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Unheralded, yet absolutely essential, conveyors are to machinery lines what adhesives are to the materials world - like glue, without them everything would fall apart. Pauline Covell reports

Helping to keep the individual filling and packaging machines running to their optimum ability, conveyors speed up and slow down containers, accumulate or single line products, protect packs from knocks and just plain keep things clean and tidy.

At Campbell in Lubeck, Germany – part of Campbell Soup, for example, everything from empty cans, filled cans and film multipacks run on hundreds of metres of horizontal and vertical conveyors based on technology and engineering supplied by Neustadt Holstein-based H F Meyer.

The basis for successful production at Campbell is automated material flow, combined with central electronic control. Whenever new filling or processing machinery is contemplated the Meyer specialists are called in early to make sure any losses caused by interface problems are prevented. The company provides the appropriate conveying systems, for example chain, roller or magnetic conveyors, and advises on the best positions for buffer and accumulation zones.

A new can filling line at the company equipped with Meyer conveying technology has an operator adjustable performance speed of between 100 and 500 cans/min [diameter 73-99mm, height 110-119mm]. The control unit [S7-SPC bus technology] adjusts and controls the speeds of the supplying lines automatically.

Empty cans arrive by Meyer conveyors from the ‘through the wall’ plant of neighbouring company Zuchner Verpackungen and its non-pressure unscramblers feed them into the cleaning station. After demagnetisation empty cans run into the filler. For high line performance two cans at a time are filled with the fresh vegetables and herbs, meat or sausages and sauces before sealing.

Before and after the filler, a Meyer-developed, space-saving worm decollating device single lines the cans for ink-jet coding. By using clamp-elevators the cans are taken to another level where they are cooked and sterilised.

Chocolate upgrade

An order recently won by Guttridge Services for bulk bag discharge systems is partially dependent on the associated conveying systems being offered by the company. The Spalding-based bulk materials handling specialist has been selected to supply the lines, valued at £80 000, in an important upgrade at the Banbury site of leading manufacturer of high quality chocolate and confectionery Barry Callebaut [UK].

The contract comprises two bulk bag dischargers, each of which is equipped with a Guttridge Multiflo screw conveyor, elevator and check sieve to feed skimmed and full fat milk powder into mixing vessels. The upgrade will eliminate manual handling as a result of a changeover from 25kg sacks to bulk bags, with consequent improvements in safety and food hygiene. Its equipment was chosen, says the company, because the solid screw conveyor/elevator discharge system is designed to be easy to dismantle for cleaning and maintenance, as well as being robust and having a minimal spares requirement.

A conveying system is also at the heart of an RCS filling machines solution for chemical company Raw Chemical Distribution in Great Yarmouth. Presented with the problem of filling both hazardous and non-hazardous products into a variety of different sized containers, RCS felt its Snake Arm would be the best design for the application. With the ability to move the filling arm to different heights, it can easily fill container sizes ranging from 25-1000kg on a pallet.

This left the challenge of adapting the machine to suit container sizes between 1kg and 20kg. “By designing and manufacturing a roller conveyor system complete with weigh platform and specially designed filling nozzle we were able to fill smaller containers by enabling the machine arm to swing over to the conveyor,” says RCS. “This installation has increased production and safety whilst saving on product waste and money.” The whole system is mobile leaving it open for future development.

Conveyor Systems Ltd announced its latest slat band modular conveyor at the recent Total show. The “energy efficient flexible conveyor expands design capabilities for transporting a wide range of products around curves, up inclines and straight sections,” it says. At the heart of the conveyor is a side flexing chain which is claimed to ensure positive handling of heavy payloads, whilst the special slat design allows small products to be conveyed.

With just one motor driving long conveyor sections, systems are simple to integrate and energy efficient, adds CSL.

The company also introduced its modular high-speed pneumatically operated switch sorter. Offering versatility with bi-directional [left/right] 45 deg sortation, the sorter is compact and requires minimum spacing between conveyed products making for good space utilisation and feeding of close pitched lanes. It will handle items as small as 200mm square at speeds of 30/min. Additional drive units are not required as the sorter can be slave driven directly from any existing main line conveyor.

Claimed to help raise hygiene standards in food and drink companies, the Isoma trough conveyor offers simplified cleaning while helping to reduce the risk of dangerous and unsightly wet floors in production halls.

The conveyor features a robust, continuously welded and watertight stainless steel trough. All spillage, such as product, lubrication and cleaning fluids, is securely contained throughout the length of the conveyor. Collection sumps and filters are integrated into the easy-clean trough at regular intervals, allowing fluids to be drained or reclaimed.

An optional integral cleaning pipe allows effective internal cleaning. Another key feature is the ability to remove one side of the trough section quickly and easily for maintenance access to all sprockets and the slat chain.

New from FlexLink is a wide, side-flexing conveyor, the XW conveyor. It is designed to transport bulky or soft, pliable packed products, which call for the stable support of a wide chain. Typical applications are for horizontal transport between case packers, cartoners, in-case fillers, shrink and stretchwrappers or bulk packers. The conveyor is suitable for large board boxes or products in soft flexible packs, such as detergent packs, wrapped tissue paper rolls, food and personal care products.

Available in three widths – 313, 465 and 617mm – the side flexing XW conveyor can be delivered as straight sections or with one 30, 45 or 90 deg horizontal bend. Conveyors are delivered as pre-assembled modules.

Precise positioning

At Total, Belt Technologies demonstrated how it can adapt its range of plain steel belts and provide combination belts by adding perforations, attachments, coatings and timing elements for precise positioning. Typically, attachments or pockets on the belt’s surface can be used to locate a component and a vacuum drawn through a precise perforation will help to secure a component in place.

Alternatively, a more random set of perforations with less precise measurements will suit an application where components are located on the belt during drying or cooling operations, while the introduction of timing pulleys will help to deliver high levels of positional accuracy and repeatability.

Developed by TNA, the RoFlo is a servo-driven smooth distribution system designed for delicate items such as crisps, biscuits and crackers. It is claimed to save thousands of dollars a year in broken product and over flavouring. The use of the servos allows the application of just sufficient force to do what needs to be done, explains the company.

The system is programmable, providing storage of multi-settings for different products. One piece pan lengths in excess of 100m are made possible using a master drive and any number of slave drives, TNA explains. This can reduce costs, maintenance and product breakage by eliminating unnecessary transfer points.