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Enhancing Palm Oil Milling Efficiency with SpecFIT: A Game-Changer in Process Control and Quality Management

In the vibrant landscape of Brazilian technology, FIT - Fine Instrument Technology - stands out as a key player. Established in 2005, FIT specializes in developing and selling cutting-edge equipment and solutions for agribusiness, industries, and research centers, with a focus on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) technology. Headquartered in São Carlos, the epicenter of technology in Brazil, FIT proudly introduces its flagship creation – the SpecFIT spectrometer.

Released in 2015, SpecFIT marked a significant milestone for FIT, being the first 100% Brazilian spectrometer utilizing Time Domain Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (TD-NMR) technology. Initially targeted for research centers, SpecFIT revolutionized process control in palm oil extraction after the release of the solution to measure oil content in fruits and extraction residues. However, its success prompted the exploration of new applications, showcasing FIT’s commitment to continuous innovation and now it is well known in different areas of oil and fats, malt and beer, and soil among others.

A chronological evolution unfolds as FIT strategically shifts its attention to agribusiness and the food industry since 2016. The development of the Agri version of SpecFIT, in partnership with Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), a governmental company with 40 units spread through Brazil

focused on the development of agriculture from new crops to new technological equipment including heavy types of machinery with AI and nanotechnology. All this knowledge together with an aim for quality and a diverse team FIT of engineers, physicists, chemists, and specialists, ensured a tailored approach to meet clients’ needs and resulted in lab equipment that not only brings information but is also very user-friendly to use that workers from all kind of levels and industry can use to bring information to optimizing processes and enhancing quality control in research centers and industries.

FIT’s international expansion has been remarkable, expanding its footprint to over 20 countries, serving customers and clients in Latin America, North America, Asia, Oceania, and Europe across various sectors of industry aiming to reach Africa this year. The vegetable oil sector, particularly in controlling losses during the extraction of palm oil and other oilseeds, emerges as one of FIT’s primary areas of influence. The biggest differential of the company is the care with the customer pre and after sales.

Central to FIT’s success is its magnetic resonance-based method, offering a fast and accurate solution. Discovered in 1938, the physical effect of magnetic resonance has 6 Nobel prizes works and has been applied in three different ways: imaging, well known from the medical exams, spectroscopy, and time-domain, where the crude NMR signal is related to physical-chemical parameters of the sample. Time domain nuclear magnetic resonance (TD-NMR) coupled with user friendly software is the base of SpecFIT technology, which also has 4.0 tools like data analysis and cloud services.

Using SpecFIT data, the user can improve can enhance productivity without the need for extensive plantation. The star product, SpecFIT, efficiently measures oil content in extraction residues within seconds. The software, designed for ease of use even for non-experts, automatically generates results and provides a dashboard via the cloud to decision-makers. Accredited by international standards ISO, AOCS, and ASTM, SpecFIT caters to various industries, identifying potential problems and providing crucial information for decision-making.

The application of TD-NMR to measure oil content is ISO certified, ensuring accuracy and trustful data when applied to measure extraction losses. This is possible because the dependence between the intensity of the resonance signal and the oil mass inside the sample is direct and linear, resulting in a stable and linear calibration curve that can be generated with less than 10 samples. The fast technique that competes with NMR in process control applications is the near-infrared (NIR), which uses the light detected from the spread of the light beam that reaches the sample. This signal is not directly dependent on the oil content many characteristics besides the oil content of the sample can affect the spread of the light bean like shape, color, moisture, and temperature among others.

Because of the large number of facts that influence the results, the calibration curve uses chemometrics calibration methods, normally partial least square (PLS) regression, a statical method based on eigenvalue and eigenvector that correlates the signal with the reference results of the same sample. As bigger the interference in the signal, the bigger the number of points required to create a calibration curve. In the case of oil content in the palm oil extraction process, NIR requires at least 200 points to create a good calibration curve. A point in a calibration curve for oil content is a signal with oil content result done by Sohxlet. This means 200 Sohxlet analyses (800 hours considering 4 hours per sample). Another important point is a NIR calibration curve requires maintenance. For the same reason, the curve needs a big number of points to be created adding the fact of degradation of the lamp, the curve needs to be always fed by new points to keep the stability and accuracy of the results.

This fact made the method using NIR to measure oil content not ISO certified and not trustful in time without great attention to the curve. The fact that you do not need to dry the sample looks like an advantage in the beginning, but summing up all the advantages that even the moisture has part of it is resulting in a movement where NIR users are moving to NMR. When compared to Soxhlet, SpecFIT also presents numerous benefits. Soxhlet is known for its extreme dependence on analysts, with results often being unstable within industrial settings. Additionally, Soxhlet employs carcinogenic solvents, increasing risk within laboratories, and taking at least 4 hours for loss analyses. In most cases, however, results only reach decision-makers the following day, hindering quick decisionmaking. With SpecFIT, analyses become much more independent of analysts, as they only need to click a button to generate results.

Oil content analyses take about 30 seconds, and the results are digital, allowing information to reach decision-makers in a matter of minutes, thus enabling quicker action on processes. In a study conducted by the manufacturer of SpecFIT to determine the capability of NMR as a substitute for Soxhlet, samples from 10 palm oil mills were analyzed using both technologies, NMR and Soxhlet. Approximately 250 samples were analyzed, with each sample being analyzed at least three times to identify the stability of results from both technologies. This study found that 15.5% of experiments conducted with Soxhlet showed analytical errors, compared to only 2.5% of experiments conducted with NMR, proving NMR a better technique for process control.

FIT’s journey is not solely about technological prowess; it is equally marked by strategic partnerships and collaborations with companies and research institutions worldwide. These alliances expand FIT’s reach into new markets and facilitate the development of innovative solutions, positioning the company at the forefront of competition. The commitment to improvement and innovation at FIT is relentless, evident in regular updates and upgrades in hardware, software, and new applications. Collaborations with renowned NMR centers beyond EMBRAPA, such as the University of São Paulo (USP) show FIT’s dedication to staying at the cutting edge of technology, science, and innovation.

The CEO, PhD. Daniel Consalter plays a key role in these partnerships. Philosopher and doctor in physics, Daniel specialized in the instrumentation of lab equipment, and developing SpecFIT was part of his formation. Well knowing how important is to keep collaboration between companies and research centers, FIT is well related with not only universities but also business companies with the same commitment to technology and good service as FIT.

The collaboration with the German company LAIX Technologies introduces robotics solutions for automating analysis and thermal baths, ideal for precise analysis, especially for Solid Fat Content (SFC) applications. SpecFIT’s compatibility with automation streamlines readings and procedures, eliminating the need for manual operation. This proves particularly beneficial for industries conducting various analyses, offering time savings, greater reproducibility, precision, and team optimization.

FIT’s new software designed to control losses in the Palm Extraction Process adds another layer of value. Users gain access to dynamic tables, loss data panels, and a control chart, providing a comprehensive view of data associated with different analysis parameters.

Adding to the excitement, FIT is releasing the SpecFIT App this year, a platform initially focused on the Palm Oil Market. This integrated platform, available on web platforms, Android®, and iOS®, provides real-time updates of analyses at each process point, empowering employees to monitor production efficiently and make quick decisions to ensure product and raw material quality. To learn more, interested parties can contact the FIT team and secure a place on the waiting list to purchase the solution.


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