Who doesn’t enjoy fresh corn? Easy to cook, affordable, and delicious, corn is an American institution: whether it’s being grilled for an Independence Day barbeque or served beside the Thanksgiving turkey, it’s a wholesome part of the nation’s identity.
That said, while growing corn is one thing, getting it onto store shelves across the nation — husked, packed, and fresh — is another process entirely. It’s not easy. Time is of the essence. Quality is demanded. The machinery itself has to be perfectly timed to match the speed of the human operators who are doing the husking, without missing a beat.
When a regional grocery store chain turned to Wrabacon for help with their corn-packing goals, a custom solution was needed — and Wrabacon delivered.
The rise of the CBD oil industry is one of the hottest new movements today. CBD, or cannabidiol, is still deemed controversial in some circles, but its usage in treating symptoms such as pain, anxiety, and movement disorders have drawn headlines. As of 2019, insiders have dubbed the growing demand for CBD oil products as “the next gold rush.”
However, manufacturing CBD products — as well as bottling the liquids, in the precise way that CBD oil requires — isn’t easy. Accuracy and meticulousness aren’t just niceties, but requirements, which makes mass production of these products uniquely challenging. That’s why a client turned to Wrabacon to create a system that could pump CBD oil into glass containers at high speeds, while not losing any accuracy. Once filled, the bottles would need to be capped and labeled.
More efficient processes mean more profit. This was exactly the case with a food manufacturer that wanted to increase packaging production for their frozen dough balls. They turned to Wrabacon requesting a system design and install that would receive frozen dough balls from a freezer, singulate them (separate them into individual pieces), and transfer them to two automatic bagging machines. This one change would help them increase their production capabilities dramatically.
Once bagged, the sealed bags would need to be transferred to a manual packing area where the bags were hand packed into shipping cartons. The cases are formed and transferred to the pack off area via another series of conveyors and elevators. Once packed, the cases need to be transferred to the case taper and palletizing area.
When plastic bottles with caps are filled with hot liquids, the caps and empty space in the bottles need to be sterilized. The challenge was to design a system to upend the bottles to allow the hot liquid to flow to the cap. Then return the bottles to the upright position and transfer to a water bath chiller.
Wrabacon was tasked with designing and manufacturing a series of conveyors that transport filled plastic containers from two existing fillers to two existing spot pack machines. The system needed to be designed so that each filler can feed each spot pack machine utilizing reversing belts. The containers will be produced at the rate of 180 per minute per filling machine. After the spot pack machine, spot packs need to be elevated and fed into a new palletizing line at the rate of 30 packs per minute.
Wrabacon specializes in developing creative packaging & automated conveyor system solutions for our customers that make time intensive tasks efficient and easy. A recent example is a custom designed and manufactured series of conveyors that drastically improved the efficiency of a manual produce packing operation for a regional distributor and specialty packaging company of organic produce.
The client needed to be able to sort up to 6000 lbs. of produce an hour, grade that produce, and then package it in a variety of ways including loose product, cased product, and bagged product. Prior to the Wrabacon system, the grading portion of the operation was done by opening a box of produce and hand picking the good from the bad and transferring the bad product into a separate box which was then disposed of, which was time consuming and inefficient.
New England farmed oysters are becoming a major market for fisherman who are dealing with the loss of species in local waters. In fact, New England waters are the perfect environment for the growing and harvesting of farmed oysters.
A prominent aquaculture farm contacted Wrabacon Inc. to design and build 3 special conveyors to transport 80 pound wire mesh crates from a dock, up an incline, to an existing pier and then up a second incline where they will be manually removed, palletized and moved via fork truck to the refrigerated warehouse.
An artisan regional cheese manufacturer faced a challenge. Their production line was completely manual and very slow. The problem was that the operators had to manually denest and place clam shell trays on a conveyor. Then they manually place finished cheese balls in the clam shell. Once this was completed, the operator would manually close the calm shell. They turned to Wrabacon to manufacture a packaging line that would transform their production line from a completely manual system to a semi-automatic packaging line.
The new system designed by Wrabacon consisted of a tray denester, a conveyor to transport trays to the operators, and an automatic lid closer. All equipment was built in stainless steel to meet the high demands and sanitation needs the food industry requires.
The Wrabacon Solution:
Custom designed and manufactured a tray denester that denests plastic clamshells onto a moving conveyor at the rate of up to 30 per minute.
The system works with two tray sizes: 4” x 8.75” and 5.38” x 5.38” Each are denested with the long edge leading on the conveyor.
The trays are denested onto a conveyor where they will be manually filled by the operators.
After filling, they travel downstream to a lid closer that automatically folds and closes the lids prior to transferring to downstream equipment.
Operators manually load the trays into an adjustable 45 degree twin hopper with the open side of the tray facing down. Pneumatic cups extend up to the trays, pull one from each stack, pivot down over the conveyor and then release the two trays. The trays travel on the conveyor with the wide edge leading. After placing the tray, the process repeats—picking and then placing the two trays onto the conveyor.
The denester utilizes a photo sensor to trigger the cycle. The sensor is mounted on the conveyor and when clear, the denester drops the trays onto the belt. The conveyor has variable speeds, so the denester rate is controlled by the speed of the conveyor. After denesting, the clamshells are manually filled with product.
Clamshell Closer Operation
After filling, the clamshells travel downstream to the closer with the lid open. A rail guide and partially closes the lid as it transfers to the conveyor. Once the lid is partially closed, a set of powered rollers snap the lid around the perimeter of the clamshell. Wrabacon designed the closer with power rollers since applying pressure to the top center of the lid might not seal the container properly.
The powered rollers are above the clamshell while a set of free spinning rollers are on the underside of the clamshell. By sitting over the two edges of the clamshell, the guides and rollers contact the edges of the container and ensure a proper closure. After closing, the clamshells transfer to downstream equipment for further processing. The closer is adjustable for the two tray sizes and can be easily adjusted via hand cranks and physical stops.
As part of this proposal, Wrabacon supplied (1) twin, adjustable hopper, tray denester with support frame, (2) 32” long denester hoppers that holds approx. 100 trays each, (1) main packing conveyor, (1) split belt clamshell closer and (1) control system.
While designing a custom conveyor system Wrabacon was challenged to provide a reject system to reject under/overweight product from a high speed processing system. The product passed the check weigher at 220 FPM.
Our team of designers went to work and after testing several solutions the decision was to design and manufacture a stainless steel over-head servo controlled over-head reject system. Because the product was wet and the system was to be installed in an area where wash down would take place the reject system was designed entirely with wet duty and wash down components.
Due to the limited space where the reject system would be installed the over-head system was designed with paddles to sweep the product. This design choice saved space by eliminating side pneumatic cylinders which are typically used in reject systems. As product passes over the check weigher a signal is sent to the reject system should an overweight or under weight product be detected. Once the product enters the reject system a paddle that is attached to a rotating chain sweeps the product into a reject bin.
Our diverse experience in the industrial automation industry has prepared our team to identify and overcome a variety of challenges presented by our clients’ products, facilities and processes. Recently a national wet wipe manufacturer tasked us to develop an advanced handling system to integrate into their existing facility. This was an entirely new manufacturing line, custom designed to increase production to meet new orders and keep up with demand.
The first challenge the product posed was the nature of the product itself. Due to the wet, damp characteristics of the wet wipes prior to packaging, the entire handling system was designed and built with stainless steel conveyor components. The second challenge was accumulating wet wipes from the converter.
To ensure the handling system operated seamlessly, we teamed-up with a conveyor chain manufacturer to design custom chain that would allow accumulation of a wet product, or in this case, the wet wipes. This process took place in the low-pressure accumulation area noted in the system plans. At Wrabacon we welcome these challenges to keep our knowledge and skills ahead of the rest.
The Handling System and How It Works
Basic System Process
The basic process for the handling system is as follows. The wet wipes are produced from a converter and transported to an accumulation system which then feeds two existing high speed over wrapper packaging machines. If wipes are not sent to the over wrappers they are sent to a machine that places them into plastic containers. If the wipes are over wrapped the packages are sent via the 3-1 merge to either a hand pack line or a cartoner machine.
Detailed System Process
Stacks of wet wipes transfer through a check weigher in a single file. This effectively measures the weight of the product and indicates that each container has the correct moisture content. Product is then transferred onto a short reject conveyor equipped with an overhead sweep mechanism. This sweep mechanism is used to reject stacks of wipes from the line that could disrupt downstream elements of the handling system. The wet wipes are rejected based on a signal from the checkweigher.
After passing through the reject conveyor, the stacks enter a 5-lane tunnel style diverter. In normal operation, the stacks of wipes travel straight through the diverter, enter a merge system around a ninety-degree turn and onto the final diverter. During normal operation the stacks enter the final diverter and are equally distributed to the four downstream lanes. Based on a downstream signal, if a wrapper is not online, the diverter diverts the stacks evenly to the remaining wrappers. If accumulation is required, the first diverter diverts the wipes evenly to five low back pressure accumulation conveyors where the stacks accumulate.
Each conveyor is approximately 18’ long and holds 30 stacks of wipes (based on a 7” long product). After the accumulation section, the gate and release merge system releases lanes of the accumulated stacks to merge them back into one lane for the final divert when the need for accumulation goes away. The gate and release merge systems are located at the end of the low back pressure accumulation conveyor. The stacks merge to the center of the merge conveyor using two vertical side belts that help keep the stacks together. Both diverters are “tunnel” style and utilize servo motors for positioning.
After the second diverter, we designed and built a series of conveyors that take the stacks of wet wipes to the wrappers. Lane one feeds the closest wrapper, lanes 3 and 5 are the future wrapper lines. Lanes one and two travel around a ninety degree turn and then through to the corresponding wrappers. After the wrappers, the two lines merge into one and enter one of two downstream lines (ergo line or tray line). The tray line will consist of a dual pack off conveyor and a tray conveyor. The merge will be constructed wide enough to handle the future line three. Line four travels straight down to a thermoform line where the stacks are manually loaded into the thermoformer.
Handling System Specs
To improve the production system, Wrabacon designed and build the following product handling system components:
(1) Overhead sweep reject system
(1) 1:5 servo controlled diverter
(5) low back pressure accumulation conveyors
(1) gate and release 5:1 merge
(1) ninety-degree conveyor
(1) Line 1 conveyors including a ninety-degree wrapper infeed conveyor, a wrapper discharge conveyor
(1) Line 2 conveyors. 3:1 Merge to hand pack off
Production Rate: 225 wet wipes per minute. Product Size: 7 long x 4.25 wide.