Whether it’s a pudding in a glass, with or without outer packaging, fresh herbs in a plastic tray, or the spoon in an ice cream tub – different products require different packaging solutions. In this case the quality of the packaging is just as important as the productivity and multifunctionality of the actual packaging line. Packaging lines must also satisfy the highest requirements in terms of productivity, flexibility and reliability. Flexible drive technology guarantees that foodstuffs are packaged quickly, precisely and carefully.
Whether the requirement is to package surimi and sandwiches, finished products or frozen foods, cakes and pastries or even chocolates: the French company Euro Cri, based in Coulommiers, has been developing and building packaging machinery for more than 20 years – from standalone modules through to complete packaging lines. They also upgrade packaging machinery. The emphasis is on packaging machines for end products. And development at the French packaging line manufacturer focuses on the productivity of each individual machine.
Packaged with care
Foodstuffs must be packaged precisely, safely and, above all, carefully. That final factor alone presents a particular challenge for packaging line manufacturers, whose machines need to meet increased standards when packaging delicate foodstuffs. For example, when positioning or spacing products, it is particularly important to avoid them being flattened or becoming damaged during the actual packaging process. What’s more, packaging machines for the food industry should also be able to guarantee higher frequency packaging.
The “Dynamic Stocker” accumulator made by the French firm Euro Cri converts an irregular product flow at the output of a production machine into a regular flow, as found when packaging biscuits, surimi or chocolate for example, and that’s before the products reach the packaging machine – a horizontal flow-packer. The accumulator gathers the unpackaged products as they arrive and creates a “buffer store”, which can be regulated according to the change in the material flow.
In terms of automation, the accumulator, which was integrated into an existing packaging line, was developed and built by Euro Cri in close co-operation with Strasbourg-based Pilz France Electronic, the French subsidiary of Pilz GmbH & Co. KG, based in Ostfildern near Stuttgart.
The greatest automation challenge was to arrange the packaging process so that it was hundred per cent synchronous with the rhythm of the existing horizontal flow-packer. The flow-packer forwards incoming products in an irregular sequence. No pressure may be applied, nor may any friction be created, so it is important that the products have only the slightest of contact and are forwarded immediately – whether individually or in groups.
The development and design therefore demanded an automation solution which was not only capable of controlling complex movements but could also handle various transport speeds simultaneously. The automation focus was on the movement of a total of six axes: the incoming, connecting and outgoing conveyors, the separators and the axes for synchronisation and the flow-packer. It had to be possible to co-ordinate the axis movements with one hundred per cent accuracy, so that the various speeds at different points of the conveyor could be synchronised precisely and safely regulated.
Euro Cri opted for a Pilz motion control solution (PMC), which enables precise synchronisation of the respective motion processes.