Learn more about food production packaging! Regional sales manager, Derek Williams, talks about how Brenton ensures food items are handled and packaged with the utmost care. Featuring information on washdown, end of arm tooling, vision, and cold room packaging solutions.
Hello, my name is Derek Williams and I’m the North Midwest Region Sales Manager at Brenton Engineering. In case you aren’t familiar, Brenton has been designing and manufacturing end-of-line packaging solutions for over 33 years. These solutions include case packers, cartoners, palletizers, stretch wrappers, and turn-key line integrations. Today I wanted to talk a little bit about end-of-line automation in food packaging.
Like all aspects of food packaging, cleanliness is key. One of the biggest decisions which needs to be made is the level of washdown capability of your equipment. There are questions to answer like what portions of the system will be cleaned on a short-term basis? What chemicals will be used during the cleaning process? And what does the cleaning process look like? Are hoses used? Do those hoses have nozzles attached to them?
In many cases of raw meat handling, for example, caustic chemicals will be used to washdown the full system on a regular basis. In many of these cases hoses with nozzles will be used to spray down the equipment. In this scenario, the equipment would be constructed with stainless steel frame components and NEMA 4X electrical enclosures with an IP66 rating.
In contrast to this, in cases of downstream product handling, in which the product is already in a secondary package, the equipment is only washed by a wipe-down process. In this process, rags and spray bottles are used to wipe down the equipment on a semi-regular basis. In this case, the equipment would be constructed with carbon steel frame components and NEMA 12 electrical enclosures with an IP52 rating.
Along the lines of cleanliness, a question which often arises is what grippers should be used to handle the product? In situations where the product has been placed in secondary packaging, suction cups might be used. Those suction cups might be avoided if raw product is handled in order to prevent bi-products like fluids from entering the vacuum circuit.
Packaging materials can also be heavily influenced by the need for cleanliness. For example, a palletizer may need to be designed to handle non-standard plastic pallets which can be washed down and reused. Or a case packer may need the capability to load product into a returnable plastic crate, or RPC.
Aside from cleanliness, batch or lot tracking is important in food packaging. In the situations where individual product tracking is necessary to trace defects back up the line, a well-designed serialization and tracking system will need to be developed.
Certain food items may need to be packaged in cold temperatures, including freezers. You will want to be sure the automation is capable of sustained operation in these temperatures. This usually involves choosing specialty electrical components and precautions to be taken around sensitive electronics like the HMI and robotics. Mechanical assemblies may integrate a heater or use special low temperature lubricants.