Jack Mans, Plant Operations Editor

January 30, 2014

11 Min Read
Sealed for success

Induction sealers hav296724-S_Beauty_r_jpg.jpg

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e solved problems with leaking jars that have plagued SaltWorks, a producer of gourmet salts in boutique jars, at its plant in Woodinville, WA. SaltWorks began 10 years ago as a hobby for Mark Zoske, who created a web site committed to educating food enthusiasts about the unique qualities and differences of gourmet salts. What started as a hobby rapidly grew into what is now a company supplying more than 150 varieties of gourmet salts from around the world. 

Zoske says, "I've devoted my life to researching, importing and packaging the best salts possible and it takes a tremendous amount of effort."

Himalayan, Kosher, Fleur de Sel, smoked, black truffle, course, fine, organic-have you ever looked the grocery store shelf overwhelmed by the selection of salts? SaltWorks has not only mastered the fine art of artesian salt, but it has also mastered flavoring it with a secret fusion process; and discovered how an induction sealer provides an air tight seal for product freshness.


SaltWorks' products make up 70 percent of the artisan sa296723-Enercon_r_jpg.jpg

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lt market share, and today it is the world's largest supplier of smoked salts. In late 2011, it moved to a renovated 100,000 sq-ft warehouse and factory.

SaltWorks has expanded its product line to include smoked salts, Fusion flavored salts and even bath salt, all created without chemicals or artificial flavoring. Its Fusion collection starts with an all-natural sea salt base, and then, with a secret process, infuses the salt crystals with other completely natural flavors, ranging from spicy jalapeno to bold espresso brava. Zoske says, "Our No. 1 rule is that all of our products are 100 percent natural."
Sourcing salts from the Himalayas to Hawaii, SaltWorks works closely with farmers, educating them on how to package the raw minerals to ensure they arrive safely at its factory in Woodinville, WA. 

When the salt reaches SaltWorks' factory, it goes through a thorough, waterless cleaning process. The minerals are "cleaned" with an optical sorter that uses a high-powered camera to detect and remove contaminants with jets of air. This process sorts and disposes of matter that does not meet a prequalified size, shape or color. Every grain of salt is run through this process twice, making it 99.999 percent pure salt mineral.

Just how precise is the sorter? SaltWorks put it to test it by adding grains of sand to a batch of salt. It efficiently removed every last grain of sand. 


Packaged to perfection

SaltWorks not only imports and cleans the salt; it also packages and labels the product. Its packaged product sizes range from 1 oz to 2,200 lb. SaltWorks has five packaging lines, two of which have Enercon Industries Corp. induction cap sealers.

In 2008, Zoske consigned an Enercon Industries Corp. handheld system that held him over until his new high-speed Enercon Super Seal induction sealer arrived. He liked the handheld system so much that he purchased it as well. In 2011, he installed a new packaging line and added another Super Seal cap sealer to meet the demand for his expanding business.

Zoske says, "I knew immediately, when I saw the Enercon induction sealer at a tradeshow, that it was what I wanted. We liked the quality of Enercon's construction and the ease of adjustment for our different sizes of jars and caps." 

SaltWorks induction seals PET jars ranging from 4 to 32 oz at speeds from 20 to 60 jars/min. They are outfitted with 63mm flip-top shaker caps from Weatherchem Corp. 


Zoske says, "Prior to induction sealing, we used pressure-sensitive liners. 296721-0053_r_hr_jpg.jpg


Due to the nature of salt, if just one grain got on the jar's rim, the pressure-sensitive liner failed. We also started adding oxygen scavengers and desiccants to our packaged product. We decided it would all be a waste if we did not have an air-tight seal."

By incorporating an induction seal, SaltWorks now has insurance against inconsistent seals. Its customers benefit from increased product freshness and tamper evidence.

Enercon's induction sealer is designed to be easy to use. The induction sealer is comprised of two main components: the power supply and the sealing head. The sealing head produces an electromagnetic current, heating the induction foil liner fitted inside the capped jar which in turn melts the polymer coating on the inner seal. The heat, combined with the pressure of the cap, causes the inner seal to bond to the lip of the container, resulting in a tight induction seal. 

Zoske says, "It's the only packaging machine I've ever bought that I've been able to plug in and let it go. Due to the nature of the salt, we work in a very corrosive environment, and it's never been down a day.

"We are very satisfied with our Enercon sealers. They were easy to set up and install. We had a couple of questions during installation that they answered over the phone. I think Enercon is a great company. They really care about their equipment and their customers."


Packaging line

SaltWorks installed its new packaging line in November 2011 to run PET jars ranging from 4 to 32 oz at speeds from 20 to 60 jars/min. Jars are stacked in square rows on pallets, and an operator sweeps several hundred jars at a time onto the large infeed table of a jar unscrambler from Inline Filling Systems Inc. that feeds a 72-in. turntable. A pallet lifter raises the pallet so that each row of jars is at the proper height to be pushed onto the infeed table.


Jars are conve296719-0043_r_hr_jpg.jpg


yed to a Model PMB-402-S twin-head linear scale/filler from Weigh Right Automatic Scale Co. The intermittent-motion PMB net weigher uses vibratory scales that can deliver 2g to 15 lbs of product into containers. The fill nozzles descend into the jars to fill the product, and then rise when the filling is complete.


The unit at SaltWorks fills two jars at a time using the "bulk and dribble" method of weighing, in which most of the desired weight discharges quickly into the weigh bucket (bulk speed) and the remainder discharges slowly (dribble speed) to provide an accurate weight.

The machine features menu driven, touch-screen controls from AutomationDirect that allow operators to select the product to be run directly from the screen, as well as offering help menus and easy-to-read graphics. 

Salt is delivered to the weigher/filler in large bags, which are lifted into filling position by an overhead hoist system from Harrington Hoists Inc. Saltworks loads the amount of salt to be filled each shift into 500-lb or 2,200-lb super sacks, which the hoist lifts over the filling machine to gravity feed into the hopper. Zoske says, "We do this for two reasons. First, our salt is very fragile. By using gravity and vibratory feeding we create the least amount of fines. 


"The second reason is sanitation. By using disposable super sacks, we have a clean 296718-0033_r_hr_jpg.jpg

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and sanitary bulk hopper for every run. We fill more than 150 different types of salt. There are very few contact points that need to be cleaned during change over. We can switch from one type of salt to another in a matter of minutes." The company has eight separate super sack hoist systems throughout the factory.

Capping success
The filled jars are conveyed to an 8-quill in-line capper from Pack West Machinery Inc. The flip-top caps for the jars are loaded into a floor hopper and a vertical elevator lifts the caps. Horizontal rails are sized and slanted so that caps with the open side facing inward fall back into the feed hopper. Only caps with the open side facing outward are raised all of the way to the top. A sensor on the elevator detects caps without liners and caps with open flip tops and rejects them.

At the top of the elevator, the caps discharge down through vertical orienting and spacing wheels onto a track that carries them down to the application point in the capper. Jars entering the capper pick a cap from the discharge "shoe" at the bottom of the cap track and pass four pairs of horizontal rotating rubber wheels that tighten the caps to the set torque. 

In a motion that mimics the way a person applies a cap to a jar, the first set of wheels rotates backwards in order to seat the cap in the threads on the jar. The second set of wheels tightens the cap most of the way, and the third set of wheels finishes the tightening. The fourth set of wheels is a fail-safe in case the cap has not been completely tightened.

A sensor at the outlet of the capper checks that the caps have been applied properly, after which the jars are conveyed through the Enercon Super Seal induction cap sealer and then travel through a PowerDry Spyder blow-off cleaning and drying manifold from ITW Paxton Products. The system incorporates four flexible plastic ducts that can be adjusted to direct the air to the exact points on the jars to accomplish the optimum drying.

Top and wraparound labeling

From the dryer, the jars are transported to a model A107 stainless steel wraparound labeler from Colamark Asia Ltd. that applies pressure-sensitive labels. It was custom m296717-0017_r_hr_jpg.jpg

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odified for Saltworks to also apply pressure-sensitive top labels. Labels are supplied by Labels West Inc.

Zoske says, "We originally purchased an American-made top and wraparound labeler. It never worked correctly and we sent it back. We found Colamark through the internet. We visited their factory and were really impressed. They have great quality and superior technology. This was the first Colamark labeler installed in the U.S., and as far as I know, it is still the only one." 

The labeler applies the top label and then the wraparound label in two separate operations. The jars have a small indent on their base, which is used to orient them during the labeling operation so that the top and wraparound labels and the flip top are all in the same exact orientation. 

The jars enter the labeler and are spun until a sensor detects the indent, at which point they are gripped by a unique three-point system that holds them securely. Zoske says, "This is one of secrets to their labeling excellence. It forces the labels to go on straight and correctly oriented." 


Top labels, which are applied first, are stripped from a roll mounted over the machine and are applied to the tops of the jar. The procedure is repeated in the wraparound section. The labeler is equipped with Sanyo Denki servo drives and Mitsubishi Electric Automation Inc. controls and touch-panel HMI that provides user friendly operation that includes menu-driven memory, intelligent label quantity management, error messages and help messages for operators.


The labeled jars travel past a model 9020 i296725-SaltWorks_Fill_Line_r_hr_jpg.jpg

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nk-jet printer from Markem-Imaje USA that applies a production date and lot code and then continue to a rotary accumulation table from Colamark. The labeler, printer and accumulation table were supplied as a system by Colamark.


Finished jars are manually packed into cases.

Zoske says, "Our mission is to offer the most comprehensive selection of premium specialty salts, with an emphasis on superior quality, exceptional value and outstanding customer service. This packaging line supports that mission." SaltWorks has taken the earth's highest quality salts and blended them with the right combination of packaging equipment, resulting in a SaltWorks' recipe for success.

AutomationDirect, 800-633-0405. www.automationdirect.com
Colamark Asia Limited, 852 2634 8011. www.colamark.hk
Enercon Industries Corp., 262-255-6070. www.enerconind.com
Harrington Hoists, Inc. 800-233-3010. www.harringtonhoists.com
Inline Filling Systems Inc., 941-486-8800. www.fillers.com
ITW Paxton Products, 800-441-7475. www.paxtonproducts.com
Labels West Inc., 800-540-3009. www.labelswest.com
Markem-Imaje USA, 866-263-4644. www.markem-imaje.US
Mitsubishi Electric Automation Inc., 847-478-2100. www.meau.com
Pack West Machinery Inc. 626-814-4766. www.packwest.com
Sanyo Denki America Inc., 310-783-5400. www.sanyo-denki.com
Weatherchem Corp., 800-680-3412. www.weatherchem.com
Weigh Right Automatic Scale Co., 800-571-0249. www.weighright.com


About the Author(s)

Jack Mans

Plant Operations Editor

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