As retail margins squeeze and the demand for on-shelf differentiation grows, so the end-of-line handling of new packaging formats has evolved to keep pace with faster packaging lines and innovative packaging formats. Rapid changeover times, the flexibility to handle smaller and increasingly different packs, high throughput levels and zero downtime are key to this vital end of the processing line if bottlenecks are to be avoided and retail demands met.
Apsol Automatic Packaging Solutions of Italy has responded with its complete system for handling the end-of-line packaging requirements for putting flexible packs such as sachets, doy packs and flow wraps into cartons, display boxes or shelf-ready packs without the need for human intervention.
It has recently developed a new feed system for its robotic casepacker (RCP) for ready meals and flexible packaging, which uses a flexible race track designed for fast, tool-less changeovers. It delivers the packs to the case packer, where a robot picks them up using either vacuum or mechanical picking heads to place them inside the relevant cases.
Unlike rigid packaging, flexible packs don’t easily accumulate, and Apsol has developed a special method of collating them ready for efficient packing. Apsol’s RCP is a robotic pick and place cartoner, which is based on a twin-axis robot that operates at speeds of up to 25 cycles a minute. The machine features a modular construction based on a common platform, which is able to work with a range of different options for feeding and delivery, including multiple picking heads that are able to load up to six cases per cycle.
Sewtec Automation has launched its new, robotic top-load system for the packing of primary and secondary packs that features a valuable, optional facility for temporarily storing product in the event of a stoppage.
Designed and manufactured by Sewtec, the LX5249 operates at speeds of up to 600 packs a minute, depending on the application, and is suitable for a wide variety of products. Its integral storage system is able to divert product away from the robotic top loader in the event of any downstream machine stoppages. The system, which offers up to 10 minutes’ storage, eliminates any queuing or bunching of items and thereby ensures product quality, and packs are automatically reintroduced into the packing line when normal production is resumed.
“Flexibility is the key to the LX5249 Robotic Top Loader,” says Steve Levitt, application engineer of Sewtec Automation. “Along with its unique storage facility, we’ve combined highly efficient and reliable robotic technology with a wide choice of picking and handling options that enable the machine to be adapted to meet the needs of many different products and packs.”
Sewtec has also recently introduced the LX5036 – a high-speed, robotic case-loading system – which has been selected by United Biscuits for packing its McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes brand into outer cases.
The LX5036 is a top-load robot that fills four cases simultaneously and is able to place packs at up to 240 packs a minute into a variety of case sizes. Single, twin or triple packs of McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes are fed into the machine on a belt conveyor and collated into the required format for top-loading into the cases. The servo-driven collation units are configured by a remote touchscreen control unit, so that all size variations can be called up and implemented via preset recipes. Pre-erected cases are fed into the machine on a similar servo axis collation system, and all size adjustments for this and the flap guidance system are automatic.
Cermex, part of the Sidel Group, has extended its equipment for end-of-line packaging requirements. Its new F388 high-speed case erector has been developed in response to the reduction in pack sizes for individual sales units, the increase in speeds required as well as the need for flexible layouts. Now a single machine instead of the two machines previously required for this operation, the F388 can be used to erect up to 50 cases a minute. It features a low-level case magazine and greater accessibility at every level.
The F388 joins Cermex’ new VersaWrap continuous wraparound case packer, which can handle bottles, cartons, cans, etc, and can be used to wrap around cases or trays of products in a wide size range at rates of 65 cycles per minute.
The VersaWrap features a dual extraction system to ensure the reliable removal of the corrugated blanks and upper brackets that are fitted with rubber cushions, that compensate for any dimensional variations in the product to be handled, thereby ensuring that the case is always properly sealed. According to Cermex, the VersaWrap has been developed to offer the highest level of versatility and ergonomics for ease of use and value for money. No changeover parts are needed and size changeover takes a maximum of 15 minutes. All production parameters and case formats are managed by an industrial PC, which is accessible via a user-friendly touchscreen control panel.
For the flexible handling of a wide range of products, Focke & Co has introduced its patented, highly flexible case packer: the Focke HFP. It can handle sensitive products such as crisps, peanuts, pretzels, pasta, etc, in polybags, foil packaging or boxes, and pack them in any direction into cases.
Robot arms guide the case to the product, which lifts, turns and lowers itself outside the packaging. The case is positioned on its side, enabling the product to be gently slid into position, and the system is said to be able to achieve filling layouts that can’t be fulfilled with traditional case packers, according to Focke.
The first layer can be aligned vertically and the second layer of product placed horizontally, for example. And space at the sides or top of the case can be filled, which optimises the options for presenting products on retail shelves. Unstable packaging is transported horizontally into the cases and then stacked, which prevents the stack from toppling.
According to Focke, packs can be purged or inflated and are not exposed to any pressure during their handling by the Focke HFP. Up to 15 cases can be packed per minute.
Standard-Knapp has also developed its technology to handle sensitive products, including the latest lightweighted plastic or glass bottles, which are usually dropped into corrugated cases by a case packer. Standard-Knapp states that this shock can be sufficient to create holes in the pack – typically at the weak spots at the bottom or foot of the bottle. The company’s solution to this problem is the Soft Catch feature of its handling systems, which is said to reduce the shock energy caused by conventional drop packers by as much as 80%.
Once individual products have been successfully packed into their secondary packaging, they’re transported onto pallets and shrinkwrapped ready for storage or distribution. Following investment in two Robopac Rotoplat 506 PFS power pre-stretch pallet wrappers from the Aetna Group, AG Barr, the UK soft drinks producer, has reduced its use of shrink film by 10%, which could equate to material savings of around £12,000 a year.
“We purchased the Rotoplats because of the film savings we could achieve, but an added bonus has been ease of use,” says Colin Gransbury, depot manager, AG Barr. “The machines replaced ageing equipment from another supplier and started work on the same day they were delivered to the Newcastle and Sheffield depots.”
AG Barr has four Rotoplat machines in operation at its depots and currently each wrapper is handling between 80 to 100 pallets of mixed stock or single product lines a day at a capacity of 20 pallets an hour.
The company also bought two print & apply pallet labellers to handle the increased production levels at its Cumbernauld plant, where it has recently commissioned a high-bay warehouse.
Supplied by Logopak International, the Logopak 920DK machines are each capable of labelling 240 pallets an hour with two labels per pallet. They’re being used together as a joint labelling station at AG Barr and handle 200 pallets an hour, with each pallet being identified by two GS1/A5 labels with EAN 128 bar codes.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019