Linkx Systems picks a peck of packaged pepper!

Increased throughput, greatly enhanced reliability and convenient access for maintenance and cleaning are among the many benefits offered by a bespoke packaging system developed, manufactured and installed by Linkx Systems for a major UK manufacturer of herbs and spices.

A replacement for an existing system that had become increasingly unreliable and was struggling to meet the company’s current throughput requirements, the new system collates small retail tubs of herbs and spices – each tub holds a few tens of grams of product – before transferring them to trays and shrink wrapping them. At present, the system handles 240 tubs per minute, but it is capable of operating at considerably higher speeds, should the need arise.

Central to the operation of the new packaging line is servo-controlled clamp system with specially shaped jaws, which was developed specifically for this project. This receives 24 tubs at a time from the manufacturing area. It automatically collates the tubs, clamps them in the correct formation and then sweeps them sideways to accurately position them over a thermoformed plastic tray. The jaws of the clamp then open to release the tubs into the tray.

After the trays have been loaded, they are transferred to Linkx RS 500 compact right-angle shrink wrapper, a standard machine that was lightly customised by extending the shrink-wrap tunnel to facilitate the labelling of the tubs.

A particular benefit of the clamp system developed for loading the trays in this project is that it avoids the need for any kind overhead equipment in the packaging area, which allows easy access for maintenance and cleaning. In addition, the use of servo-controlled motions enable high operating speeds to be combined with precision and repeatability, while an overall control system based on a programmable controller from Rockwell Automation provides a high degree of flexibility and future proofing.