NEW BREAD V SQUEEZE RIG

DECEMBER 2006

Bread V Squeeze Rig

There are few things as wonderful as a slice of fresh bread.  The freshness of bread is a major factor in consumer satisfaction and squeezing or smelling of bread loaves is one method you commonly see while shopping.

It is universally acknowledged that consumers test bread by squeezing the loaf when choosing which loaf to purchase.  The most common exercise being that of squeezing between the thumb and opposing fingers in a 'palmer grasp'.

The TA.XTplus texture analyser is frequently used in an imitative manner to reproduce a test which is the same (or similar) to that performed in real life. As such, Stable Micro Systems have now introduced a Bread 'V Squeeze' Rig for the assessment of loaf freshness of sliced or un-sliced loaves.

Rounded 'fingers' positioned at an angle representing the typical squeezing action are attached to the arm of the texture analyser and a compression test is performed on the packaged or unpackaged loaf. The force to compress the loaf is measured and a post-test calculation provides an assessment of loaf springiness. This is used as an indication of freshness - the lower the force and higher the value of springiness the fresher the loaf. The texture analyser is currently able to perform the AACC standard method for bread firmness which measures the force required to compress two bread slices to 25% of their height. The Bread V Squeeze Rig offers simplicity, speed and ruggedness by the fact that the loaf requires no sample preparation and this non-destructive freshness assessment can be determined within the packaging as is most commonly performed in store.

This rig enhances the tests currently in use with a Texture Analyser in the assessment of bakery products. Other tests include the measurement of bread toughness, dough stickiness, dough extensibility and general  'springiness' assessment of muffins, doughnuts and cakes.

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CUTTING EDGE SYRINGE TESTING RIG FROM STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS

OCTOBER 2006

Syringe Testing Rig

Stable Micro Systems, expert in the physical characterisation of pharmaceutical and medical products, has added a new Syringe Testing Rig to its extensive range of fixtures. Operated in conjunction with the highly successful TA.XTplus texture analyser, the innovative attachment effectively measures the aspiration force of filled syringe pistons. Using Stable Micro Systems' Exponent software, the Syringe Testing Rig guarantees accurate, repeatable results, that enable syringe manufacturers to identify problems and produce safe, user-friendly products.

Syringes are used in hospitals, surgeries and homes around the world on a daily basis, and for a multitude of purposes. Successful administration, as well as comfortable receipt of the material under the skin, rely on the effective tracking of the syringe piston within its outer tube. By testing the ease with which an injectable solution is expressed, manufacturers are able to optimise usability and patient comfort, while guaranteeing quality control and product safety.

Prior to testing, the syringe is held securely in place by a locking insert, which is easily adjusted up to a diameter of 40mm and accommodates a wide range of syringe shapes and sizes. A flat probe, connected to the arm of the TA.XTplus, exerts pressure on the syringe piston, measuring its resistance to compression. Using Exponent software, a mean force is produced in graph form to provide an average measure of the ease with which the syringe is depressed and fluids are discharged. The universal design of the Syringe Testing Rig also allows manufacturers to determine the force required to remove the plunger from the syringe, thus emulating the ease with which the syringe piston is withdrawn.

Stable Micro Systems' new rig is just one of a wide range of precision-engineered fixtures that guarantee competent analysis of pharmaceutical products and materials. Additional test methods assess characteristics such as mucoadhesion, tablet and gel strength, and metered dose inhaler performance. All Stable Micro Systems' products can be custom-made according to individual specification.

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS LAUNCHES USER WEB-NETWORKS

SEPTEMBER 2006

Texture analysis expert Stable Micro Systems has launched an exciting new web facility for its customers. The company's internet site, www.stablemicrosystems.com, is now home to sophisticated 'User Network Pages', which will allow users to develop contacts and share information in a controlled forum. To date, network pages have been constructed for three of Stable Micro Systems' key instruments; the Dough Inflation System, Acoustic Envelope Detector and Dough & Gluten Extensibility Rig.

Registered users of the Networks will benefit from a number of exclusive access areas, providing published research papers, operation tips and information on the latest news and developments. 'Frequently Asked Questions' will be regularly updated to offer an immediate response to typical queries. For more complex questions, or simply to share their experiences, users will be invited to write a 'Letter to the Editor'. A full member list will provide short synopses of all users, facilitating interaction and the development of useful contacts.

In addition, Network members will have access to 'product research champions' - a group of external experts appointed by Stable Micro Systems to offer advice, product and data analysis training and independent consultancy on a specific fixture.

Users of the Dough Inflation System will have the support of Bogdan Dobraszczyk, who recently received the Scott Blair award for his outstanding contribution to rheology and texture. Professor Malcolm Povey, whose work in the area of food crunchiness has been widely publicised, will be on hand for users of the Acoustic Envelope Detector. For the Keiffer Dough and Gluten Extensibility Rig, customers will have the expert advice of Dr. Rolf Kieffer himself.

Customers who wish to enter one of the Networks should visit www.stablemicrosystems.com and click on 'REGISTER'. 

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PEELING GOES UNIVERSAL

JULY 2006

Peel rig

A wide variety of containers are sealed with a peel-off lid, which must withstand handling, shipping and storage without fail. These products include beverage, foods, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, electronic components. The performance of these seals is always quality critical, frequently important for user-friendliness and in the majority of cases it is critical for safety. When designing containers a balance must be found between achieving a strong effective seal that prevents product contamination but at the same time is easy to peel back.

Stable Micro Systems has made significant improvements to its previous design of peel rig to evaluate the quality and strength of container seals and adhesive bonds. The new peel rig consists of a multi-position platform which is adjustable to allow the container to be held at 0, 45 and 90 degrees. The platform is positioned on the base of the Texture Analyser and screwed securely into position to suit the container. An adjustable rubber strap has been incorporated to accommodate different sized containers and multiple shapes.  When attached to the peel tab of the container, a low profile peel clip and post maximise the peel length for use on a standard height Texture Analyser.

This fixture is one of a wide range of fixtures which is precision engineered by Stable Micro Systems for the testing of packaging and packaging materials using a TA.XTplusor TA.HDplus Texture Analyser.

In combination with Exponent software the appropriate test fixture produces fast, accurate results for comparing batches in quality control, product development programmes in packaging and adhesive research. Additional test examples include box crushing, tape peeling, and general tensile strength measurements. For customers with special requirements, Stable Micro Systems can custom design instrument fixtures according to an individual specification.

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS ANALYSES ABRASIVES

APRIL 2006

Stable Micro Systems has developed a new test for assessing the effectiveness of abrasive sheet materials. The innovative Abrasive Test Rig analyses the frictional properties of a wide range of materials such as sandpaper, dental abrasive strips and flexible nail files, enabling manufacturers to highlight strengths, weaknesses and variations in product lines and materials. It is used in conjunction with the company's TA.XTplus or TA.HDplus heavy duty texture analysers and Exponent software.

Abrasive materials are widely used across a variety of industries for polishing, grinding, honing and other similar processes. The efficacy of these materials relies on their frictional properties, which can be calculated as the force required to draw the material across a given surface. Assessment of these properties will allow manufacturers to evaluate the suitability of their products for a specific use. The test results will also highlight differences between grades or brands of abrasive materials.

Prior to performing the test, a sample of the abrasive material is held in place in a self-tightening grip. As the test is carried out, the arm of the TA.XTplus or TA.HDplus draws the sample under and around a cylinder at 90 degrees and the force required to pull the material is recorded. The cylinder material is customer-specific according to the substrate over which the sample is required to abrade.  Exponent software is then employed to analyse the multi-peak force profiles obtained and apply special calculations to evaluate the frictional properties of the material. For coarse samples, a wider fluctuating force band will be recorded, while for the finer materials, a narrower force band can be expected.

As well as providing an accurate measurement of the frictional properties of the material, the results recorded can also be used to evaluate the stick/slip characteristics of the abrasive sample. This can be achieved by calculating the force difference between the maximum and minimum peaks obtained.

The Abrasive Test Rig is the newest addition to Stable Micro Systems' comprehensive range of testing instrumentation. 

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FRESH 'YOUNG' THINKING FROM STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS

MARCH 2006

Stable Micro Systems has announced the appointment of Dr Lisa Young as applications engineer, assisting in the development of new tests and attachments for the food, pharmaceutical, packaging, industrial materials, automotive and other manufacturing industries. A graduate in materials engineering, Dr Young recently completed an engineering doctorate during which she spent two years working as a research engineer at her sponsor, Ford Motor Company. Based at Stable Micro Systems' headquarters in Surrey, UK, she will drive forward new innovations in texture and materials testing.

A specialist in adhesives and adhesive joint testing, Dr Young will work on expanding the comprehensive range of analytical instruments already available for these sectors, while bringing fresh ideas to texture analysis in food. Another important part of her role will be to maintain the excellent level of technical support for Stable Micro Systems' customers.

Commenting on the new appointment, Mark Proto, managing director at Stable Micro Systems, said, "We are delighted to welcome Lisa onto the team. She's an incredibly bright individual and already has some good ideas. A big part of her role will be to assist our customers with technical queries and in developing customised tests. She'll be a great asset to the company and our customers."

Stable Micro Systems is a leading designer and manufacturer of materials testing and texture analysis equipment. These instruments are already used in laboratories worldwide for testing in food, pharmaceuticals, personal care, paints and coatings and products in other manufacturing industries.

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WRIGLEY IS HOME TO STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS' 1000TH TA.XTPLUS

FEBRUARY 2006

Stable Micro Systems has just installed its 1000th TA.XTplus texture analyser at Wrigley Company Ltd., Plymouth, UK. Since its launch in 2004, global sales of Stable Micro Systems' advanced instrument have seen strong growth, reflecting the increasing importance of texture analysis in food product development and quality control. The success of this instrument pays testament to the company's pre-eminent position in food texture analysis.

Wrigley will be using its new TA.XTplus for quality control in a range of products. In addition to new product development and troubleshooting, the effects of formulation changes on chewing gum texture can also be assessed. Innovative attachments, including forward and back extrusion cells, craft knife blades and tensile grips, can be used to assess characteristics such as hardness, stickiness and stringiness.

The TA.XTplus texture analyser is a key instrument in Stable Micro Systems' comprehensive portfolio. It can be used in conjunction with a variety of attachments to enable the accurate analysis of products at a wide range of speeds. Other instruments include the TA.HDplus heavy duty texture analyser, which has a maximum force capacity of 750kg to provide high speed, high force, precision testing.

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TEXTURE TESTING IS FINE WITH STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS

JANUARY 2006

Film Support Rig

Stable Micro Systems has developed a new test for measuring the resilience of thin, film-like foods. The innovative Film Support Rig is used in conjunction with the company's TA.XTplus texture analyser to measure the burst strength and resilience of a wide range of food products including confectionery strips, leaf gelatine, nori, rice paper and wafer thin meats and cheeses. Using the new attachment, manufacturers can also assess the mechanical properties of sheet packaging materials such as shrink wrapping, plastic film, foil and bakery parchment.

Within the non-food sector this rig can be used to measure the burst strength and resilience of a variety of personal care and pharmaceutical products including plasters, bandages, polymer film, micropore tape, synthetic skin and latex, amongst others. This rig enables pharmaceutical manufacturers can assess the mechanical properties of their products during handling and employment, ensuring that they are adequately robust.

The Film Support Rig was initially developed in response to fast growth and increased competition in the breath freshening strip sector. Its versatility, however, allows wide application in a number of different markets. Thin products such as the increasingly popular mouth strips, wafer thin meats or rice paper must be strong enough to resist breakage when handled by the consumer. Using the Film Support Rig, manufacturers can identify weaknesses and adjust formulations accordingly.

Prior to performing the test, the sample is placed over a hole in a raised perspex platform. A top plate prevents the sample from slipping during testing. The test is then carried out as the arm of the TA.XTplus brings a 5mm stainless steel ball probe down into the aperture. The maximum force to rupture the product is recorded and is referred to as burst strength.

The resilience and relaxation properties of the sample can also be measured. Resilience can be assessed by depressing the surface to a chosen distance before retracting the ball probe. The property is calculated using a ratio of the work of compression and work of withdrawal.  Similarly, relaxation can be measured with the addition of a hold period within the test to allow the product's recovery to be evaluated. Both these properties broaden the application of the Film Support Rig. Burst strength, resilience and relaxation are important factors in determining the mechanical properties of a product, allowing manufacturers to optimize product structure and formulation.

The Film Support Rig is the newest addition to Stable Micro Systems' comprehensive range of testing instrumentation. 

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SQUEEZY-PEASY EXTRUSION FROM STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS

SEPTEMBER 2005

Tube Sachet Extruision Rig

Stable Micro Systems has announced the launch of its new Sachet/Tube Extrusion Rig - a device which quantifies the force required to extrude the contents of sachet and tube style packaging. Designed for use with the TA.XTplus texture analyser, the innovative attachment allows food manufacturers to gauge the ease of removal and application of products such as sauces, pastes and purées.

 

Ready-made convenience sauces and condiments are often produced in sachet or tube portions for quick and easy use, as well as to facilitate long-term storage. Removal of the contents relies on the consumer's ability to squeeze the packaging, and on the consistency of the product, assuming the aperture of the tube/sachet remains constant. By testing the force required to extrude the contents of a sachet or tube at regular intervals over a long period of time, product developers can analyse changes in a product's consistency throughout its shelf-life and adapt formulations accordingly. The new attachment also enables manufacturers to assess the suitability of packaging material and its construction.

Stable Micro Systems' new rig positions the product vertically between two rollers, clamping the closed end with a grip at the top. The grip then pulls the sachet/tube upwards through the rollers, forcing the contents out. The higher the force recorded during this test, the more difficulty a consumer would experience in squeezing out the required portion. As the contents' consistency is fundamental to effective extrusion, the new instrument can help manufacturers create optimum product formulations.

The Sachet/Tube Extrusion Rig is the newest addition to Stable Micro Systems' comprehensive range of testing instrumentation. It can be used to produce accurate analysis of a wide range of foods including condiments, ready-made sauces, soft cheeses, pastes and purées, as well as non-food products.

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SACHET/TUBE EXTRUSION IN PHARMACEUTICAL TESTING

AUGUST 2005

Tube Sachet Extrusion Rig

Stable Micro Systems has announced the launch of its new Sachet/Tube Extrusion Rig - a device which quantifies the force required to extrude the contents of tube and sachet style packaging. Designed for use with the TA.XTplus texture analyser, the innovative attachment allows manufacturers to gauge the ease of removal and application of products such as ointments, creams and gels.

 

A large proportion of pharmaceutical, cosmetic and personal care products are often produced in sachet or tube portions for quick and convenient use, as well as to facilitate long-term storage. Removal of the contents relies on the consumer's ability to squeeze the packaging, and on the consistency of the product, assuming the aperture of the tube/sachet remains constant. By testing the force required to extrude the contents of a sachet or tube at regular intervals over a long period of time, product developers can analyse changes in a product's consistency throughout its shelf-life and adapt formulations accordingly. The new attachment also enables manufacturers to assess the suitability of packaging material and its construction.

Stable Micro Systems' new rig positions the product vertically between two rollers, clamping the closed end with a grip at the top. The grip then pulls the sachet/tube upwards through the rollers, forcing the contents out. The higher the force recorded during this test, the more difficulty a consumer would experience in squeezing out the required amount.

As the contents' consistency is fundamental to effective extrusion, the new instrument can help manufacturers create optimum product formulations. 

The Sachet/Tube Extrusion Rig is the newest addition to Stable Micro Systems' comprehensive range of testing instrumentation. It can be used to produce accurate analysis of a wide range of pharmaceutical, cosmetic and personal care products including ointments, lotions, gels and creams as well as toothpaste, shampoo and make-up.

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS LAUNCHES AUTOMATED ANALYSIS

DECEMBER 2004

Stable Micro Systems has launched a new automated texture analysis device to aid increased productivity and improved cost-effectiveness where higher volume, repetitive quality testing is required. The system's unique modular design comprises a robotic arm and specimen grippers, as well as a probe-cleaning unit. Specially designed for use with the company's TA.XTplus and TA.HDplus texture analysers, it is suitable for testing a wide range of food ingredients and finished products.

Stable Micro Systems' innovative automation system permits continuous monitoring, with little or no operator involvement. This not only results in a speedier testing process and more accurate results, by eliminating human error, but also allows skilled technicians to focus on more sophisticated tasks.

The system links to Stable Micro Systems' Exponent software, which executes all instructions to automatically analyse each specimen and generate accurate, reproducible results. The specialist software sends a message to the robotic arm and adaptable vessel gripper to place the sample in the test area for analysis. Once the testing is complete, the company's unique automated probe-cleaning device is activated, moving the probe into a cleaning unit located on or near the texture analyser. Multi-angled jets of washing solution are triggered to thoroughly remove all residue and compressed air is released to dry the probe in preparation for the next sample.

Jo Smewing, applications manager at Stable Micro Systems, said: "Our newly-developed automated system has been designed specifically to meet customer-defined test requirements. It allows manufacturers to increase productivity and reduce costs during quality control and testing procedures and provides reliable and repeatable data for a range of applications."

Stable Micro Systems' windows-based Exponent software, linked to the company's texture analysers and automated device, conducts standard as well as more complex tests. It enables configuration parameters such as test speed, degree of deformation and data acquisition monitoring to be set. In addition, the software's enhanced security module offers advanced security and reporting features. Restricted access and improved data logging and protection have been incorporated and data is stored automatically for comprehensive analysis at a later stage.

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TEXTURE ANALYSIS HITS THE MAINSTREAM

NOVEMBER 2004

Stable Micro Systems' Acoustic Envelope Detector provides a quick and easy method of collecting and analysing the noise released by crunchy products as they are deformed.

Stable Micro Systems is proving that texture analysis is not just for technologists after the use of its Acoustic Envelope Detector by top biscuit manufacturer Bahlsen has sparked massive media interest.

The biscuit company has been inundated with visits from leading media companies NDR, dpa, ddp, RTL, SAT 1 and 3 Sat following an article published in news magazine Spiegel detailing tests conducted by Bahlsen to analyse the 'crunch' made by its products. As consumers perceive a sharp, crisp sound emitted when biting into a biscuit to indicate its freshness, Bahlsen has been using Stable Micro Systems' acoustic emissions measurement technology as a key part of product development and quality control.

Interest in the testing carried out by Bahlsen's research and development team has resulted in regional, national and even international media coverage, spanning print, radio, television and the internet. As well as interviews with R & D Manager Heinz-Dieter Lechte, the activity has included filming of the tests as they are performed on Bahlsen's famous biscuits at the company's headquarters in Hanover.

Stable Micro Systems' Acoustic Envelope Detector is used in conjunction with the company's TA.XTplus texture analyser to quickly and easily analyse acoustic emissions and quantify product texture. A highly sensitive directional microphone acquires the acoustic data while the texture analyser itself measures force, distance and time as the biscuit breaks. The procedure gives Bahlsen the confidence that the sounds emitted by its products will maximise consumer appeal.

Ralf Winopal from Winopal Forschungsbedarf GmbH, Stable Micro Systems' distributor in Germany, said: "Texture analysis has become essential for product development and quality control. The media interest in Bahlsen and the Acoustic Envelope Detector shows that everyone, from scientists and technologists to the general public, can get excited by it."

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ADVANCED ADHESIVES TESTING FROM STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS

OCTOBER 2004

Stable Micro Systems has incorporated a library of international standards for measuring adhesion into its Exponent software. Using an automated set-up facility, the system tests according to AFERA , FINAT  and PSTC  approved methods amongst others, facilitating analysis at the click of a button. This allows manufacturers to increase the productivity, accuracy and reliability of testing in the food, adhesives, pharmaceutical and other manufacturing industries.

 

Designed for use with the TA.XTplus and TA.HDplus texture analysers, the Exponent software incorporates a pre-written macro to automate data analysis, as well as a spreadsheet for results display. This allows user-friendly and speedy testing. Further features recently added to the software include strict multi-level user security and audit trails for complete traceability of data, video playback and acoustic envelope detection.

Typical adhesive tests, which can be carried out using the texture analysers at forces up to 750kg include 90 degree peel adhesion, loop tack measurements, tension, compression, shear at ambient temperature and unwind force. Users can also determine the elongation and tensile strength of adhesive tapes and the release force from backing material and surfaces. Stable Micro Systems offers tests customised to manufacturers' requirements, for example the company's peel strength rigs can be used for testing packaging seals such as yoghurt pot lids. This is vital for food manufacturers looking to create a strong seal that prevents food contamination, whilst maintaining ease of removal.

Jo Smewing, applications manager at Stable Micro Systems, said: "Incorporating the international standard adhesive testing methods into our software means we are able to provide quick, objective and repeatable adhesives testing - ensuring manufacturers optimise product performance."

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PROBING FOR A MULTIPLE TESTING METHOD

MAY 2004

Stable Micro Systems has developed a Multiple Puncture Probe which accurately quantifies the firmness of foods with variable textures, from fruit and vegetables to thick-cut marmalade and chocolate chip ice-cream. Using several testing pins, attached to the TA.XTplus texture analyser, food manufacturers can test non-uniform products containing particulates of different size, shape, structure and levels of hardness, to provide repeatable results.

Testing diverse elements within one product, such as ice-cream containing randomly-distributed fruit chunks, is not only tricky but often results in low reproduceability and misleading data. It may show wide variances between maximum and minimum force resistance, depending on whether the probe reaches a piece of fruit or ice-cream first. By penetrating the product in several areas at the same time, the Multiple Puncture Probe produces an averaging effect and is therefore more representative.

The testing method also offers flexibility. When forces are created above the capacity of the load cell being used in the TA.XTplus texture analyser, the operator can adapt the test by removing pins and reducing the contact area, if necessary.  However, the more probes that are used in the test, the more reproduceable the results.

The Multiple Puncture Probe can be attached to the TA.XTplus or TA.XT2i texture analysers - part of Stable Micro Systems' comprehensive range of testing instrumentation.

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SECURE YOUR INFORMATION IN EXPONENT SOFTWARE

APRIL 2004

Developed in accordance with the FDA CFR21 Part 11 guidelines, the EXP/ESM Enhanced Security Module for Exponent software - the dedicated software for use with the TA.XTplus and TA.HDplus Texture Analysers - has been introduced to provide electronic record and signature management.

It offers the user features to improve the security of their and their customers' information, as well as facilitating continuous monitoring and tracking of results and records.  Features include an encrypted log-on password of at least seven characters, combined with password protection for validation of calibration checks.  In addition, multipe hierarchical levels of user profiles are available and electronic signatures can be used for record certification.

Another important feature is the ability to copy and print out audit trails, allowing clear visibility to trace results and records.  The module also provides protective security measures to detect and notify any attempt at unauthorised use of passwords and/or identity codes during the audit.

Main Features:

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t-TEST INCLUDED IN EXPONENT SOFTWARE

APRIL 2004

Over the years several customers have indicated how beneficial it would be to have the addition of the t-test within our results files.  The t-test analysis assesses whether the means of two groups are statistically different from each other. This statistical calculation has now been incorporated into Exponent (versions 2.0.0.4 and higher) and will come as a particular delight to all of those users who have until now had to perform this calculation within Excel.

This feature highlights the constant evolution of our products from customer suggestion to broaden certain areas and enhance the software functionality.

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ISO 9001:2000 CERTIFICATION GRANTED

APRIL 2004

Stable Micro Systems, the world leader in texture analysis equipment, has recently achieved ISO 9001:2000 Certification through the accredited body of SGS. The internationally recognised ISO 9001:2000 standard has been designed to result in continual improvement and customer satisfaction and replaces all current ISO certifications which expired in December 2003.

ISO registration is a measure of reliability, consistency and commitment to quality supply. ISO 9001:2000 adheres to the original manufacturing and quality requirements of ISO 9001 but has now expanded its guidelines to encompass the role of communications between an organization and its customers. It defines the elements of organisation required by a company to achieve and demonstrate the necessary skills required to quality manange their activities, products or services, i.e. Managment responsibility, Resource Management, Product Realisation, Measurement, Analysis and Improvment.

ISO 9001:2000 certification requires a lengthy and rigorous process that includes detailed systems and management analysis through documentation as well as internal and external audits. Stable Micro Systems developed and implemented a comprehensive program that assures compliance to ISO standards in all areas which will inspire the confidence of potential customers.

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NEW HEAVY DUTY TEXTURE ANALYSER SPEEDS TO MARKET

OCTOBER 2003

TA.HDplus Texture Analyser

A new high speed, high force, heavy duty texture analyser - the TA.HDplus - has been launched by Stable Micro Systems, one of the world's leading designers and manufacturers of texture analysis equipment. With a maximum force capacity of 750kg (7.5kN), the TA.HDplus is the most powerful and flexible texture analyser available for the food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and adhesives industries.

The high resolution functionality of the established heavy duty texture analyser has been enhanced in the TA.HDplus to allow for minimum speeds of 0.01mm/second. Higher test speeds - up to 20mm/second - can also now be achieved with the new model. Its high speed capabilities will be of particular interest when matching specific operational conditions or imitating real life situations. Speeds can also vary in proportion to the height of the sample, so products can be tested at a constant strain rate in compression or tension.

For improved functionality, a number of other design features have been incorporated into the TA.HDplus texture analyser. A simple keypad is integrated into the main body of the analyser to save desk space. In addition, peripheral instruments can now be plugged into the instrument for multi-channel data acquisition. This enables other measurement devices, such as temperature and humidity monitors or acoustic envelope modules, to be used in conjunction with the TA.HDplus so that data can be simultaneously collected.

Increased flexibility can be achieved through the multi-stage test programming facilities as the user can now define individual arm movement sequences at various speeds and distances. This unique feature allows the most complex test protocols to be established. In addition, the texture analyser is no longer limited to fixed library tests.

The new TA.HDplus texture analyser uses a fully integrated fourth generation Exponent 32-bit software to provide consistently accurate and quantifiable textural data. This has a number of advantages:

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS DEMONSTRATES TA.XTplus WITH NEW UPGRADE PATH AT FiE 2003

NOVEMBER 2003

Stable Micro Systems, one of the world's leading designers and manufacturers of texture analysis equipment, is presenting its state of the art TA.XTplus texture analyser which boasts its new-generation 32-bit software, Texture Exponent. By upgrading to the TA.XTplus, existing TA.XT2i customers can benefit from the improved electronics and mechanics of the new texture analyser, as well as the additional features offered by the innovative software package. Benefits include higher operating speeds and reduced maintenance costs, combined with more advanced and totally flexible test options for food texture analysis.

With the innovative TA.XTplus and Texture Exponent software, more precise product analysis can be achieved at a range of speeds (between 0.01mm/s and 20mm/s), due to additional technical specifications. The high-resolution functionality from the established TA.XT2i model has been incorporated into the new instrument as standard.

Another feature of the TA.XTplus is the ability for operators to develop and write their own unique test procedure or 'sequence'. Using a Sequence Wizard, the 32-bit software offers user-friendly navigation to produce custom-specific test methods. The number of sequences and their complexity is limitless, as they are not restricted to standard library tests.

Improved electronics and mechanics within the TA.XTplus, coupled with the software package, facilitate reduced maintenance costs for users through accurate reporting of errors and the ability to update the firmware via flash upgrading from the internet. With continuous modifications and improvements to the software, free updates are available by downloading from www.stablemicrosystems.com.

Extra features available in Texture Exponent include the provision of extended file names, enhanced calibration procedures and improved application help files. In addition, more defined layout and report options provide enhanced presentation of graphics and analysed results.

On show at Stable Micro Systems' stand is the TA.XTplus texture analyser with Texture Exponent, as well as the recently launched Powder Flow Analyser. The company is also showcasing a range of accessories for all sectors of the food industry. Technical staff are on hand to demonstrate all the tests and discuss texture analysis methods for the food manufacturing industry.

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VISUALISE THE BENEFITS OF TEXTURE ANALYSIS

APRIL 2003

Video Playback Indicator

Stable Micro Systems, one of the world's leading designers and manufacturers of materials testing equipment, has launched its revolutionary Video Playback Indicator. Attached to the TA.XTplus texture analyser, the new technology synchronises video recordings captured during a texture analysis experiment with the corresponding force-distance-time data. Ideal for testing crispy and crunchy foods, such as biscuits, breakfast cereals and fruit and vegetables, the new device helps manufacturers achieve a more accurate and detailed analysis of their products.

Visual elements of an experiment can be easily missed by the human eye due to the rapid speed of the test or to the complex breaking pattern of the sample. It can also prove difficult to interpret video recordings of an experiment after the test has taken place if they are not correlated with the graphical information collected during the test. The Video Playback Indicator enables manufacturers to play back each frame of a video recording with the corresponding point on the force-distance-time graph, so a more accurate interpretation of the test can be achieved.

The new device also helps manufacturers identify inconsistencies or irregularities in a test, as it may be difficult to recognise unusual or one-off factors by viewing force-distance-time or visual data alone. Testing the product at a later date, to iron out these inconsistencies, is often unfeasible due to the sample not being available or time limitations. Synchronising visual and graphical data using the Video Playback Indicator helps identify irregularities in test results without the need for re-evaluation, so misleading information could be eliminated from findings.

The Video Playback Indicator is attached to Stable Micro Systems' TA.XTplus texture analyser. As the TA.XTplus begins collecting data, a signal is transmitted to the Video Playback Indicator, prompting an LED light source. The display of this light is captured on the video recording of the test so, when replayed later, it indicates the beginning of the data capture. The video recording and graphical data are viewed by the Texture Exponent software supplied with the texture analyser. The frame showing the display of light can thus be matched electronically to the beginning of the force-distance-time curve, so enabling frame by frame synchronisation with the graphical data captured during the test.

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PATENT GRANTED FOR STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS' POWDER FLOW ANALYSER -BLADE PRINCIPLE

FEBRUARY 2003

Stable Micro Systems has been granted full US Patents for its innovative blade design that is incorporated into the recently-launched Powder Flow Analyser accessory for the TA.XT2i and TA.XTplus Texture Analysers.

The patented blade is a true helix and can be mathematically described, unlike the blades fitted to other powder measuring devices on the market. The helical blade naturally cuts through the column of powder being tested and negates the need for complex torque measuring systems.  Repeatably manufactured by CNC machining, it allows Stable Micro Systems to achieve very reproducible, and highly discriminating results from a reliable, simple and lost cost accessory. 

Commenting on the patent, Jim Walker, technical director at Stable Micro Systems, said: "The design of the blade is the single most important factor in achieving repeatable powder flow measurements. The non-helical blade used on other instruments is bent from a flat sheet and presents a large flat central area to the powder being tested.  It effectively compresses a column of powder beneath the blade during its travel path through the sample.  As a consequence, any axial force readings being taken are corrupted and these instruments are forced to rely on torque measurements because of the inadequacies of blade design."

Patents have also been applied for the rest of the world. 

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS ENDS TESTING TIMES FOR ELECTRONICS MANUFACTURERS

Stable Micro Systems, stand 3112, Hall 3, Interplas/Nepcon, NEC, Birmingham, UK, 

30 September - 4 October 2002

Stable Micro Systems, one of the world's leading designers and manufacturers of scientific physical test instrumentation, will be launching its innovative Resistance Conversion Unit at the NEC in September. The unit allows manufacturers to test the electrical resistance of a wide range of conductive materials when subjected to physical deformation. The performance of electronic switches can also be investigated, making the Resistance Conversion Unit suitable for a wide number of uses. Also on show will be the TA.HDplus and TA.XTplus instruments which can test the compressive and tensile characteristics of plastics, rubbers and sealants.

The Resistance Conversion Unit will be extremely valuable for manufacturers of polymers, adhesives, gaskets, coatings and other conductive products. It can measure electrical resistance between 0 and 2 ohms or between 0 and 20 ohms. Attached to Stable Micro Systems' TA.XTplus instrument, it gathers data at 500 measurements per second, making it one of the fastest and most accurate testing methods available. The results of the test are plotted in real time as graphs (force/resistance or distance/resistance) and can be analysed by proprietary software or exported for external analysis. The data acquired gives a useful indication of the performance of conductive products in electronic applications.

Stable Micro Systems' TA.HDplus and TA.XTplus instruments can be fitted with various attachments to enable plastics, sealant and rubber manufacturers to test the physical properties of samples. In addition to compression and tensile tests, the instruments can measure the flexibility of samples undergoing deformation on three or four point bend rigs. All tests can be carried out within temperature-controlled environments, allowing manufacturers to assess the impact of temperature on the performance of their products.

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS LAUNCHES POWDER FLOW ANALYSER

Stable Micro Systems, a leading designer and manufacturer of materials testing instrumentation, has launched its revolutionary Powder Flow Analyser. The new instrument is being hailed as industry's most accurate and reliable method of measuring the flow characteristics of dry and wet powders. It will help manufacturers avoid typical problems such as batch and source variation of ingredients, caking during storage, bridging in hoppers and sticking during production.

 

The Powder Flow Analyser can be used to assess any product capable of flow - not just free-flowing powders. Samples are conditioned at the beginning to eliminate any variations in loading, and the precision-engineered, patented blade is then rotated through the sample, causing "controlled flow". Sophisticated mixing and testing cycles enable users to test their products in realistic conditions. During a caking test, for instance, compaction of the sample forms a cake-like layer of powder which can then be analysed, giving a good indication of how the sample may flow out of a silo after prolonged storage.

Stable Micro Systems' Powder Flow Analyser is supplied with library tests so manufacturers can start testing quickly and conveniently after straightforward installation and calibration. Users can, however, fully program the instrument to carry out slicing, shearing, compressing, compacting, mixing and aerating cycles in any combination, and in any sequence. Test sequences can be repeated ad infinitum to maximise accuracy and repeatability.

Testing is possible with very small sample volumes, minimising both disruption and expense. These samples are placed in a borosilicate glass sample vessel; allowing users to monitor what is happening to the powder as the sample is displaced. During the test, axial force, time and distance are measured by a sensitive transducer and data is displayed and analysed in real time by 16 or 32 bit software. This allows manufacturers to test characteristics such as mixing kinetics, granule surface friction, resistance to compression and particle cohesion after compaction. The results from different samples can be ranked and compared to assess the impact of external conditions including batch or source variation, humidity and moisture content, surface properties, electrostatic charge and particle or granule size, shape and distribution.

The Powder Flow Analyser is supplied with a renowned texture analyser from Stable Micro Systems. The TA.XT2i and TA.XTplus instruments are already used in over 4000 laboratories worldwide for various texture analysis tests in food, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, personal care, paints and coatings and other manufacturing industries. By simply changing the attachments on the instrument, manufacturers can test semi-finished and finished products. In the food industry, tests on flour, sugar and additives can be followed by analysis of dough and other mixes, then finished products including confectionery and baked goods, meat and dairy products, cereals and snacks. In the pharmaceutical and personal care industries, tests on ingredients can be followed by analysis of finished products such as tablets and capsules, toothpaste and shaving foams. Analysis of compaction and relaxation of powder in a punch and die tabletting system is one such example.

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SOUND ADVICE FROM STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS

In response to demand from universities and commercial research departments, Stable Micro Systems, one of the world's leading providers of texture analysis equipment, has designed and launched its new Acoustic Envelope Detector. Used with the TA.XTplus texture analyser, the new instrument offers manufacturers a quick and easy method of collecpting and analysing the noise released by crispy products as they are deformed. Together with an instrument designed to measure force, distance and time, this innovation adds a new dimension to texture analysis and quality control.

An indicator of freshness and high quality, crispness is a pivotal factor in determining the appeal of crunchy and crispy products such as biscuits, cereals, crisps and hard varieties of fruit and vegetables. One of the most prominent characteristics of crunchy and crispy foods is the acoustic energy emitted upon their disintegration during chewing or mechanical testing.

For many years, academic institutes have attempted to analyse acoustic emissions to test product texture. Methods of analysis, however, have proven complicated and lengthy as data has been collected on huge files up to 2 megabytes in size. Using the new Acoustic Envelope Detector, acoustic data can now be analysed quickly and easily using small and manageable files in the region of 20KB per test.

Various other design features make the Acoustic Envelope Detector ideal for testing brittle products. A highly sensitive directional microphone, mounted close to the sample product, picks up only relevant high frequencies emitted by crispy foods and filters out those emitted by the texture analyser itself. Force, distance, time and acoustic data can be acquired at very high speeds of up to 500pps (data points per second) - an important feature when testing crispy products that break quickly. Acoustic and force curves can be viewed at the same time so that relationships between acoustic and force events can be easily identified.

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS PUMPS UP QA STANDARDS

Stable Micro Systems, one of the world's leading providers of texture analysis equipment, has announced the launch of an Annular Pumping Rig. The new rig measures the relative proportions of viscous behaviour and elastic behaviour in visco-elastic materials. Welcomed by food manufacturers using ingredients such as gelatine and pectin, the new addition to Stable Micro Systems' range allows existing users of TA.XT2i and TA.XTplus texture analysers to perform a well-established test, without the expense of purchasing a traditional rotational rheometer.

Visco-elastic materials exhibit both elastic (spring-like) and viscous (liquid-like) behaviours when subjected to stress or strain. Stable Micro Systems' new rig is ideal for studying the melting, setting and curing phenomena of these materials, such as gels and non-self-supporting materials. It works by measuring changes in force as a ribbed cylindrical probe follows a sinusoidally oscillating path through the sample held in a vessel.

The "frequency" (speed) of the oscillations plays an essential role in the test. Lower frequencies tend to favour viscous behaviour, as the sample is given time to flow past the probe, whereas high frequencies cause samples to behave more like solids. Similarly, temperature needs to be controlled and accurately measured, as it has a significant impact on the material's internal structure and mechanical properties. The temperature of the Annular Pumping Rig can be controlled by circulating water through the walls of the sample vessel. Unlike traditional rheometers, temperature can be measured both on the outer surface of the ribbed probe and on the inner surface of the vessel, giving important information on the temperature gradient within the gap.

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ARE BAKERS FULL OF HOT AIR?

At Food & Bake, Stable Micro Systems, the designer and manufacturer of world-leading texture analysis equipment for the food industry, will be demonstrating innovative new technology that allows manufacturers to optimise the structure and volume of baked goods. The new Constant Strain Inflation Rate test is performed on the TA.XTplus using the existing Dough Inflation System attachment, one of many to be used in the baking industry - including the Tortilla/Pastry Burst Rig, the Chen-Hoseney Dough Stickiness Cell, and the Kieffer Dough & Gluten Extensibility Rig.

The new Constant Strain Inflation Rate test enhances the functionality of the Dough Inflation System. Whereas previous tests have been limited to a set rate of inflation, the new facility enables the user to alter the inflation rate of the dough bubble as its volume changes. Evaluation of the dough bubble's large deformation extensional properties provides vital information on the stability of gas cells and gas retention during proving and baking - key factors in the structure and volume of the final product. The test is run at a constant temperature of 50°C, close to that achieved during the proving process of bread, which produces a more realistic indication of the dough's real baking performance.

The Constant Strain Rate Inflation function on the TA.XTplus texture analyser has already been employed as a major component of a recent LINK project (supported by HAFF / DEFRA under the Agro-Food Quality LINK programme). This project sought to determine the physical mechanisms responsible for the loss in gas retention in bread doughs at the end of baking, and their relationship to baking performance. Several academic institutions and key manufacturers in the baking industry were involved including Pillsbury, Unilever and United Biscuits.

Stable Micro Systems' technical and application staff will be available at the exhibition to discuss potential applications for the Constant Strain Inflation Rate facility and the company's wide range of fixtures and probes for the baking industry.

(The organisations involved in the LINK project were: the University of Reading - School of Food Biosciences, the University of Nottingham - Division of Food Sciences, the Institute of Arable Crops Research - Long Ashton, Amylum, Danone, Griffith Laboratories, Heygates, Pillsbury, Unilever, United Biscuits, Weston Research Laboratories and Stable Micro Systems.)

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A PLUS FOR TEXTURE ANALYSIS

Stable Micro Systems, Stand D160, Fi Europe, 5 - 7 November 2001, London, UK

Stable Micro Systems, the designer and manufacturer of world-leading texture analysis equipment for the food industry, is launching its new-generation texture analyser at FIE 2001. The new TA.XTplus Texture Analyser is extremely efficient, capable of high-speed testing and boasts a completely new comprehensive software package.

Various design features enhance the functionality of the TA.XTplus. A simple keypad has been integrated into the main body of the analyser to save desk space. The ability to plug in peripheral instruments has been incorporated into the design to provide multi-channel data acquisition. This allows for relevant test equipment to be used in conjunction with the TA.XTplus and their data simultaneously collected, such as temperature monitors to test dairy produce, and humidity monitors to test dry products - crackers and biscuits, for instance.

Modifications have been made to maximise the flexibility of the texture analyser. These include multi-stage test programming facilities so the user can define individual arm-movement sequences at various speeds and distances. This unique control feature enables the most complex test protocols to be established. As a result, the texture analyser is no longer limited to fixed library tests.

The speed range of the TA.XTplus has also been extended. The high-resolution functionality from the established TA.XT2iHR model has been incorporated into the new instrument as standard, allowing for a minimum speed of 0.01mm/s. High speed testing is also possible as a maximum speed of 40mm/s can be reached using 5kg and 25kg load cells. Speed can also alter in proportion to the height of the sample, so products can be tested at a constant strain rate.

The TA.XTplus uses a proprietary 32-bit software called Texture Exponent. This has several advantages:

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS BREAKING DOWN!

Stable Micro Systems, one of the world's leading providers of texture analysis equipment, has announced the launch of a new test cell designed to examine structural breakdown. The Multiple Extrusion Cell measures the consistency of solid or semi-solid samples during a test which mimicks manufacturing stress or mastication in the mouth. This gives the user valuable information regarding the quality of the final product, processing conditions and / or product texture perception during mastication.

Manufacturers from all sectors of the food industry, including pasta, meat, cheese, fats, ice cream and bakery products, stand to gain qualitative benefits from the Multiple Extrusion Cell. They can, for example, evaluate the rate and extent of the work softening of butter, which affects the texture of the finished product, or determine how easy it will be to chew a meat snack. Where high force and / or excessive time is needed to break the product down, it may be desirable to alter the recipe or production process.

Originally developed by the Food Science and Technology Department at TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute, and further optimised by Stable Micro Systems the Multiple Extrusion Cell addresses the shortcomings of previous test methods, which were either non-continuous (e.g. using a Kramer shear cell) or which allowed samples to slip or stick during the procedure.

The Cell consists of two cylinders, which fit inside each other and are fixed to the base of Stable Micro Systems' TA.XT2i and TA.HDplus texture analysers. The sample is placed in the inner cylinder, into which the piston, which has a flat, circular base, is inserted. The top of the inner cylinder is then sealed by a plug to prevent leakage. The space between the two cylinders is used to circulate water, which maintains a consistent temperature, ensuring accuracy. During the test, the piston moves up and down through a number of cycles; distance, force, speed or time can be decided by the user.

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EASY ADHESION ASSESSMENT

Stable Micro Systems, a leading global supplier of texture analysis equipment, has unveiled a novel group of tests to measure the adhesiveness of products such as sealing tapes, adhesive plasters and labels used in the pharmaceutical, food, medical and packaging sectors. Unlike many traditional adhesive tests, Stable Micro Systems' innovative approach assesses many adhesive parameters using only small samples. Objective and repeatable measurement can be used to highlight the molecular structure and performance of the adhesive, and helps manufacturers achieve critical but awkward textural properties for their products.

Adhesiveness (often referred to by consumers as 'stickiness') is key to perceived product quality, performance and effectiveness. Stable Micro Systems has optimised test procedures and equipment to ensure repeatability - adhesiveness can be influenced by many factors, including temperature, liner material, moisture level and repeated use. By matching adhesive performance to functional and consumer requirements, manufacturers can identify the ideal adhesive composition.

Tack, the most important determinant of the success of an adhesive bond, is assessed with a loop tack test or a probe tack test, using a stainless steel ball probe. In these tack tests, the "debonding strength" of the adhesive is determined by the force required to pull away the adhesive and the length of time this takes.

A number of common and established adhesive tests can be carried out using Stable Micro Systems' TA.XT2i texture analyser. A 180 degree peel test, usually used for packaging applications, can be performed using the recently-launched Peel Strength Test Rig. Other fixtures can be attached to the TA.XT2i to carry out 90 degree peel, "T" peel and drum peel tests. An adhesive indexing system has also been launched to allow multiple testing of one sample, highlighting variations within it, and giving an indication of its likely performance.

Data captured during the tests is presented as real-time graphs and allows detailed analysis of the compressive and tensile stress-strain behaviour of the adhesive. Users can obtain information about properties such as shear performance, the adhesive's molecular structure and the effects of temperature.

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KEEPING CEREALS CRISPY

Stable Micro Systems, the leading global designer of computer-controlled texture analysis equipment, has unveiled its newly-developed series of tests for the assessment of the textural qualities of breakfast cereals and cereal bars.

Breakfast cereals are prone to staling over time and become soggy if left in liquid for too long. The new tests aim to provide manufacturers with a method of measuring crispiness, which is a good indicator of the cereal freshness. In Stable Micro Systems' Ottawa Cell, flakes are compressed with a flat plunger. The Cell is unique as it has a watertight base, allowing the immersion of the cereal in a liquid, which can then be drained to allow testing to begin immediately.

This procedure reduces the likelihood of results being affected by sample disturbance and a delay in the commencement of the test due to sample transfer.

Buoyant demand for breakfast bars, particularly in the USA and UK, has prompted further developments by Stable Micro Systems. The three point bend rig, which is also on show, can be used to determine the break strength of cereal bars. The rig measures the force required to snap the sample, showing its hardness. Cereal bar manufacturers can also use the five-bladed Kramer Shear Cell to perform a "multiple cutting" test.

All the tests are carried out and analysed using the company's software, Texture Expert Exceed. This has been specially adapted to allow the calculation of numerous characteristics of typical "multi-peak" curves produced during cereals testing. These mechanisms are currently unique to Stable Micro Systems.

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TOUGH TORTILLAS?

Stable Micro Systems, the leading supplier of computer-controlled texture analysis equipment, has announced the launch of a testing rig for the rapidly-expanding tortilla industry. The "Burst Rig" is an attachment to the TA.XT2i texture analyser, now widely recognised as the industry standard. It allows accurate and reliable testing of tortilla stickiness and tensile strength: factors which play a pivotal role in processability and end-product quality.

Firmness and elastic properties are measured by clamping the tortilla within flat circular plates and driving a 2.5 cm spherical probe through the centre. The force and distance to break are measured by the Texture Expert Exceed™ software and used as indicators of tensile strength and ultimate failure properties.

The Burst Rig has been developed to meet the quality testing needs of the rising number of manufacturers in this sector. The wheat tortilla market is experiencing rapid growth in the United States and western Europe: it is expected to expand by at least 10% per annum for the next five years.

Another test of interest to the tortilla-manufacturing industry is the assessment of dough stickeness. The Chen-Hoseney Dough Stickiness Cell is recommended for the assessment of dough stickiness, which can impact heavily on production down-time and the quality of the final cooked product. The cell provides a suitable sample constraining solution to allow measurement of dough stickiness by fast withdrawal of a cylinder probe from the testing surface, without causing the dough to flow.

Stable Micro Systems supplies a wide range of test rigs for the bakery and confectionery sectors and the rest of the food processing industry.

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KEEPING CONTROL IN CONTROLLED RELEASE TABLETS

Stable Micro Systems, the leading designer and manufacturer of computer-controlled texture analysis equipment, has developed a range of rigs and tests for the analysis of controlled release tablets. Objective, repeatable testing of properties such as tablet coating adhesion can now be undertaken using the TA.XT2i texture analyser, providing the manufacturer with valuable data to improve product quality and performance.

A variety of mechanisms have been developed by the pharmaceutical industry to provide accurate, controlled delivery of active ingredients. Stable Micro Systems has devised tests to assess the performance of gels and gel-coated delivery systems, which are designed to adhere to the intestine or other mucosae. The swelling and disintegration properties of these coatings determine the time taken for the dissipation of the gel and the subsequent release of active ingredients. The swelling of gel coating samples can be measured using a cylinder probe, which is able to track change in sample thickness over specific immersion times. Further, a separate penetration test using the TA.XT2i measures the force required to push through the coating into the centre of the tablet. This provides the manufacturer with clear data on the movement of the penetration front and the increase in gel layer thickness.

A specially-designed mucoadhesion rig is also available to measure the adhesion of polymeric devices to a mucosal surface within an environment which resembles the conditions that are prevalent in the region from which the tissue came.

For manufacturers of pills and tablets, Stable Micro Systems has developed the "tablet coating adhesion force" test, which, as the name implies, measures the force required to separate a tablet or pill from its coating. Since many types of dye and other inorganic materials can encourage cracking, edge splitting and peeling, resulting in marked effects on ingredient release, the new test will allow manufacturers to optimise ingredient/coating formulations to ensure correct tablet performance.

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