Thursday, July 8, 2010

Alfa- Laval Cream Separator

The introduction of mechanical cream separation marked a period of rapid transformation in the early dairying industry in Australia. Pictured left is the Alfa-Laval Cream Separator, a widely used model that was manufactured in Sweden.

How does it work?

The mechanical method of separation would soon become an industry standard. Based on the principle of centrifugation, the cream separator enabled the rapid separation of fat globules that are suspended in fresh milk from the less dense skim-milk by product.

The separator worked by having milk introduced into the centre of a bowl that would be spinning at a high speed by the rotation of a hand crank. The bowl consisted of a column of circular narrow discs with a narrower space in between (through which the milk passed). The centrifugal force separated the fat globules which rose to the top of the bowl assembly and was released from a collection spout, while the skim milk of lesser density was collected from another spout situated beneath the cream spout.

Source: Darracot McBarron Hatch, Shellharbour Library Manuscript, 1987 [available: Tongarra Museum]

Production Notes

Invented by Carl Gustav Laval, a Swedish engineer, the first cream separator was manufactured by the Alfa-Laval company which had been established in 1883 in Stockholm, Sweden.

The agency for the De Laval separator was acquired by Mr. D. L. Dymock on behalf of Waugh and Josephson engineering firm based in Australia. Mr. D. L. Dymock travelled to Europe and America in 1883 to enquire into the latest methods of manufacturing and marketing butter. He held a commission from the NSW Government for the Amsterdam exhibition. Before leaving, he was banqueted at Kiama and Broughton Creek (Berry) and presented with about £500.

History Notes

The introduction of the mechanical method of cream production replaced previous methods of manual separation. In the past, cream would be separated by pouring milk into wide shallow pans (most pans were made of tin) for a period of 48-72 hours. After this time the cream would be skimmed off from the underlying skim milk with a wooden or metal skimmer with perforations. This manual method was slow and the quality of the cream produced varied according to the condition of the dairy building.

Want to know more?

Read more about De Laval Cream Separators at:

View the cream separator in person at the following museums:

+ Tongarra Bicentennial Museum, Tongarra
+ Illawarra Museum, Wollongong
+ Berry Museum, Berry
+ Gerringong Museum, Gerringong

Images Credit: Photos of the De Laval Cream Separators taken by Carly Todhunter on 11 April, 2010.


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