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.
The Wrabacon Solution
- An automated conveyor system to improve overall efficiency
- An inclined feed conveyor that is manually loaded
- A grading conveyor that allows operators to physically sort different grades of produce quickly and easily
- A waste conveyor to remove unwanted produce efficiently
- A portable conveyor used for bagging produce that can be easily added when needed
- Easy controls to allow certain parts of the system to be halted as product is moved by hand without interrupting the overall process
Produce Handling System Operation
After manually loading the produce onto the conveyor, operators stand along the conveyor and grade the produce as it passes by. The grading conveyor consists of ¾” diameter rollers that rotate the produce as it passes by. Unwanted produce is placed onto the waste conveyor that travels in the opposite direction. The good product is transferred into a hopper that brings the produce up to the top of a small hopper. From the hopper, the product is handled one of two ways; into a bulk case or directly onto a takeaway conveyor for individual packaging.
For packaging, the boxes or bags (the portable bagging conveyor can be easily moved onto place when needed) are placed on a scale and filled to the required weight. When that weight is reached, the conveyor feeding produce can be easily stopped via a button so the operator can move the box or bag off the scale. However, the grading conveyor is still filling the hopper, so the overall process does not get delayed. When the operator is ready to continue, a simple press of the button starts the process again.
Once the product is packaged, it is set along another conveyor that allows the containers to be clipped or tied and easily labeled.
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.
This just one of many conveyor and system solutions offered by Wrabacon. Click here to browse our custom automated systems.
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.