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COMPLETE ANALYTICAL SOLUTIONS FROM STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS
STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS PUTS TRESSES TO THE TEST
STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS RAISES THE BAR IN CHOCOLATE TESTING
STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS BOOSTS INFORMATION FLOW FOR POWDER TESTING
STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS AT FOREFRONT OF FISH TEXTURE TESTING
TEXTURE ANALYSIS FORGING AHEAD IN RUSSIA
STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS  ADDS NEW CUSTOMISATION TO VOLSCAN
STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS BOOSTS BREAKDOWN TESTING
EVONIK-DEGUSSA IMPROVES SHEAR TESTING IN FREE-FLOWING POWDERS
STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS EXPANDS ITS SALES TEAM
STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS KEEPS QUALITY CONTROL WITHIN REACH
STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS ADVANCES RESEARCH INTO HYDROGEL MUCOADHESION
SEAMLESS SYSTEM INTEGRATION
NEW VOLSCAN PROFILER PROVES THAT SIZE MATTERS
Measuring Gel Mucoadhesion
Stable Micro Systems breaks through in alginate rafts
One small step for man, one giant leap for texture analysis
Stable Micro Systems helps bakery manufacturers get a rise in dough
Stable Micro Systems' Shear Initiative
Cracks Under Control - New Powder Compaction Rigs
Stable Micro Systems Appoints Texture Expert
Stable Micro Systems Unveils New Test for Cheese at FIE
Dough inflation innovation
Pasta reaches breaking point at Stable Micro Systems
Stable Micro Systems launches new test for hard gels
Stable Micro Systems helps out in a sticky situation
Stable Micro Systems launches unique hair testing device


COMPLETE ANALYTICAL SOLUTIONS FROM STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS

TA.XTplus

Stable Micro Systems, the world leader in texture analysis and powder flow instrumentation, has successfully launched its new comprehensive texture analysis package at Food Ingredients Europe 2011.

Epitomised by the introduction of a redesigned TA.XTplus instrument, Stable Micro Systems' approach is founded on decades of research, rigorous testing and cutting-edge NPD. The latest developments underscore the company's position as a pioneer in texture analysis. Its approach has been encapsulated in its new corporate strapline: "Innovation, education, application."

Stable Micro Systems' extended texture analysis capability is a result of ongoing research and close collaboration with the company's global customer base, which has resulted in the development of new accessories for bespoke applications and improved ease of use.

The Exponent software suite features an 'education zone', offering users a wealth of application materials, an extensive library of technical information, published academic papers and valuable insights into the optimum choice of probes and fixtures. Existing customers can access a free software upgrade so that they can benefit from the improved functionality of the newly launched package.

Stable Micro Systems prides itself on the unrivalled post-purchase technical, instrument and application support and training. Dedicated technical experts and knowledgeable distributors on every continent provide advice and assistance to formulators and manufacturers as they address the challenges of new product development and compliance with the stringent quality control needs of today's food industry.

Mark Proto, managing director at Stable Micro Systems, said: "We are pleased with the launch in Paris of our latest texture analysis solutions and the interest and positive feedback they received at the show. Innovation, education and application are fundamental to our long-standing success and industry-wide reputation for developing best-in-class analytical instruments."

He added: "The newly-unveiled texture analyser package delivers precise and reliable measurements for a wide range of food applications. Texture analysers are routinely used to ensure consistent quality control and are easily customised for versatile product testing. We are committed to our long-term partnerships with our customers, which means that our technical support and application guidance continues throughout our product's life span."


STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS PUTS TRESSES TO THE TEST

Hair testing

A recent study* has validated the use of a TA.XTplus texture analyser for evaluating objectively the effectiveness of personal care products on the physical characteristics of hair.

The study highlighted how analytical technology can help the industry substantiate ambitious marketing claims about shampoos and conditioners that claim to leave hair soft and manageable.

In the study, carried out by Croda, the bending force of a hair bundle was measured as an indicator of hair softness. The TA.XTplus was used to determine the bending modulus of different types of hair, comparing results before and after the application of various hair treatments.

For the test, the hair samples were divided into two bundles - one to undergo treatments, the second to be used as a control. The texture analyser was used in a modified three point bend mode, with hair bundle clamped at one end and the remaining length placed on two supports. The analyser probe descended vertically on the sample ten times, applying pressure to the central section of the hair bundle and the average bending force was calculated.

Texture analysis enables the determination of the bending force of hair samples under different treatment conditions. Croda's research revealed that oxidation following hair bleaching, as well as heightened environmental moisture levels, have a significant effect on measurable bending force, an indication of hair softness, in particular where damaged hair is concerned. It also demonstrated the efficacy of conditioner formulations containing new softening ingredients.

Jo Smewing, applications manager at Stable Micro Systems, said: "We are pleased to know that our customers continue to innovate and discover new applications for our instruments. The new test will enable manufacturers to carry out quick, objective and repeatable evaluation of hair softness, optimising their products' performance and substantiating persuasive beauty claims."

*T Gao, J-M Tien, L Peter, Evaluation of hair softness - Texture Analyzer and Dynamic Analyzer, Croda Inc., USA


STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS RAISES THE BAR IN CHOCOLATE TESTING

Chocolate image

A recent study* by the University of Leeds , UK, has, for the first time, used texture analysis to explore the effects of processing conditions on chocolate demoulding.

The research, which employed an industry-leading TA.XTplus texture analyser, will prove an invaluable tool in helping manufacturers optimise their processing conditions and parameters.

Responding increasing consumer demand for chocolate products and pressure to optimise production, it is vital to understand the conditions influencing the chocolate manufacturing process and the quality of the end product. Such factors include cooling temperature, probe and mould temperature, contact time, chocolate hardness and relative humidity.

All of these influence the adhesion of chocolate to moulds and, subsequently, the ease of demoulding. For example, warmer temperatures and moisture have detrimental effects on chocolate viscosity, making it stickier and more problematic to demould. The benefits of refining the demoulding process include waste reduction due to minimal surface defects and production losses as well as line efficiency in terms of both speed and output quality. Plus, less equipment cleaning helps keep processing costs down.

The TA.XTplus, manufactured by Stable Micro Systems, was used to measure chocolate adhesion to the mould surface under varying controlled conditions, using a bespoke fixture. The surface adhesion force, an indicator of stickiness, was measured by bringing a flat polycarbonate probe into contact with liquid chocolate. Once the chocolate solidified, the probe was pulled upwards, imitating the forces involved in the demoulding process of commercial chocolate bars. The force of adhesion is recorded, which is a measure of the ease of demoulding.

Chocolate hardness is a key qualitative parameter which can also be successfully measured using the TA.XTplus. Solidified chocolate samples were analysed for hardness using a 2mm cylindrical stainless steel probe, that penetrated the samples at a constant speed. The maximum penetration force obtained was recorded as the measure of hardness. By measuring hardness, the effect of different processing conditions on the chocolate was determined.

Jo Smewing, applications manager at Stable Micro Systems commented: "The TA.XTplus texture analyser delivered consistent and reliable results for this practical application. This demonstrates how texture analysis helps food manufacturers to fine-tune processing conditions. Working closely with our customers throughout the industry, we offer commercially viable testing solutions developed specifically for their needs, spanning new product development, quality control and large-scale automated manufacturing."

A world-leading specialist in analytical technology, Stable Micro Systems offers a large portfolio of probes and attachments to facilitate precise measurement and evaluation of physical properties of food products. The comprehensive range of tests in chocolate and confectionery ranges from chocolate hardness, cutting force and break strength to confectionery stickiness, flexibility and hardness, to name but a few.

*Esther L. Keijbets, Jianshe Chen, Chocolate demoulding and effects of processing conditions, School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds, Journal of Food Engineering : 98 (2010), 133-140.


STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS BOOSTS INFORMATION FLOW
FOR POWDER TESTING

PFA help file

Stable Micro Systems, a world leader in powder flow analysis has released upgraded software for its Powder Flow Analyser to offer a wider selection of tests and background information.

Through the enhanced graphical interface, users can now benefit from a more straightforward and comprehensive overview of its capabilities. The software suite facilitates improved data analysis, results spreadsheets, automatically generated charts and reports as well as an extensive sample video database.

Among experienced users of the Powder Flow Analyser and Exponent software, the instrument is renowned for its multi-functionality and a broad selection of pharmaceutical, food and industrial applications. The latest software features a user-friendly and highly flexible interface. This includes an option to configure bespoke test protocols, as well as an opportunity to create and manage user-specific projects. 

The Powder Flow Analyser enables the evaluation of a variety of samples from powders to end products, assessing their flow, attrition, aggregation and caking properties. Further analysis of powders and granules, from the mechanical strength of a single particle to the progressive swelling and disintegration of granules and pellets, can be conducted with the TA.XTplus texture analyser, whose performance has been boosted by the recently upgraded software.

The extensive range of well-established testing methods includes uniaxial compression, diametral tablet compression and assessment of granule compressibility.  

Jo Smewing, applications manager at Stable Micro Systems, said: "We are pleased to release this new software which will enable manufacturers to carry out objective and repeatable assessment of powder issues characteristics even more quickly and simply. Customers can now receive a free software upgrade so that they can benefit from improved instrument flexibility. At Stable Micro Systems, we continue to innovate in texture analysis and powder characterisation solutions to deliver reliable and reproducible quality control and product development."


STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS AT FOREFRONT OF FISH TEXTURE TESTING

Warner-Bratzler test

An independent study published in the Journal of Food Science has recognised the superior performance of Stable Micro System's Warner-Bratzler shear blade in assessing firmness and texture in salmon fillets.* 

The blade, which is used to assess the cutting force, or 'bite' of fresh fish, was the most sensitive method tested and yielded the most consistently accurate and repeatable data. As post-mortem quality degradation in fish continues to affect revenues, these conclusions will assist manufacturers looking to implement reliable, accurate and tested quality control procedures.

The study aimed to establish the most suitable methods of detecting firmness in salmon fillets and predicting post-cold smoking texture. Researchers compared a new tensile strength test with various established analysis methods. All instrumental methods tested used Stable Micro Systems' TA.XTplus mechanical texture analyser fitted with a 50 kg load cell, controlled by the company's Exponent software.

While the Warner-Bratzler shear blade was found to be the most effective method of measuring firmness and predicting post-smoking texture, the new tensile test provided the highest levels of accuracy when predicting post-mortem gaping (the appearance of tears or slits within the fillet on handling). The test, which used the TA.XTplus texture analyser to pull samples apart while measuring the force required to do so, is a valuable addition to the existing pool of instrumental methods for fish flesh quality assessment.

Dr Ian Johnston, Fish Muscle Research Group, University of St Andrews commented: "Approximately 40 percent of Atlantic salmon is downgraded during secondary processing due to soft flesh or gaping. Soft flesh results in a poor quality product with an unpleasant, mushy mouthfeel, while gaping causes unsightly fillets with low customer acceptability. Fillets with significant gaping are also unable to withstand the demands of mechanical handling and industrial processing. The results of our study will enable manufacturers to confidently undertake precise, consistent quality control."

The Warner-Bratzler blade and TA.XTplus texture analyser are part of a wide family of texture analysis rigs from Stable Micro Systems.  A portfolio of specialist products is available to measure and analyse textural properties of a huge range of food products, including bread volume, cheese extensibility, dough stickiness and yoghurt consistency.

*A Novel Tensile Test Method to Assess Texture and Gaping in Salmon Fillets. Authors: T. J. Ashton, I. Michie and I. A. Johnston, Journal of Food Science (2010). 75: S182-S190.


TEXTURE ANALYSIS FORGING AHEAD IN RUSSIA

SIMAS logo

Global expert in texture analysis and materials testing, Stable Micro Systems, has signed an exclusive distribution contract with SIMAS, Russian laboratory equipment specialist.

Headquartered in Moscow, SIMAS will use its technical expertise and knowledge of the local market to establish Stable Micro Systems as a leader in texture analysis for the Russian pharmaceutical, healthcare, food, packaging and cosmetics industries.

Established in 1987, Stable Micro Systems is a pioneer in the field of analytical equipment, customised attachments and software. With headquarters near London (UK), the company has, from the outset, been at the forefront of innovation and technological development. Stable Micro Systems' products are available worldwide through a network of selected distributors and agents, to offer expert local support and service. Working in partnership with Stable Micro Systems' dedicated team of designers, engineers and sales assistance staff, SIMAS will provide customers in Russia with technical support and training across the entire product range.

Stable Micro Systems' products include a versatile range of texture analysers for packaging, adhesives, pharmaceutical, food and leather applications to allow manufacturers to collect accurate and consistent data for quality analysis and control. The instruments feature integrated Laboratory Information Management Systems software and come in variety of sizes to suit individual customer requirements and a wide range of product applications. Products include the Volscan Profiler, which is used for rapid and repeated volume measurement of baked products.

Mark Proto, managing director at Stable Micro Systems, said: "We are pleased to strengthen our presence in the Russian market and are confident that SIMAS will offer the sales support and technical service that is the cornerstone of our reputation. SIMAS will play an essential role in supporting our existing Russian customers and driving forward Stable Micro Systems' continued growth in the region."

Sergey Stupak, General Director at SIMAS, added: "We are looking forward to extending our product portfolio with Stable Micro Systems' comprehensive range of instruments. The company's break-through analytical equipment will enable us to meet the burgeoning demand for technology that facilitates precision-engineering and accurate product evaluation in manufacturing. We look forward to a successful partnership."


STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS  ADDS NEW CUSTOMISATION TO VOLSCAN

VSP product support

Stable Micro Systems, leading manufacturer of texture analysis instrumentation, has launched a Universal Product Support system that extends the flexibility of the popular VolScan Profiler.

Bakery manufacturers can now customise their equipment to enable bespoke testing of baked products in a wide range of shapes and sizes.

The VolScan Profiler is a bench top instrument that performs rapid and repeated non-contact volume analysis of breads and morning goods. The new Universal system features a 100mm diameter base with an array of support pins of differing thicknesses and lengths that can be selected according to the product. Vertical sample stability is provided without damaging the sample structure, giving a highly accurate dimension and volume measurement.

Items are vertically mounted and rotated in the VolScan Profiler as a laser scans the contours of the sample. Properties such as dimension, texture, weight, centre of gravity and contact area with the base will determine the support needed.  Soft yet heavy product such as cake calls for medium-length spikes to be positioned wide apart to avoid sagging, whereas products with little base contact like baguette require a row of small thin spikes.

Measuring volume and related parameters allows millers and bakers to gather and analyse consistent data on sample characteristics, and make informed decisions on quality control and product development based on quantitative data. The VolScan Profiler generates 2D and 3D results of the sample, while a comprehensive software system captures and displays data in spreadsheets for easy retrieval and comparison of results. Customers can download all the latest software updates free of charge via the Stable Micro Systems website.

Jo Smewing, applications manager at Stable Micro Systems explains: "Our new Universal Product Support gives customers the freedom to adjust the VolScan Profiler support rig according to their specific requirements. The Universal Product Support is an effective solution to guarantee vertical stability to a wide range of test samples, without causing damage to its structure."

One of Stable Micro Systems' wide range of texture analysis tools for use in the bakery sector, the VolScan Profiler is available in a scaled-down format for smaller items, such as muffins and croissants. Other instruments in the range include the Dobraszczyk Roberts dough inflation system and the Bread V Squeeze rig for bread springiness.


STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS BOOSTS BREAKDOWN TESTING

Tablet Disintegration Rig

International expert in texture analysis and materials testing, Stable Micro Systems, has unveiled a new Tablet Disintegration Rig, which facilitates the reliable assessment of the mechanical properties of fast-melting tablets (FMTs).

Attached to the company's TA.XTplus texture analyser, the rig closely replicates the in vivo conditions of the human mouth, enabling manufacturers to examine water absorption and the disintegration of associated particles into individual components. This allows the determination of tablet disintegration time and behaviour, giving a valuable insight into performance and efficacy.

The rising popularity of fast dissolving dosage forms can be attributed to convenience and the ease of drug administration they offer. Although particularly applicable to the paediatric and geriatric markets, FMTs are suitable for consumers of all ages. A thorough analysis of disintegration behaviour is vital for the formulation of new FMTs to ensure reliable and consistent drug release. The tablet or wafer has to be resilient enough to endure manufacturing and shipping yet release a sufficient amount of disintegrants to deliver an optimum dissolution rate.

The unique geometry of the rig allows the disintegration medium to access the tablet from all areas. The dry tablet sample is secured to a probe by a thin strip of double sided adhesive tape along its diameter. The probe's surface has a 'channelled' design, allowing fluid to flow freely all round the tablet while ensuring contact is maintained with the probe. Once the probe is lowered into the medium, the tablet is positioned on a perforated platform, and the texture analyser applies a constant force onto it. The perforated surface enables free ingress of water beneath the sample and dispersion of the disintegrant.

Jo Smewing, applications manager, Stable Micro Systems, comments: "The Tablet Disintegration Rig is a more efficient alternative to the older means of assessing dissolution properties traditionally employed by researchers. They involved submerging a tablet attached with tape to the bottom of a cylinder probe and testing the time required for the tablet to dissolve. But the tablet was 'trapped' between the tape and the vessel base, restricting its exposure to the medium. The new rig overcomes the issue by allowing the FMT particles to detach easily during the disintegration process, imitating the realistic conditions of drug administration.

The rig is supplied with five probe heads to enable multiple sample preparation in advance of testing and fast interchange. A Community Registered Design, the Tablet Disintegration Rig further expands the company's diverse range of test equipment and methods for texture analysis in the pharmaceutical, healthcare and cosmetic industries.


EVONIK-DEGUSSA IMPROVES SHEAR TESTING IN
FREE-FLOWING POWDERS

Evonik logo

A unique powder testing procedure has been developed by Evonik-Degussa, a global supplier of specialty chemicals, using instrumentation from Stable Micro Systems, a world leader in powder flow assessment.

The test, which is conducted with a newly-designed powder cartridge, allows Evonik-Degussa to gauge more accurately the effects of its AEROSIL and SIPERNAT silicas on the caking and flow properties of powdered products in the food, feed, pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

Previously, Evonik-Degussa's powder assessment took place with a manual "caking" test, which involved compressing a powder sample within a hollow metal cylinder using a solid metal cylinder. The sample was stored on a teflon sheet under defined heat, humidity and pressure conditions to create a tablet shape. Once the "tablet" was formed, both cylinders were removed and pressure was applied with a human finger. Its ability to withstand this force was measured subjectively using a simple scoring system (1-6).Using Stable Micro Systems' powder flow analyser allowed Evonik-Degussa to overcome the lack of repeatability and objectivity of the manual test. Sample preparation and storage was identical, but only the solid metal cylinder and teflon plate were removed. This meant powders' properties could be tested whether or not they had formed self-supporting structures during storage. Aeration, compaction and slice compaction tests gave valuable indications of the powders' surface friction properties, mixing kinetics, cohesiveness and flow and recovery properties.

Evonik-Degussa needed to develop the testing procedure further to allow accurate and repeatable testing of products which contained silica. By definition, these powders are much more free-flowing than standard powders and granules and even compressed samples are relatively unstable and easy to disturb when being loaded onto testing instrumentation. Evonik-Degussa's applications experts have therefore developed a patented adapter which allows the prepared sample to be loaded onto the powder flow analyser while still mounted on the teflon sheet. This avoids any potential damage to the compacted structure before the test begins.

The powder flow analyser's patented rotating blade is programmed to pass through the sample in a particular way, for a fixed number of rotations, according to the individual test requirements. As this happens, a loadcell measures the sample's resistance to flow. As it is not uncommon to find a "crust" on the surface of a compressed sample, Evonik-Degussa can identify differences in force as the blade moves downwards through the powder. Similarly, it can quantify differences in the properties of samples containing varying levels of flow agents, including samples containing no silica at all.

The new test allows the identification of the most appropriate flow agent for a particular application and subsequently the specification of addition levels to control clumping and crusting behaviour, and to maintain free-flowing powders which are easier to handle and process.


STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS KEEPS QUALITY CONTROL WITHIN REACH

TA.XT Express

Stable Micro Systems, the leading manufacturer of texture analysis instrumentation, is extending its portfolio with the launch of the TA.XTExpress texture analyser.

A user-friendly, cost-effective piece of apparatus, the TA.XTExpress makes texture analysis accessible to the smaller food [or pharmaceutical] manufacturer, offering-easy-to-interpret and reliable data relating to a range of small and/or lightweight applications. Possible tests include penetration, texture profile analysis, fracturing, cutting, extensibility and stickiness. The TA.XTExpress analyser comes with a choice of two software packages depending on the extent of analysis required.

The TA.XTExpress can be configured to the user's individual requirements, so the data it collects form a valuable source of information for product development and quality control. The TA.XTExpress can be used online or in the laboratory, allowing manufacturers to assess textural quality, identify source and batch variation and predict consumer acceptability. The instrument offers a loadcell capacity of 5kg and has a speed range of 0.1 - 10.00mm/s. Standard textural parameters can be measured with Stable Micro Systems' Expression software. For post-analysis capabilities, users should opt for the Exponent Lite Express software package, which is a project-based data recording and analysis software.

Jo Smewing, applications manager at Stable Micro Systems comments: "Given the diversity of today's food [or pharmaceutical] industry and the current economic climate, the TA.XTExpress is being welcomed as a straightforward entry level instrument, which means texture analysis is no longer the preserve of large companies with deep R&D or QA budgets. This launch provides manufacturers with the benefits of objective, repeatable product testing, without a large capital outlay."


STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS ADVANCES RESEARCH INTO
HYDROGEL MUCOADHESION

Gel Mucoadhesion

Stable Micro Systems' new Gel Mucoadhesion Probe has been identified as the most reliable and repeatable instrument for evaluating the mucoadhesion of hydrogels.

One of the most advanced and exciting drug delivery forms, hydrogel matrices are highly effective and becoming increasingly popular. Their success is dependent on their adhesive properties, which can now be assessed in a highly objective and accurate way.

Researchers Skulason, Kristmundsdottir and Holbrook at the University of Iceland evaluated a number of test methods for gel mucoadhesion, which is essential in determining effective dosage forms for mucosal drug delivery. This area of research has until now remained relatively untouched compared to that of solid dosage forms. They concluded that Stable Micro Systems' test probe gave the most accurate and consistent results. This is because its design encourages controlled volumes of sample to adhere to the surface of the probe, and testing can be carried out in realistic conditions. 

Jo Smewing, applications manager, Stable Micro Systems, comments: "The Gel Mucoadhesion Rig is a far more efficient alternative to the older means of assessing mucoadhesion traditionally employed by researchers. This involved attaching mucin disks to the bottom of a regular cylinder probe with double-sided tape and testing the force required to loosen them from a given formulation. However, with our rig, hydrogel formulations can be applied accurately to the customised probe, thereby allowing for sample testing in conditions where the samples would usually occur."

Constant gel volumes can be achieved through use of a syringe, and a PTFE sleeve is provided with the kit where larger volumes of hydrogel are required. The Mucoadhesion Rig attaches to Stable Micro Systems TA.XTplus texture analyser, further amplifying the company's diverse range of test methods for texture analysis in the pharmaceutical, healthcare and cosmetic industries.


SEAMLESS SYSTEM INTEGRATION

LIMS screen

Stable Micro Systems, the world leader in texture analysis, has developed new software technology that allows its texture analysers to be fully integrated into Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS).

This is a significant step for TA.XTplus and TA.HDplus users, as the results of their tests can now automatically form part of a wider quality management system. 

With increasing pressure being placed on manufacturers of consumer products, LIMS represent a vital tool against threats to brand reputation, such as product recalls, and internal issues such inconsistent or incomplete data and resource shortages. A comprehensive and systematic approach is a core requirement in today's laboratory environment and the integration of Stable Micro Systems' Exponent™ software within LIMS will allow users to store, process and report a wide range of data.

Highly detailed information, from ingredient and component specifications to final product analysis, will interface with information from other instruments in the lab. All data is consolidated in a single interface and can be presented in a uniform format, with each individual work step, result and user recorded accurately. Consequently, daily operations are standardised, promising consistent quality of results.

Jo Smewing, applications manager, Stable Micro Systems, comments, "Following recent events concerning product safety, regulation and compliance in particular, manufacturers are seeking more effective and efficient quality systems. LIMS allow full integration of vast amounts of information and enable uniform, precise measurements and consistent monitoring of samples - crucial factors in the lab.  Improving our software and facilitating a seamless link with LIMS technology was a must to help our users remain leaders in their field.

Crucially, Stable Micro Systems can simplify or alleviate paperwork, which allows more efficient and cost-effective pooling of resources, and reduces the risk of human error. Configuration parameters, automatic data capture and storage, real-time statistical analysis and advanced comparison and reporting features are key benefits enabled by our updated software and its integration into LIMS."


NEW VOLSCAN PROFILER PROVES THAT SIZE MATTERS

VolScan Profiler 300

Stable Micro Systems has launched an updated version of its VolScan Profiler to allow bread manufacturers to quantify accurately the volume of bread and baked products.

As a follow on from the successful launch of the original VolScan Profiler in 2007, a new scaled down model is now also available, which rapidly and repeatedly defines dimension-related parameters in smaller items such as muffins and croissants. This data allows them to control and monitor breadmaking conditions and manufacturing operations. The new, smaller VolScan Profiler offers a wealth of additional software features, requires less work space and is flexible enough to handle not only small baked goods, but also larger loaves with maximum dimensions of 300mm length and 190mm diameter.

The non-contact measurement offered by the VolScan Profiler offers considerable advantages over contact and displacement techniques, which purely measure volume. It provides a rapid, 3-dimensional digitisation, which can be customised according to desired parameters and calculations. The product is mounted at each end or located by a universal mounting device, tailored to the specific product. Manufacturers can then enter their specific parameters for each batch, including sample ID name, date, flour weight, bread type and batch code. The product is then automatically weighed and an eye-safe laser device scans vertically to measure its contours at selectable intervals, while the product rotates. Each interval consists of 400 data points, providing an extremely detailed and accurate profile. Once the scan is complete, data regarding bread volume, length, maximum width and height, height of the maximum width and width of the maximum height can all be retrieved. These figures automatically calculate the product's "specific volume".

Jo Smewing, applications manager at Stable Micro Systems comments: "The results produced by our newest VolScan Profiler can be viewed in both 3D and 2D, offering the most specific and detailed data in order to guarantee optimum product quality in samples of all sizes. Within the 2D sectional view, automatic or manual measurements can be made on chosen intervals, or "slices" of the test data, allowing dimensional investigation throughout the product. The 3D view provides enhanced visual comparison, allowing rotation of the product scan in all planes. All of this data is saved in a spreadsheet format for easy access and data comparison with previous archived measurements. It can be viewed in Microsoft Excel, or dropped into a report template.

"For bakery manufacturers today, diligent quality assurance is key in guaranteeing product consistency, which in turn influences consumer purchasing decisions - people will only remain loyal to a brand if it can produce the best quality results, time and time again. And, with bakery products in particular, achieving the greatest volume is crucial. The higher the volume, the better the perceived value for money. Volscan identifies any inconsistencies immediately so that manufacturers can stay on top of production and have complete peace of mind that their products are the best they can be. With a typical test time of under 60 seconds, the VolScan Profiler allows for a complete and highly detailed dimensional analysis."


MEASURING GEL MUCOADHESION

Gel Mucoadhesion

A few years ago, researchers Skulason, Kristmundsdottir and Holbrook in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Iceland presented ‘A technique for evaluating the adhesion of hydrogel compositions’ at the Controlled Release Society Conference.

They evaluated a set of prototype probes for their suitability for evaluation of the measurement of mucoadhesion of hydrogels. The use of bioadhesive polymers in the formulation of dosage forms for mucosal drug delivery is receiving increasing attention and whilst the mucoadhesion of solid dosage forms using the Mucoadhesion Rig has been frequently employed by researchers in this field, the measurement of hydrogel mucoadhesion has not previously been thoroughly investigated.

Mucin discs have been reported to have been prepared and attached to the underside of a cylinder probe using double sided adhesive tape and then lowered onto the surface of the gel formulation applying a downward force for a predefined time and measuring the force required to detach the mucin disc from the surface of each formulation. However, a particular advantage of the Mucoadhesion Rig (originally developed at the University of Strathclyde) is the ability to test tissue samples in the conditions in which they are normally found. For solid dosage forms a tablet is adhered to the underside of a cylinder probe and brought into contact with the mucosa.

An alternative method is now available which enables attachment of gels to a probe. The Gel Mucoadhesion Probe, which version was assessed at the University of Iceland as most reliable and repeatable, consists of an inverted cone shape at its end which has machined concentric grooves. These grooves encourage the attachment of a controlled volume of hydrogel sample to the probe surface area.

For constant gel volume application the use of a syringe is recommended. A PTFE sleeve is supplied to support larger volumes of hydrogel loading which is removed when the gel is set.

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STABLE MICRO SYSTEMS BREAKS THROUGH IN ALGINATE RAFTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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