A new system employs automatic pouch handling and optional product loading to reduce operator-related errors.
When it comes to traditional manual heat-sealing processes, most mistakes can be attributed to the operator, reports Lynne Barton, senior account executive for SencorpWhite.
“Operators get distracted, and one part of the process is not satisfied, leading to improperly packaged products,” Barton told PMP News at Healthpack. Common mistakes include improperly sealed packages, unsealed packages, and wrongly labeled packages, she adds.
To remedy these errors, SencorpWhite decided to “take the operator out of the process of handling pouches,” Barton says. At MD&M East 2015
in June, the company will be updating prospective customers on the status of the new APM12 Automated Pouch Sealer. The modular system features a pouch dispenser and product loading and sealing stations. Seal inspection, RFID, label print-and-apply, pouch printing, and bar coding can be added as optional upgrades.
A constant-heat bar sealer provides “highly repeatable two-sided heat using a closed-loop temperature control system and probe-style thermocouples,” Barton says. “A load cell is used to verify that the appropriate seal force was reached for the minimum amount of time.”
The APM12 automatically picks pouches that are horizontally stacked and reorients them vertically. Independent asynchronous carriages index pouches to each station. An optional static elimination bar “sweeps” the pouches to ensure pouches do not attract particulates.
Operators load products into the vertically positioned pouches, and a sensor monitors and records loading. The product load process can be achieived via automation as an optional upgrade if desired.
“If the pouch leaves the seal station and all conditions have been met, the system discharges the pouch as acceptable,” Barton explains. “Otherwise, the pouch is sent to a reject bin.”
Barton expects that most existing pouch designs will work with the APM12, “as long as there is enough headspace for grippers to hold the pouches,” she says. The grippers automatically adjust to pouch widths, which can range from 5.5 to 11.5 in. Lengths from 7 to 23 in. can be accommodated.
As one might expect, the automated system can attain faster speeds than manually fed processes. “If an operator is cruising during manual processes, the fastest they can go is 5 to 6 pouches per minute,” says Barton. The APM12, however, can achieve up to 12 finished pouches per minute.
The APM12 can employ seal inspection technology from PTI that scans sealed pouches for channels or wrinkles down to 1 mm. Other options include machine vision technology and quick-change product guides for product-loading stations.