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Wrapping up sweet packaging

AMES International, Inc. was founded by George Paulose in 1987 to package and market cashew nuts imported from his native country of India. Over the years, the company has expanded its product offerings to include a wide range of gourmet nuts, chocolates and cookies, and is now one of the West Coast's premier chocolate and nut manufacturers. AMES' products are distributed to club, grocery and drug stores worldwide under the Amy's, Emily's, EcoSnax and Orchard Hills brand names. The company operates a 55,000-sq-ft manufacturing plant in Fife, WA, near Tacoma, that incorporates state-of-the-art chocolate processing, enrobing and packaging equipment.

Packaging equipment includes one vertical and two horizontal wrappers from Formost Packaging (www.formostpkg.com) that run a variety of chocolate-covered nuts, fruits and other products. ??Formost was very easy to work with and provided excellent assistance to us,ä says vp of marketing, Susan Paulose, wife of the company's founder.

The Fuji-Formost FW-7700 vertical servo wrapper runs a wide range of package sizes and formats, ranging from four-sided 0.5-oz packages to 8-oz standup gusseted bags. Product is weighed by an Ishida 14-head radial weighing system supplied by Heat & Control, Inc. (www.heatandcontrol.com) that is located on a platform above the bag machine.

This line was running chocolate-covered cranberries in 0.5-oz packages during PD's visit. In this operation, cranberries are delivered to the line in trays, which are manually emptied into the horizontal section of a bucket elevator from Meyer Machine Co. (www.meyer-industries.com). The elevator lifts the product to a vibrating-pan feeder that discharges onto the Ishida weigher's dispersion table.

The dispersion table transfers the product to 14 radial feeder troughs, which, in turn, move the product by vibration to the pool and weigh hoppers. Each radial feeder adjusts the strength and duration of vibration to ensure an ample supply to the hopper. Once the product is in the hoppers, the weigher's computer selects a combination of buckets (generally three to four) that cumulatively equals the closest weight to the total bag weight without being under that weight. The selected hoppers then open and discharge their contents down the discharge chutes to the bagger. Typically, the system achieves accuracies of about 1- to 1 1/2-g overweight.

The Ishida features an easy-to-use operator interface that provides a clear display of charge weight as well as various statistical data. Along with an intuitive control, the Ishida also simplifies cleaning and minimizes downtime with its design focus on easy sanitation. Product contact parts are easily removed without tools. Overall, the performance and design of the Ishida weigher provide Ames with reduced operating costs through better weight control, reduced giveaway and less downtime for cleaning, changeovers and maintenance.

Bag film, which is supplied by a company in Asia, is mounted on two spindles on the back of the Fuji-Formost machine. One roll is running, while the second is a backup. The machine is equipped with a sensor that detects when the film is running out, and it shuts down the machine before this happens.

An operator splices film from the new roll to the film from the old roll and restarts the machine. Film is pulled through the machine by a combination of drive rolls and vertical friction-drive belts mounted on both sides of the fill tube below the forming collar.

A Markem (www.markem.com) 9880 ink-jet printer applies a date code to the film as it leaves the roll. An encoder continuously measures the speed of the film and automatically adjusts the printing speed to correspond to the film speed.

The film passes around a forming tube on the front of the unit, and a hot band sealer produces a vertical overlap seal. Product drops intermittently through the forming tube into the continuously moving formed tube of film as it leaves the vertical forming section.

Next, the film passes through the sealing section, where sealing jaws rotate against the film and induction-heat a horizontal seal across the film. As the jaws move away from the film, blades cut the bag loose.

The FW-7700 has an optional gusseting device for making flat-bottom bags. The system is cam-driven from the action of the sealers closing. When the sealers close to make the top seal of the filled bag, as well as the bottom seal of the next bag, two sets of gusset arms (upper and lower) precede the sealer to create the bag gussets.

A sensor mounted on the film carriage detects the eye mark on the film and initiates the start of each cycle. It compensates for any slight changes in the film length and ensures that the film for each bag will always be in perfect registration. This system basically tells the horizontal sealer and cutoff knife when to energize and tells the code dater when to operate. The machine is controlled by a programmable logic controller and incorporates two servo drives that operate the film drive and the rotary jaws.

Bags leaving the machine drop onto an inclined, flighted elevator that delivers them to a rotary table from which they are manually packed into cases.

Because of the wide range of products and packages run at AMES, flexibility is of the essence. In keeping with this, the wrapping machine is mounted on casters so it can easily be moved out of the way and replaced with a bottling system that still incorporates the Ishida weighing system. In fact, the plant made a changeover, which took about 15 minutes, to run half-gallon polyethylene terephthalate bottles during PD's visit. In this procedure, the Formost wrapper is rolled out of the way, and a plastic rotary starwheel, as well as infeed and discharge conveyors, are wheeled into place. A chute is also installed to direct product from the discharge of the weighing system into the bottles. The starwheel has eight cavities to accommodate the large, square bottles.

Workers manually place bottles from Premier Plastics (www.premier-industries.com/plastics.cfm) that have been prelabeled elsewhere in the plant onto the infeed conveyor, and a Videojet (www.videojet.com) model 37e ink-jet printer applies a date code before the bottles reach the starwheel. A gate at the infeed of the starwheel holds the bottle back until a sensor tells it that the starwheel is stopped in the proper position to accept the bottle into a cavity.

Simultaneously, product discharges into another bottle that is stopped beneath the chute. Filled bottles discharge onto the discharge conveyor, where a worker manually applies a 110/400 cap, supplied by Innovative Molding, Inc. (www.innovativemolding.com). These caps, which feature a deep skirt for cosmetic reasons, are packed nested together in the cartons in stacks that enable 50-percent more caps to be packed than a usual jumble pack.

The bottles then pass beneath an Enercon Industries Corp. (www.enerconind.com) induction sealer followed by a metal detector from S+S Metallsuchgeräte und Recyclingtechnik GmbH (www.ss-gmbh.de). A worker manually checkweighs occasional bottles, and the weigh scale is manually adjusted if an error is found. However, the weighing system is so accurate, that this rarely occurs. Bottles are manually case-packed.

AMES has two Fuji-Formost Model FW-3400 horizontal servo wrappers, one of which is equipped with a Fuji-Formost FFS-1000 in-line feed system. During PD's visit, the FW-3400 with the FFS-1000 was running individual chocolate-enrobed fortune cookies, while the other was not in operation. The system has a speed capability of more than 500 packages/min.

In this operation, products are delivered to the wrapper on a conveyor from the chocolate enrober and are placed manually on the wrapper's infeed belt??in this case, the FFS-1000 in-line feed system. This unit, which consists of eight short belt conveyors in series with automatic control of the speed of each belt, synchronizes the speed of the feeder with the wrapper. Photoeyes at the inlet and egress of each belt detect product entering and leaving the belt, and the speed is automatically adjusted so that products are delivered to the wrapper at the proper time and spacing.

As each cookie enters the infeed conveyor of the wrapper, a finger attached to a chain comes up behind it and pushes it into the wrapping section. Film pulled from a roll mounted overhead is formed around the cookie and creates a longitudinal fin seal to form a continuous tube around the cookies, which then travel over a metal plate cooled with cold water to prevent the chocolate from melting. Brushes mounted on a continuous chain above the plate travel synchronously with the tube of film to hold the individual pieces in place as they travel to the horizontal rotary heating bars that seal and cut the film to produce individual packages. A Markem Model 9820 ink-jet printer applies a code date to the film as it enters the wrapper.

The infeed system and the wrapper, which feature a servo-driven film feed, fin sealer and end sealer/cutting head, are controlled by a PLC and are interfaced through a graphic control panel.

The operator can program the package length, operating speed and dwell time for each product, and this data will be retained in memory. When changing to a different product, the operator simply enters the product name, and the machine is changed to the new operating settings automatically.

The wrapper incorporates individually adjustable film spindles and tilting fin sealers that provide enhanced film control for tighter packages, and programmed software controls the seal temperature automatically to match the wrapping speed. An eye-mark reader tracks the film and alerts the operator if the film starts to go out of register.

Packages leaving the wrapper are conveyed past a Goring Kerr TEK DSP metal detector from Thermo Electron Corp. (www.thermo.com) and an Ishida DACS checkweigher from Heat & Control, Inc. and are then hand-packed into final packages. During PD's visit, workers were manually packing wrapped fortune cookies into cartons resembling take-out cartons for Chinese food except they were bright red.

These cartons were then packed into shippers that were closed by a top and bottom taper from 3M Industrial & Tapes Div. (www.3m.com/packaging).

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