How new packaging line sweetens operations for Calypso

Jack Mans, Plant Operations Editor

January 29, 2014

11 Min Read
How new packaging line sweetens operations for Calypso
Calypso lemonade

284977-Calypso_lemonade.jpg

Calypso lemonade

King Juice Co. Inc., Milwaukee, WI, recently installed a new 250-bottle/min packaging line to run glass bottles of its Calypso brand flavored lemonades. A privately held corporation since 1983, King Juice also provides copackaging and private label services, and the line can also run plastic bottles and multiple bottle sizes. The company got into the contract packaging business almost by accident. “Someone had heard that we were running a juice product, and they called to ask us if we would be interested in contract packing their product. That part of our business took off from there,” says president Tim Kezman.


Although it has a few larger copacking customers, King Juice focuses on smaller companies that may need specialized services. “We can provide large company capabilities with the flexibility of a mid-sized niche packer,” says Kezman. “Our focus is the entrepreneur, the startup customer, the specialty packer, the difficult package. We don’t publicize the fact, but in many cases, we are like a business consultant to our customers.”

King Juice introduced Calypso brand lemonades in the summer of 1999, and it has grown to 11 flavors plus two sugar-free products—all in 20-oz glass bottles. The products are distributed in all but six states.

Fill product at 190 deg F
King Juice receives glass bottles, which are supplied by Anchor Glass Container Corp. and Saint-Gobain Containers, in bulk on pallets. The pallets are delivered on a conveyor to a depalletizer from Sentry Equipment & Erectors Inc. The pallet enters the unit at floor level and a sweep arm powered by a variable frequency drive, pushes a layer of bottles onto a takeaway convey. The sweep arm then reciprocates, the pallet is raised another layer and the process is repeated. The unit is powered by a heavy duty gear motor and controlled by a vector drive for smooth and trouble-free operation.

The bottles combine from the bulk take-away conveyor to a single lane conveyor and enter a lowerator/rinser, also from Sentry, that lowers them to the main floor. The bottles, which are inverted as they enter the lowerator and are held by neoprene grippers, travel through a water injector for cleaning followed by a steam tunnel to temper the glass before the hot-filling operation. A quick change-over hand-crank system provides a simple adjustment for differing container diameters. 

After being set upright when they reach the first floor, the bottles are conveyed to a 36-valve model SH4-36.12R gravity filler from Federal Manufacturing Co. This machine actually is a monobloc unit in which the filler and capper are typically mounted on a single base and are driven by a common motor and drive system. However, King Juice only installed the filler, and the caps are applied by a separate machine.

As they enter the filler, the bottles travel around a starwheel onto individual lift plates that raise them against spring-loaded valves, and the 190-deg F juice is filled as the unit revolves. During filling, a light vacuum draws the air from the bottles, allowing the juice to enter by gravity and fill the bottles to the proper level. To ensure a uniform fill level, product is slightly overfilled, so at the end of the fill cycle, the bottle plates lower the bottles off of the valves and vacuum removes the excess product. 

The bottles discharge from the filler through a starwheel onto a conveyor that transports them to a model VG Class II inline steam-vacuum capper from Silgan Equipment Co. A model 6R17 hopper orients the 38-mm lug-style, pop-top metal caps, which are supplied by Silgan White Cap, open-side-down and delivers them down a chute to the capping head. As the bottles enter the capper, steam flushes air from the tops of the bottles. The capper twists the caps 90 deg as it applies them to the bottles, and the steam is trapped in the headspace. The steam condenses to form a vacuum inside the container, resulting in the familiar closure with the tag line, “Button Pops Up When Seal is Broken.”

The capped bottles travel to a 14-ft wide x 36-ft long chilled-water tunnel that cools the product to 110 deg F in about 20 min. This unit is divided down the center so it can run bottles from both lines simultaneously.

Bottles leaving the cooler travel past an air knife from Sonic Air Systems that blows the water off of the bottles, and they then continue past a Silgan model 51R34C no-vacuum/no-cap detector. The unit uses an ultra-sensitive probe that electronically senses cap panel deflection, which indicates that the bottle is sealed. A plunger ejects unacceptable bottles.

The bottles are then conveyed past a model Jet 2SE small character, continuous ink-jet printer from Leibinger that applies the lot code and production time to the necks of the bottles. There are actually two of these printers mounted side-by-side; one for each filling line. These printers feature Leibinger’s fully automatic nozzle seal, in which the nozzle and gutter tube close airtight. This prevents drying of the ink in the print head so that the unit starts instantly without cleaning, even after long  shutdowns.

Next, the bottles are conveyed to a model EZ-300SL sleeve labeler from Axon LLC, a div. of Pro Mach. Film, which is supplied by Valley Label Company, LLC, is pulled from a roll, passes through a motorized film unwind system and is pulled over the top of the machine and down into the application chamber. It passes through a series of guide rollers and is then pulled over the mandrel that opens the tubular film. Two stepper-driven rollers work in conjunction with the print-registration system to ensure that the correct length of film is advanced.

When a detection photoeye senses the container, multiple blades located around the mandrel cut the film, which is then advanced down the mandrel by the following label. Finally, the cut sleeve is pushed down onto the container by the film-application rollers located at the base of the mandrel. The labeled bottles travel through an Axon model EZ-120-SS steam shrink tunnel to shrink the labels onto the bottles. The Calypso bottle running during PD’s visit does not use a sleeve label, so this piece of equipment was not operating.

The bottles are then conveyed to an Ambec accumulation table from FleetwoodGoldcoWyard. While this is a bi-directional table, King Juice operates it in only one direction to provide first-in, first-out bottle travel.

Two-station pressure-sensitive labeler
The bottles then enter a Kosme model Top II AD 16-head labeler from Krones Inc. that applies p-s labels, which are supplied by Valley Label Company, LLC. The unit is equipped with two labeling stations to apply front and back labels. At each station, a roll of labels is mounted horizontally and the web is pulled through a series of rollers to a point where the label is stripped from the backing and applied to the bottle. The remaining web is rewound onto a spool.

A feedscrew maintains bottle separation and meters the bottles into the labeler’s infeed starwheel, which, in turn, transfers the containers to individual plates on the continuously revolving container table. Once the bottle is on the plate, a centering bell descends to hold each bottle in place as the label is applied. As the labeler’s bottle table rotates, the bottle plates track a mechanical cam that is located beneath all of the plates. The plates rotate until the bottle is properly situated to receive the first (front) label. After this is applied, the bottle plates continue to rotate so the bottle is positioned to receive the second (back) label exactly opposite the front label. The labeled containers then travel through a discharge starwheel onto the conveyor.

After the labeler, a sidegrip conveyor equipped with rubber grippers carries the bottles vertically to an overhead conveyor that passes over an access corridor below. At the other side of the corridor, a similar conveyor returns the bottles to the first floor. ConFab Systems Inc. supplied these sidegrip elevators as well as all of the bottle conveyors on the line. It did all of the layout work for both lines in the plant and for various pieces of equipment, and it also provided the floor plan included in this story.

Shrink packer
The bottles then travel through another Ambec accumulation table, after which they enter a Brandpac model BPTS 5000 continuous-motion shrink packer from Arpac Group. This is a print-registered wrapping system that can run pads, trays and unsupported bottles. King Juice runs only tray packs and only clear film, so the print registration is not required in this application. The shrink-wrapping film is supplied by AEP Industries Inc. 

The Arpac wrapper features a bottom overlap-sealing system that eliminates a seal bar. It overlaps the leading and trailing edges of the film beneath the trays bottles, and the film is then sealed in the shrink tunnel. The bottles are delivered to the wrapper in bulk on a conveyor, and are separated into four lanes by metal dividers. They enter the machine through a servo-driven shuttle grouper that maintains the lanes. The bottles are released from this device in groups of three bottles deep to achieve a 12-bottle count on the tray. Flight bars, which are connected to chains on both sides of the machine, come around behind the group of bottles as they leave the grouper and push them onto tray blanks, which are delivered from a magazine. The loaded trays then travel through a hot-melt gluing zone that applies glue with a ProBlue® pressurized adhesive system from Nordson Corp., and then enters the wrapping section.

A series of dancer rollers pull the wrapping film from a roll and feed it underneath the machine and up into the wrapper. After each wrapping cycle, a brake stops the film movement, and a servo-driven, serrated knife cuts the film to the proper length needed to wrap the tray. The pull rolls and the knife are servo-driven.

The cut piece of film is fed up through a gap between the tray conveyor and the wrapper conveyor, and the edge is pushed beneath the tray as it travels onto the wrapper conveyor. Another flight bar traveling faster than the bottle conveyor then lifts the trailing edge of the cut film, folds it over the front of the bottles and pulls it down over the bottles and tray. The motion of the tray pulls the leading edge of the film beneath it to the point where it overlaps the edge placed beneath the tray previously. The tray then enters the shrink tunnel, which tightly shrinks the film around the bottles and creates a very tight bundle. The shrink wrapper incorporates an Allen-Bradley PLC, as well as a color-touchscreen HMI with message display and self diagnostics from Rockwell Automation. These systems include preprogrammed settings for machine speeds, timing, temperatures and other operating parameters.

The shrink tunnel features a three-zone blower that quickly and evenly shrinks the film around the bundle. The unit utilizes a low-volume side and top hot-air flow to reduce film ballooning in the shrink tunnel.

The wrapped trays travel on a case conveyor from Hytrol Conveyor Co. past two model PB-260 ink-jet printers from Hitachi America Ltd. The printers were supplied by a distributor: IMS-Partners. Because the printers are printing on non-absorbent film, they use a ketone-based ink that dries in less than one sec after it is applied. The PB-260 features an automatic system that rinses the nozzles, gutter and valves with solvent when it is shut down. The trays are then conveyed to a von GAL Corp. palletizer followed by a Lantech stretch wrapper. 

King Juice has installed a portable carton multipacker from Climax Packaging Machinery Inc. to run selected packages. Product is conveyed to the unit in bulk and the number of containers to be packed into a carton is separated and pushed into the carton-loading zone. Cartons are glued by a Nordson Problue hot-melt system.

The Sentry equipment, the bottle cooler and the vonGal Corp. palletizer were all supplied by a distributor: SMB Machinery Systems LLC.

“The line has performed to a level even higher than I expected in a relatively short time,” says Kezman. “All of our suppliers have been supportive, and the line has more than doubled our capacity. In addition, my employees have been great. They reconfigured the entire line and facility, and they have shown flexibility throughout the entire installation process. Without quality people in the proper places, even the best equipment will have difficulty functioning properly.”


MORE INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE:

AEP Industries Inc., 800/999-2374. www.aepinc.com 
Anchor Glass Container Corp, 813/884-0000. www.anchorglass.com
Arpac Group, 847/678-9034.www.Arpac.com
Axon LLC., a div. of Pro Mach. 800/598-8601. www.axoncorp.com
Climax Packaging Machinery, Inc., 513/874-1233. www.climaxpackaging.com
Confab Systems Inc., 708/388-4103. www.confabsystems.com
Federal Manufacturing Co., 414/384-3200. www.federalmfg.com
FleetwoodGoldcoWyard, 630/759-6800. www.fgwa.com
Hitachi America Ltd., 704/494-3008. www.hitachi-america.us/ijp
Hytrol Conveyor Co., 870/935-3700. www.hytrol.com
IMS-Partners, 847/956-6600.www.ims-partners.com
Krones Inc., 414/409-4000. www.kronesusa.com.
Lantech, 800/866-0322. www.lantech.com
Leibinger USA. 262/642-4030. www.leibinger-group.com
Nordson Corp., 770/497-3700. www.nordson.com   
Rockwell Automation, 414/382-2000.  www.rockwellautomation.com
Saint-Gobain Containers, 765/741-7000. www.sgcontainers.com
Silgan Equipment Co., 203/975-7110. www.silganequipment.com
Silgan White Cap, 203/975-7110. www.silganwhitecap.com
SMB Machinery Systems LLC, 770/704-2000. www.smbsales.com
Sonic Air Systems, 714/255-0124. www.sonicairsystems.com
Valley Label Co., LLC, 877/993-7929. www.valleylabel.net
VonGAL Corp., 334/261-2700. www.vongal.com

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About the Author(s)

Jack Mans

Plant Operations Editor

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