Cenicristal: a new tool for sugar factories

In order to support the sugar crystallization process in the factories of the sector, Cenicaña developed a new tool for determining the size of sugar crystals by means of digital image processing.

The measurement of crystal sizes through the use of images can be carried out by two methods: manual, with the disadvantage of being a tedious procedure that takes a lot of time and difficulties in standardization; and automatic, in which a set of processing techniques are used to detect and measure objects of interest more quickly.

According to John Andrés Tierradentro, electronic engineer at Cenicaña, for this specific measurement of sugar crystal sizes, digital image processing faces the risk of overestimating the size of the crystal and measuring elements other than crystals due to the complexity and variability presented by the samples of the sugar crystallization process, which may decrease the reliability of the results.

"In the face of these challenges, Cenicristal has a robust image processing algorithm that eliminates sources of error, which translates into a greater representation of reality based on the results obtained," he said.

Cenicristal is a software that eliminates and corrects the factors present in the images that negatively affect the measurement of the crystals and that, together with its robust algorithm of calibration, offers reliable results to support decision making within factories.

The size of the crystal is a critical parameter in the manufacture of sugar that until now the agro-industry had mitigated with the existing difficulties, however Cenicaña is addressing it given its impact on the efficiency of manufacturing processes.

In this regard, Juan Gabriel Rodríguez, chemical engineer from Cenicaña, explains that "if during the centrifugation process (separation of honey from the crystals) the crystal is very small, there is a risk of losing all the work done in the crystallization because it is possible let the glass pass the screen of the centrifuge ”. Likewise, if the glass does not meet the ideal size and shape conditions, it facilitates the formation of lumps that can affect industrial processes, such as in the manufacture of beverages, for example.

Cenicristal has been validated in pilot mills and has already begun to be socialized among the other mills in the sector to start its implementation. So far, it has generated high expectations among agro-industry professionals related to the crystallization process.

"This software allows us to make a statistic of the crystals that comply with the appropriate measure and shape, but it also does the same for crystals that do not comply (it quantifies and qualifies in the same sample). Hopefully we have the opportunity to use it at the mill, as it will be very helpful, "said Mauricio Muñoz, crystallography analyst at the Carmelita mill.

For his part, Raúl Trujillo, from Incauca, described the software as “an excellent tool to determine the ranges of interest in the grain size of the masses and, especially, the Cenicristal is promising in the precision of the measurements and ease software management ”.

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