The increasing speed of processing and packaging machines for primary packaging (especially flow-pack) in the confectionery and bakery sector is a challenge companies have to deal with on a regular basis. This task is not made any easier by the nature of products, which are often fragile and need very careful handling to prevent that they are ruined when they reach the final consumer, creating considerable damage to the image of customer companies.
Always ready to provide a dynamic response to market needs, M.H. Material Handling developed leading-edge systems for handling products arriving from other packaging machines, in order to arrange them in a single line or divide them in multiple lines, as required by the implemented secondary packaging solution. These new-generation machines have been presented at the 2015 edition of Ipack-Ima, where M.H. exhibited two new systems: an alignment system on single line, and a sorting system, both developed for high production speeds. The new devices can manage up to 600 products per minute, 150 mm long, on a single line, corresponding to a nominal speed of 90 m/min.
Mergers are an essential equipment when the machine used for secondary packaging is of the Racetrack type, with robotic multiple gripping arm. The best systems on the market at present run well above 400 pieces per minute. M.H.’s merging system has been developed for installation between two or more primary packaging machines and one secondary packaging machine. Each infeed line comprises 2 or 3 medium friction belt conveyors, driven by brushless motors; the number varies based on the requested output rate. For higher rates, the use of vacuum may be required to prevent the products from slipping on the conveyor during acceleration. The purpose of these conveyors is to provide the proper timing of incoming products, and so ensure that they do not collide with each other on the merging conveyor that follows. The latter is an additional belt conveyor, onto which the products are aligned on a single line by means of one or two funnel-shaped guides. At the envisaged speeds, the concept of fixed guide must be overcome, since any slowing of the products touching the guide would automatically mean a loss in timing, with consequent risk of jamming; and at the envisaged production rates this would prove catastrophic, resulting in the immediate standstill of all machines upstreams. For this reason, the preferred option has been to replace fixed guides with motorised “ploughs” that can adjust the speed to that of the belt conveyor below.
This system, presented at the Milan exhibition, has been designed for merging into a single line 150-mm long products arriving in two lines at a rate of 300 ppm for each line; the end result is of 600 ppm on a single line, and the real system output rate is comprised between 110 and 140 m/min, based on the properties of the handled goods and of the packaging machine downstreams. High manufacturing standards characterize the construction of these mergers, all of them equipped with quick-change system without tools. For standard control a Siemens PLC is used, with operator’s panel with colour screen, whereas inverter, brushless motors and relevant drives are Keb or Elau, and gearboxes and asynchronous motors are SEW. On request, Rockwell Allen Bradley electronics can be installed. An important feature that distinguishes M.H. systems from other similar products on the market is the possibility of controlling the product output rate in order to obtain a regular pace. On the contrary, many competitors offer a different handling system requiring a total re-timing of the products before their infeed to the secondary packaging machine, which leads to significant extra costs. M.H. recently acquired an important order for a leading manufacturer of the bakery industry in the Middle East. The supply includes three merging systems 2 in 1, and one merging system 3 in 1, equipped with the connecting belts to the flow-pack machines upstreams.
When the secondary packaging is performed with multi-robots with vision system, the products must be arranged on multiple lines at the exit from the primary packaging machine. M.H. offers an extensive range of solutions, from multitrack dividers with vane, with moving channel or with drawers, with brushless motors. The 2015 novelty is a system with a discontinuous mobile guide-track; the system comprises two timing belt conveyors operated via brushless motors, which give the rhythm to the products that are transferred to the conveyor onto which they are separated. The separation in two lines is performed by a motor-driven plough, applied onto the belt, featuring porters of the proper length which, in alternate steps, lead the products towards the outer track. Since the displacement is gradual, and occurs at the same speed as that of the belt underneath, the product is not exposed to hard stresses, and the system is particularly suitable for fragile goods. Even in this case, as for the mergers, the rhythm at the exit from the system is guaranteed, and no re-timing is required before the secondary packaging machine. The output rates reached are identical to those of the mergers.
Know-how made in Italy
M.H. is an Italian company with three decades of experience in material handling and plant logistics in different industrial sectors. Founded in 1986, with special focus on automotive and mechanical applications, at the beginning of the 1990’s the company devoted itself to the food and pharmaceutical industries, and is now partner of some of the major Italian and international manufacturers, having developed solid connections with various manufacturers of packaging machines. Customer attention at M.H. starts from the very beginning, when a project is being developed and the most adequate solutions are found in terms of best production efficiency and greatest economic benefit. Systems engineering is performed thanks to 2D and 3D CAD systems, allowing to minimise the risks of interferences that were not known before installation. M.H. has developed an extensive range to meet any product handling need, and easily interfaces with machines by any manufacturer. Among the available applications: conveyors, buffering systems, mergers, dividers, elevators, downlevators, rotating and tilting systems. Thanks to their modular design, all M.H. products can be supplied as a complete line or as stand-alone units.