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Pouch machine runs liquid food products

A new pouch fill/seal machine is opening many doors for Harvest Pak Foods, Ft. Myers, FL. Dedicated to the production of high-quality, processed foods that are sterile for two years or more without requiring refrigeration, Harvest Pak began production in 2005. The company produces a wide range of hot-fill liquid food products under its own brand name and contract packs them for other companies. Products include smoothies, baby foods, flavored water, oatmeal, soups, sauces and cocktail mixes packaged in clear, foil, retortable, boil-in-bag and microwavable structures.

"I've been in the food industry for many years, and it became apparent to me that pouches are where the growth will be for food products," says Harvest Pak founder and president Jeffrey Rinz. "Pouches have numerous advantages over cans and jars and, in many cases, will ultimately replace them." Advantages of pouches over bottles and cans cited by Rinz include the fact that pouches cost less to make and have tremendous savings in freight costs, both empty and filled, and in space requirements. "I can store a million pouches right next to my machine. It would fill my warehouse to store that many cans or bottles," says Rinz. He also says pouches have much less environmental impact. Most importantly, he says, food in pouches tastes better. "All of our products are hot-filled rather than retorted, so they don't have any burned flavor. All in all, there are really no negatives about pouches; everything is positive," he concludes.

In late 2004, Harvest Pak installed a Model TT-9CW pouch filler/sealer from Toyo Jidoki Co., Ltd. (www.tyj.co.jp). Chori America, Inc. (www.choriplg.com) is the exclusive global marketer for Toyo Jidoki pouch packaging machinery. "We had tried another machine, and it didn't work out," says Rinz. "Then I heard about the Toyo Jidoki machine and called Dennis Calamusa to get more information." Calamusa is founder and president of ALLIEDFLEX Technologies, Inc. (www.alliedflex.com), which is a North American sales representative for Chori, and sold Harvest Pak its machine. "Dennis took us to see a Toyo Jidoki machine in operation, and it looked perfect for our needs," says Rinz.

The intermittent-motion, rotary model TT-9CW fill/seal system runs premade standup and pillow-style pouches at speeds up to 100 pouches/min. Available in different material configurations, the multilayer pouches typically are 3 to 5 mils thick and incorporate foil, aluminum oxide or silicon oxide as an oxygen barrier. In some instances, they also incorporate an oxygen scavenger to absorb free oxygen in the pouch.

The pouch machine can accommodate up to a 750-mL fill volume and can run a wide assortment of closures, including caps, spouts, pull rings, laser-scored tearnotches and resealable zippers.

Preformed pouches are delivered to the machine in two boxes sitting side by side, and the machine picks up two pouches simultaneously with grippers on the sides of the pouches. All subsequent operations are also done to two pouches simultaneously while the machine is stopped.

At the first station, a Linx 4900 ink-jet printer from Diagraph, an ITW co. (www.diagraph.com) applies a lot code and date to the back of the pouch. Auto flush at startup and shutdown combine with Auto Power-down ensure trouble-free startups with the touch of a button. The unit can store 50 messages in memory and features automation of diagnostics and running parameters.

At the next station, the grippers move toward each other, and vacuum cups pull the pouches open. Cone-shaped plastic elements then descend into the tops of the pouches to ensure that the tops are fully open. Next, the pouches enter the fill station, where pistons discharge the product, which is filled at 200 to 220 deg F. The quantity of fill is determined by the length of the piston stroke, which is set from the control panel, but each piston has a knob for fine-tuning.

The grippers then move outward to pull the tops of the pouches closed, after which the pouches pass through two top-sealing stations, where the tops are heatsealed at about 340 deg F. This is followed by two seal-cooling stations, where chilled water circulates through the cooling heads to cool the seals to about 60 deg F. The grippers then release the pouches onto the takeaway conveyor. "The TT-9CW isn't an easy machine to operate, and it took us a while to learn all of its idiosyncrasies, but Dennis gave us a lot of help with the installation, startup and training, and now we dominate the machine," says Rinz.

The discharge conveyor is sized to provide at least three minutes residence time to ensure that the hot product has time to sterilize the inside of the pouches. They then enter a vertical, spiral hydro-cooler from Cloudy & Britton, Inc. (www.cbife.com), where 60-deg-F water cascades down over them and cools them to about 75 deg F. The hydro-cooler consists of a conveyor mounted on a rotating vertical shaft. The pouches enter at the lowest level and are transported to the top, where they discharge. Cooling requires from 20 to 40 min, depending on the size of the pouches, so the cooler has an adjustable-speed drive that the operator adjusts to maintain the pouches in the unit for the required time.

The pouches discharge onto a conveyor from which workers manually pack them into shipping cases. Harvest Pak has installed a Model CE-900-STD case erector from Southern Packaging Machinery Corp. (www.spmc.biz/) that picks knocked-down cases from the feed magazine, erects them and glues the bottom flaps with hot-melt glue.

Filled cases are pushed into a Packomaticâ„¢ 1023 automatic side-belt case sealer from Smurfit-Stone Packaging Systems (www.Smurfit-stone.com). This unit automatically closes the top flaps of the cases, and then seals them with hot-melt adhesive. Both the case erector and the top sealer incorporate hot-melt glue systems from Nordson Corp. (www.nordson.com).


More information is available:
ALLIEDFLEX Technolgies, Inc., 941/923-1181. www.alliedflex.com.
Chori America, Inc., 201/750-7051. www.choriplg.com.
Cloudy & Britton, Inc., 425/775-7424. www.cbife.com.
Diagraph, an ITW co., 636 300 2000. www.diagraph.com.
Nordson Corp., 770/497-3700. www.nordson.com.
Southern Packaging Machinery Corp.,305/245-3045. www.spmc-biz/
Smurfit-Stone Packaging Systems, 407/843-1300. www.smurfit-stone.com.
Toyo Jidoki Co., Ltd., 03-5447-2596. www.tyj.co.jp.
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