|Powdered dietary supplement flows through the upper hopper through a twin feedscrew and into the hopper to the fill head.|
Planning ahead has its virtues. For contract packager Ultimate Brands in New Haven, CT, this means expanding its capabilities while preparing to move into a new plant in April. That's when Connecticut will level and pave over Ultimate's present site for an interstate highway extension. But Jeff Villano, founder and president of the seven-year-old formulator, manufacturer and contract packager of foods and dietary supplements, isn't daunted by the move. He welcomes it.
The reason he is looking forward to the change in location is new filling equipment that, since its early January installation, has raised integration to a new level. Combining a small amount of new equipment, representing an absolutely minimal investment, with existing machines for liquid filling and follow-through operations, Ultimate now has the capacity to package powders.
The latest expansion is a far cry from the company's startup days, when it was averaging 500,000 liquid fills/yr into polypropylene cups, which it then lidded one-up on an All-Fill Model 305 volumetric piston filler. This output was supplemented in '98 by a complete line headed up by the Model 1565, a six-head volumetric liquid filler from the same maker that sent production soaring twelvefold.
The most recent move, creating a hybrid line with shared duties, resulted from intense cooperation with All-Fill's technicians. Powdered products are now filled by All-Fill's Model SHAA-600-SV, with a bulk hopper releasing product into its Model HSC horizontal screw feeder for smooth, controlled feeding of the product into the lower hopper and thence to the fill head.
A hybrid line
To understand the powder line layout, it's helpful to know the original line's structure and flow. This line starts at an All-Fill rotary unscrambling table, with a 10-ft-long powered conveyor passing through an Ultimate-built bottle warmer for glass. Phasing through the filler, containers encounter an Ultimate-made bottle sprayer to clean any overflow. As they convey downstream, opposing spacing wheels time their entry into a six-head Kaps-All closure applicator, with Ultimate's changeparts able to cope with lug, continuous-threaded or other style closures in a 20- to 110-mm range.
|A checkweigher, above, just downstream of the filler, feeds data back, assuring fill accuracy into a 1-gal bottle.|
Emerging from this station, containers receive an opaque code from a Videojet 2000 ink-jet coder, one of two on the packaging line. The second works in conjunction with a Quadrel ModuLine® label applicator that provides the capability for front, back and lap labels (for now, shrink labels are applied manually).
The Garvey conveyor then makes a 30-ft horseshoe turn through OAL's FIRO\RE-6-9-24-6L shrink tunnel and an AutoMate Model AM20 induction sealer before setting the containers to rest on an All-Fill rotary unscrambling table for manual packoff.
|Passing under the six-head closure applicator of the liquid filling line, right, bottles move at measured intervals through the use of spacing wheels.|
Says Jeff Villano, "The liquid line, supplemented over the years with additional components we installed, gives us great control over the quality of the packages we ship. For example, we use a homemade detector for missing, skewed or cocked closures that keeps up with the line's output, whether we're running a two-ounce bottle or a five-pound bucket." These fill at rates of 45/min down to 1/min, depending on several factors.
Villano professes to be extremely pleased with the help of All-Fill's engineers in building the hybrid line in the very limited space of his plant. This was done by setting up the new powder filler parallel to and alongside the liquid filler. With the variable-width rails of the 10-ft conveyor feeding off the All-Fill rotary unscrambling table, "the filler fills the bill nicely," Villano comments. "We can have up to seven product changes a shift, since we've been picking up more private-label work as a result of the installation," he adds.
Filled containers convey immediately over All-Fill's Alpha CW-10 checkweigher. With the unit's Cerberus III controls feeding data back to the filler, accuracy is never a problem. The containers gather at the All-Fill rotary accumulation table; they then single-file to a 90-deg turn accomplished by a 12-in.-dia rotary twin disc from Nedco, to another 10-ft conveyor into an opening in the liquid line's conveyor between the bottle sprayer and the first set of spacing wheels.
They proceed through all of the stations of the liquid line. "This saves us the cost of a second capper, labeler, heat tunnel, induction sealer and ancillary components," Villano says. "And, it broadens our capabilities beyond anything we could have expected when we first decided to get into the powder area."
|Bottles receive a wraparound label by a system that can also apply front, back and lap labels.|
Those capabilities were on vivid display for PD during a production run a few weeks ago, for a product marketed by Sports One of Woodbridge, CT. It's a powdered supplement for athletes sold under the Sports One® Synthisize™ name; the product running was a fruit punch flavor in a 5-lb quantity. The container for the two-year-old product is a 1-gal round high-density polyethylene bottle from Custom Bottle. It's closed by a 110-mm continuous-threaded white polypropylene closure injection-molded with side ribbing for improved grasp (even athletes need help). Produced by Moldrite Plastics, it's supplied by Andler Packaging.
Sports One provides the pressure-sensitive label, company president Peter Klein informs PD, since it has in-house digital printing capabilities. He notes that Synthisize, plus Sports One's complete lines of nutritional products, are sold nationally and in 90 countries worldwide, through health food and fitness centers, health professionals, and personal trainers, among other sales outlets.
Even considering the bottle and label dimensions, which could develop problems even on more dedicated packaging lines, "the product and package are running without a hitch," Villano comments. "With the move to a new plant, I can't function effectively with anything less than the most reliable equipment and processes. That's what I have now."
More information is available:
Contract packaging: Ultimate Brands, 203/562-4827. Circle No. 240.
Fillers, checkweighers, tables, conveyors: All-Fill, 866/255-3455. Circle No. 241.
Closure applicator: Kaps-All Packaging Systems, 631/727-0300. Circle No. 242.
Coder: Videojet Technologies, 800/654-4663. Circle No. 243.
Labeler: Quadrel Labeling Systems, 800/321-8509. Circle No. 244.
Conveyor: Garvey Corp., 800/257-8581. Circle No. 245.
Shrink tunnel: OAL Associates, 858/486-8388. Circle No. 246.
Induction sealer: AutoMate Technologies, 631/727-8886. Circle No. 247.
Rotary disc: Nedco Conveyor Technologies, 908/964-9400. Circle No. 248.
Bottle: Custom Bottle, 800/453-7626. Circle No. 249.
Closure: Moldrite Plastics, 518/561-1812. Circle No. 250.
Closure rep: Andler Packaging Corp., 800/695-9055. Circle No. 251.