How to transport as little air as possible: BluePrint Automation (BPA) has done scientific research into this. They developed the Compacter, an efficient way of settling that ensures the air disappears from bags of chips and frozen vegetables, so that more bags fit into a box. The Compacter is built into the latest showpiece from the stable of BPA’s packaging lines: the RGP gravity case packer. BPA unveiled the RGP gravity case packer during a large-scale event in their manufacturing hall.
They proudly explained how their latest machine works and what its most important characteristics are. The Compacter isn’t just an innovation. The design team took lessons learned and customer wishes as starting points. Besides a smaller footprint and lower total cost of ownership (TCO), ease of use, maintenance, hygiene and safety have been optimised. Even low-skilled operators can work with the machine.
BPA organised a spectacular unveiling of the RGP gravity case packer. Only after professional cyclists Ellen van Dijk and Floortje Mackaij broke the 250-metre track record on a tandem bicycle, could the packer be unveiled.
André Verkleij, managing director of BPA Netherlands, had the honour of starting the packing line, and did so using an iPad. Operation of the RGP gravity case packer has been completely automated, as was the changeover of the machine. No setscrews, rulers or lists of calculations are used for that. The parameters are calculated by the supplementary software, and the RGP gravity case packer automatically and accurately adjusts itself. Changeover happens very quickly. André demonstrated that the machine changed over to a new recipe within 2.5 minutes.
The RGP gravity case packer is modular, which makes technical and mechanical maintenance easier. The packing process consists of four parts, and each module has its own control box. LED indicators show the status per module. Failures are easily detected, and fewer long cables are needed to drive the parts in the modules, because the control is divided over multiple boxes.
The backbone of the machine is a tilted stainless steel bar on which all modules are mounted. The 45-degree angle ensures that, in the case of a failure, products fall to the ground. Because all parts are attached to the backbone, there aren’t many legs to hinder cleaning. The company even managed to mount the weigher, which sometimes needs as many as 14 supporting legs, to the backbone.
Horizontal metal detector
The first module is the modular bag care unit (mbu). This successively detects loose product, levels the bag, and transports it along the metal detector. An improvement compared to older machines is that the metal detector has been placed horizontally, resulting in more accurate measurements. When the product has been weighed, it’s transported to the rotary gate packer, which places the bags in the box and moves it to the Compacter.
The Compacter is an important innovation for BPA, and they’ve applied for a patent. The Compacter is both compact in size and effective in compacting, the settling of the product. By scientifically researching the mechanisms involved in settling, BPA was able to redesign the process. They reduced the number of vibrators, and as a result the throughput time was shortened, and this also resulted in a reduction of noise. During the compacting, the pressure plates push on the bags in the box, so that extra air is pushed from the top bag in particular. Sensors measure the filling height. When the folding line has been reached, the box automatically slides towards the tape module.
In the tape module, the machine closes the flaps and tapes the box closed. Refilling the tape is one of the acts regularly done by the operators. The doors of this module can be separately opened both at the top and at the bottom. When switching the tape, only the top of the machine has to be accessible, and an internal screen protects the operator, because this can only be done during production. Very occasionally a box jams during the process. In that case, the entire door opens and the operator can use the clearance function. The side belts are placed extra-wide, and the entire top construction is lifted extra high, so that the operator can easily remove the box.
Fewer qualified operators needed
BPA designed the RGP gravity case packer with a transatlantic team. Lessons learned from the American branch were taken into consideration. In the US, factories tend to employ less-skilled workers as operators. It’s also becoming more and more difficult to find technical staff in Europe. Besides the robust character of the packing line, its also made easy to operate it. The user interface of the RGP gravity case packer is similar to that of a smartphone. The machine can be operated by means of small icons.
Creating the future was the theme of the ‘unveiling event.’ BPA has given itself the task of continuing to innovate and thinking along with the client. With the RGP gravity case packer, they’re marketing a future-proof packing line, that also has a lower TCO and a smaller footprint, in addition to being easy to use and maintain.