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Dry products fill neatly

Starting from a hobby selling herb-based dip mixes in 1982, Pelican Bay Ltd., Dunedin, FL, has grown from a kitchen-table business into a sparkling, new 35,000-sq-ft production facility. Its extensive product line has grown to include a variety of mixes, including children's baking mixes, cookies, scones, breads, pies, cakes, cappuccinos, hot chocolates, holiday teas, summer sparklers, tropical fruit fizzes, Chai mixes, iced teas, lemonade, holiday beverages, fondue mixes, spices, barbecue rubs, stuffing, cheese spreads and dipping herbs. Pelican Bay Ltd. also offers private labeling, as well as custom packaging and blending designed specifically for its customers' requirements.

Recognizing the need to upgrade its packaging operations as production increased, Pelican Bay recently installed two lines equipped with auger fillers from AMS Filling Systems, Inc. (www.amsfilling.com) to fill the dry products that Pelican Bay markets. A Model A-400E unit fills plastic jars passing beneath it on a conveyor, while a Model A-100 unit is installed on top of a Model EL80 vertical form/fill/seal machine from Key-Pak Machines (www.key-pak.com). Each filler is equipped with an Allen-Bradley programmable logic controller and an operator panel from Rockwell Automation (www.rockwell.com). Operating parameters for the many products that Pelican Bay runs, including the number of auger revolutions required for each product, are stored in memory and can be recalled by the operator. Operation of the auger in each unit is triggered by a signal and the auger revolves the number of times set on the unit's control panel. Product is delivered to the fillers from floor hoppers by inclined screw conveyors that are turned on and off by level switches in the filler hoppers. During Packaging Digest's visit, the lines were both running sundried tomato dry mix.

The Key-Pak EL-Series of vf/f/s machines feature a dual-stepper-motor film-feed drive with a choice of either programmable logic control or personal computer-based control systems for maximum flexibility and ease of operation and maintenance. The machines operate intermittently, with horizontal and vertical sealing taking place while the machine is stopped. A roll of film mounted on a spindle on the back of the machine is pulled through the machine by the motor drive system into the bag forming and filling section of the machine. On printed film, a sensor detects the location of artwork and ensures that the length for each bag will always be in perfect registration. A Model 4500 stainless-steel stamping printer from Bell-Mark Sales Co. (www.bell-mark.com) applies a date code to the film after it leaves the roll to mark every bag. The printer incorporates a stationary horizontal ink pad and a reciprocating arm with an applicator containing rubber type. The arm rotates down to pick up ink, and then rotates up against the film to apply the code date each time the f/f/s machine stops.

The film passes over a series of rollers at the top of the machine, which maintain the proper backpressure as the film moves through the machine. The film passes around a forming tube on the front of the unit, and a heat-controlled sealing die produces the vertical overlap seal. Two drive belts on opposite sides of the tube pull the film through the machine. The product from the filler drops through a tube to the point just above the sealing jaws where it discharges into the waiting, partially formed bag.

Next, the film travel stops, and the horizontal sealing jaws move in against the film and induction-heat a horizontal seal across the film. At the end of each sealing cycle, before the jaws disengage, a blade extends from the center of the jaws and cuts the bag loose. Bags discharge from the machine onto an inclined conveyor that transports them into a floor hopper.

In the bottling operation, which takes place in a separate room, the operation starts by manually placing bottles on a turntable that feeds the conveyor that carries them to the AMS filler. Bottles enter the filler through a feedscrew, and a finger holds them beneath the auger discharge. A photo eye triggers the auger operation, and when the bottle is filled, the finger retracts to release the bottle, and the cycle is repeated. The filled bottles are conveyed to a turntable, from which workers remove them and manually apply caps.

Workers pass the bottles manually through a metal detector from Lock Inspection Systems, Inc. (www.lockinspection.com) , then manually apply tamper-evident bands and set the bottles on a conveyor that carries them through a steam tunnel from Axon Corp., Div. of Pro Mach (www.axoncorp.com) that shrinks the bands. The bottles then travel through an open-bottom unit that has belts on both sides that transport the bottles. A Linx 4900 ink-jet printer from Diagraph, an ITW co. (www.diagraph.com) applies a lot code and date to the bottoms of the bottles as they pass overhead. The 4900 can store 50 messages in memory and features automation of diagnostics and running parameters. The bottles discharge onto a turntable and are removed by workers. Inline Filling Systems, Inc. (www.fillers.com) supplied the turntables and conveyors in the bottling operation, including the indexing conveyor under the AMS filler and the side-gripper unit.

Foundation Packaging Inc. (407/349-5383) represents most of the equipment installed at Pelican Bay and assisted in the installation and startup.

"We've been very satisfied with both the AMS fillers and the Key-Pak form/fill/seal machine," says plant manager Greg Kathan. "Both machines run very well, and the AMS fillers are very accurate. A lot of our products, such as marshmallows, are difficult to run, and we've had no problems with the AMS and Key-Pak equipment."


More information is available:
Pelican Bay Ltd., 727/733-8399. www.pelicanbayltd.com.
AMS Filling Systems, Inc., 610/942-4200. www.amsfilling.com.
Axon Corp., Div. of Pro Mach, 919/772-8383. www.axoncorp.com.
Bell-Mark Sales Co., 973/882-0202. www.bell-mark.com.
Diagraph, an ITW Co., 636/300 2000. www.diagraph.com.
Foundation Packaging Inc. 407/349-5383.
Inline Filling Systems, Inc., 941/486-8800. www.fillers.com.
Key-Pak Machines, 908/236-2111. www.key-pak.com.
Lock Inspection Systems, Inc., 978/343-3716. www.lockinspection.com
Rockwell Automation, 414/382-2000. www.rockwell.com.
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