A new state-of-the-art, low-acid aseptic packaging line at KanPak LLC, Arkansas City, KS, is opening new vistas for the food and beverage industry. The company has installed a 10-lane, inline filler from Hamba USA Inc. that runs up to 600 bottles/min. KanPak began working on the line at the end of 2008, and its first production was in January 2010.
KanPak, a family-owned company, began running aseptic products in 1965, and has long been an industry leader in traditional aseptic pouch and bag-in-a-box technology. The new aseptic bottling line provides customers with an advantage and adds depth to the KanPak arsenal.
"Our advanced technology bottling line brings new options to customers that seek to provide shelf-stable solutions," says Dennis Cohlmia, KanPak CEO. "This new line provides the right solutions to meet industry and customer demand for high-quality beverages with the versatility of aseptically packaged products."
Cohlmia takes pride in his company's long history of pairing innovation with food safety to bring new solutions to its customers. "Our company is constantly evolving," he says. "KanPak is a knowledge-based business, and we continue to build our business as a developer and manufacturer of aseptic products through advancements in food science, aseptic processing and aseptic packaging."
MADE for aseptic bottling
The first product packaged on the new line was MADE® beverages for Tenaya, LLC. MADE, which is packaged in 16-oz PET bottles, is a certified-organic, all-natural line of beverages that combines green tea and fruit juices with floral and herbal extracts. It is available in eight varieties: Strawberry Lemonade, Pomegranate Mojito, Blackberry Peach, Cranberry Limeade, Strawberry Mojito, Pomegranate Lemonade, Raspberry Peach and Blueberry Lemonade.
"MADE beverages can't be made the way I want them without aseptic processing and packaging," says Charley Snell, Tenaya founder. "Aseptic allows them to have real natural flavor that is organically certified.
"I worked with KanPak during my previous career with a major food processor, and I was very impressed with them, so they were my choice when I founded Tenaya," Snell adds. "KanPak has the knowledge of what a product will taste like, and has a lot of experience working with product formulations and ingredients to deliver that taste.
"KanPak took my samples and worked with them to develop the commercial product. I began working with KanPak on the MADE project in 2008, when the line was still in the discussion stage, and I'm proud to say that MADE was the first product off of the line, when it began operation last fall," Snell says.
The PET bottles used for MADE, which are supplied by Ball Corp., feature Plasmax® barrier coatings. Plasmax is an ultra-thin, commercially proven, transparent, internal silicon oxide barrier coating technology that protects the beverage inside the bottle from oxygen ingress and also prevents the PET from absorbing the sterilizing agent used inside of the bottles as part of the aseptic filling process.
Unlike many other PET barriers, Plasmax is easily removed during the PET recycling process and, as a result, does not contaminate the recycled PET. Finally, because the barrier does not degrade over time, the length of time bottle inventory can be stored is not limited by the barrier material.
"The entire Tenaya team shares a philosophy and a vision about how to develop products that are better for the earth, good for the company and good for people, and we do our part to support the overall health of the environment," says Snell. "We chose Ball's Plasmax-coated PET bottles because the bottles are 100 percent recyclable and widely accepted for recycling, and the Plasmax barrier is highly compatible with the aseptic filling process."
Inline aseptic filling
Pallets containing layers of bottles are delivered to the floor-level infeed conveyor of a depalletizer from Busse/SJI Corp. The pallet is raised one layer at a time, and the top layer of bottles are swept off onto an overhead bulk takeway conveyor.
The bottles are single-filed and enter an air rinser from Alliance Industrial Corp., which picks them up with rubber grippers and carries them around a rotating drum. Air is blown into the bottles as they travel, and then they are returned to an upright position and discharged onto a conveyor.
The bottles are conveyed in bulk to a continuous Spectrum TX laner from Heuft USA Inc., in which fingers are synchronized with the conveyor motion and extend horizontally, pushing 10 bottles at time into four lanes on the conveyor. The bottles continue onto four separate parallel conveyors that bring them to a system that delivers them to the filler on the floor below.
This system consists of two sets of 10 vertical chutes that drop the bottles down to the filler. The chutes are made from stainless steel rods. A robot from Fanuc Robotics America Inc. with four grippers picks up and places the bottles into the chutes. In this operation, two of the grippers, which operate together, pick up 10 bottles each from two of the conveyors, while the other two grippers drop 10 bottles each into the chutes. During the next cycle, the other two grippers pick up bottles from the other two conveyors and the bottles picked up during the previous cycle are delivered into the chutes. The bottles accumulate in the chutes and discharge intermittently as the filler operates.
The bottles discharge from the chutes onto a conveyor on the first floor, and a Fanuc robot picks up 20 bottles at a time and places them into a pocket-slat conveyor that carries them through the aseptic filler. The machine advances two slats on each cycle, with each slat carrying 10 bottles. The plant runs five bottle sizes ranging from 8- to 16-oz at speeds to 600 bottles/min. The intermittent motion, linear indexing aseptic filler runs 10 lanes of bottles, which it sterilizes, fills and caps. The bottles are transported through the machine by their necks in the slat conveyor.
As the conveyor comes over the front end of the machine, two sets of jaws on each of the two slats open, and cups rise from beneath the conveyor to support the bottles. The cups lower, and the slats close around the neck finish. Sensors detect missing bottles in any lanes and inhibit filling and closing operations for those locations.
The bottles then enter a sterilizing chamber that uses a dry sterilization system containing a hydrogen peroxide mist at 225 deg F. that penetrates into the inside and around the outside of the bottles. This is done in two consecutive cycles. The bottles next pass beneath jets of superhot sterile air to reduce the hydrogen peroxide residual to less than 0.5 parts/million.
The Hamba machine has two filling stations in series, each dispensing about half of the required amount of product when running larger bottles. Only one filler is used for smaller containers. Filling in two steps minimizes cycle time, which is two seconds per index at a 600 bottles/min. Product is delivered from a pressurized balance-tank through an individual magnetic flow meter to the fill nozzle on each lane.
After filling, the bottles continue to the capping section. Caps are fed from a hopper on the platform above the machine into an unscrambler that discharges them with the top facing up onto a bulk conveyor. Fingers separate them into groups of 20 each and they pass through a hydrogen peroxide mist sterilizing chamber. The caps then travel down chutes into a pick-and-place system inside the Hamba machine that picks them up with vacuum cups and places them on the bottles.
The bottles are conveyed into the torquing zone of the machine, where individual servo-driven torquing heads lower capping chucks to tighten the caps. As the heads lower, cups beneath the conveyor rise and hold the bottles stationary while the chucks turn. Sensors in the capping section check the torque on each cap and a feed-back loop adjusts it if it has strayed from the set point.
At the filler discharge, plungers raise the bottles. Side conveyors transport them out of the machine on two horizontal conveyors, each carrying the bottles from 10 lanes. The filler computer keeps track of each bottle while it is in the filler and after it discharges. Any unacceptable bottles are rejected as they leave the filler.
Container and machine sterilization design, FDA validation and installation assistance for the Hamba installation was provided by KanPak's design authority, Dover Brook Assoc., and by Hamba's U.S. respresentative at that time. This company, now named Aseptic Innovations, no longer represents Hamba, which was purchased by Oystar USA after KanPak installed its aseptic machine.
The bottles travel in two lanes through subsequent equipment until they are combined just ahead of the tray packer. The bottles leaving the filler pass Markem-Imaje USA inkjet printers that apply the product code, lane number, date and fill time to the shoulders. Next, the bottles pass a testing unit from Teledyne TapTone, that checks for over- or under-fill and for leaks.
First in/first out
After the bottles are printed, they are conveyed to two Dynac 6400 five-tier spiral accumulators from Hartness Intl. Inc. that provide up to five minutes of accumulation. With an accumulating conveyor system that automatically responds to production line flow changes in real time, this unit provides first-in/first-out sequencing.
Side-by-side infeed and outfeed conveyors inside the Dynac operate independently in opposite directions and are mechanically linked by a package-transfer mechanism. Sensors on the conveyors monitor bottle flow and adjust the conveyor speeds accordingly.
The package-transfer mechanism, which is dubbed "the spider," moves up or down between the spiral conveyors (depending on the relative speeds of the two conveyors) and transfers bottles from an infeed to an outfeed conveyor as it moves.
When the outfeed conveyor is running slower than the infeed conveyor, the spider travels up the spiral and fills up more of the outfeed conveyor. Conversely, when the infeed conveyor is running slower, the faster-moving outfeed conveyor begins to empty, so the spider travels down the spiral as it transfers bottles. When infeed and outfeed conveyor speeds match, the spider remains in place, transferring product from one conveyor to the other.
Shrink sleeve application
Bottles leaving the accumulator are delivered to a dual-head, shrink-sleeve labeler from Sleever Intl.
A roll of labels for each head is mounted on the front of the machine, and the labels are pulled from the roll into the machine. The film travels over dancer rolls for tension and tracking control, and then over a roller at the top of the machine and down into the application section. Rollers pull the film over a mandrel that opens it into a cylinder, where it is then cut into individual sleeves.
Bottles are delivered to the each labeler head single-file and are metered into the machine by a feedscrew that establishes the proper pitch of the bottles.
A photoeye triggers two rollers that fire the sleeve down onto the bottle as it passes below. A series of small rotating vertical brushes pushes the sleeve down against the label to ensure that it will shrink all the way to the bottom of the bottle.
The bottles then enter a modular-design, infrared hot-air tunnel with individually controlled heating zones and multiple nozzles that are individually adjustable for optimum shrink results. The labeler and shrink tunnel are computer-controlled, and all of the operating settings for each bottle, including air temperatures in the tunnel, can be adjusted by the operator.
Sleever Intl. also supplies the shrink-sleeve labels used on the bottles. The labels, which are made out of OPS material that is specifically designed for the infrared hot-air technology, are rotogravure printed in nine colors. The sleeves feature a perforated section beneath the cap for easy tear-off.
Bottles leaving the shrink labeler pass a Videojet Technologies Inc. inkjet printer that applies information to the tops of the caps. The bottles from the two conveyors are then recombined on a single bulk conveyor. At this point, the bottles can be directed to two different systems: a Hartness Global Model 4510-80 shrink packer that places the bottles on six-, 12- or 24-count trays or to a bundler from Adco Manufacturing Inc. that places the bottles in four- or six-count corrugated cases.
Palletizing by four robots
Finished packages from either of these systems are directed to a common conveyor that transports them to a robotic palletizing operation from Hartness Intl Inc. The system incorporates four robots. The first two face each other and orient cases in the proper pattern for palletizing on a wide conveyor as they enter the palletizing zone. The cases then travel to a section where the cases are pushed together into a cohesive pallet layer.
The third robot then descends and inserts a flexible platform made of carbon fiber rods attached to flexible sides beneath the layer, picks the layer up and moves it to the pallet takeaway conveyor. The fourth robot in the operation is responsible for handling pallets and slip sheets, so at this point, it places a slip sheet on the layer of cases.
Layers are added to the pallet until a complete load of cases is assembled, at which time the conveyor activates and moves the pallet into the Lantech stretch wrapping unit. The fourth robot in the operation then places a pallet for the next load.
KanPak doing a 'great job'
With an increased emphasis on beverage companies' bottom lines, KanPak's new technology provides customers with products that have an increased shelf life compared to refrigerated products. The combination of the new technology and the savings of ambient transportation offer a better solution for customers and the ecosystem.
"I am extremely pleased with KanPak. They are a true partner in my progress," says Snell. "The people are extremely knowledgeable in aseptic processing and packaging as well as in product development, and they are extremely approachable, so any time a question arose, I could talk to the aseptic experts."
KanPak, 800/378-1265. www.kanpak.us
Adco Manufacturing Inc., 559/875-5563. www.adcomfg.com
Alliance Industrial Corp., 800/368-3556. www.allianceindustrial.com
Aseptic Innovations, 636/281-1500. www.asepticinnovation.com
Ball Corp., 800/428-7145. www.ball.com
Busse/SJI Corp., an Arrowhead Systems Inc. Co., 920/326-3131. www.arrowheadsystems.com
Dover Brook Assoc., 914/469-4809.www.doverbrook.com
Fanuc Robotics N.A., 800/477-6268.www.fanucrobotics.com
Hamba USA Inc., 636/281-1500. www.hambausa.com
Hartness Intl Inc., 800/845-879. www.hartness.com
Heuft USA Inc., 630/968-9011. www.heuft.com
Lantech, 800/866-0322. www.lantech.com
Oystar USA, 973/227-5575. www.oystarusa.com
Sleever Intl, 905/565-0952. www.sleever.com
Teledyne TapTone, 508/563-1000. www.taptone.com
Videojet Technologies, 800/843-3610.www.videojet.com