There is an obvious trend in the market: more and more consumers are shifting to cold meats and cheeses as packaged goods, easily picked up in the supermarket in addition to their other purchases.
To make use of this opportunity, many companies are forced to increase production of these goods to meet market requirements.
To increase the capacity of a cutting and packing line to meeting this market demand, some producers face serious difficulties in raising the necessary finance and providing the required space within production areas, or even both.
Classically, a cutting and packing line consists of a slicer and portioning unit followed by a scale and a rocker switch. The system includes a belt for grouping and buffers on the packs.
The fundamental problem is that a complete system consists of several machines, mostly from different manufacturers.
Each of these machines has its own control and machine base and accordingly requires (additional) space. Having only limited space, frequently encountered in retrofitting, rebuilding and / or expansion of production facilities, can result in serious problems.
Here some possible solutions, for improved capacity of cutting and packing lines, are presented.
Increase Cutting and Packing Line Capacity
Cut directly into the package: In figure 1, a packaging machine is shown with an attached cutter. The cutting unit is movable in the direction of the packaging machine. The spacing and number of products on the cutting distance corresponds to the lateral packing and the packing number.
By cutting down towards drawing direction the size of the work set is completed. To reach targeted weight by cutting, a camera system can monitor the outer contour after each cut.
Combining camera image and product density allows feed control to be used to reach the right size of slices to produce predefined package weight. Alternatively a volume scanner before cutting can be used to achieve same results on the product weight.
Another possibility would be using a subsequent (calibratable) weight control, controlling the cutting process in order to respond to product density fluctuations. The consequence of such a design is that direct cutting into the package is possible.
Figures 2 and 3 show a system with a cutting mechanism, which is fixed to the machine stand of the packaging machine. The cutting unit cuts to a portioning belt which provides a line of packs of the format set onto the transfer belt. On the transfer belt then the format set will be completed to moving direction. The inlaying belt can move under the transfer belt. The transfer belt accelerates the packs in the same speed as the inlaying belt and gives the packs to the inlaying belt.
At the end of the movement the inlaying belt with the packs stand exactly over the format set.
At this point of time system is ready to cut next tranche.
Now feeding belt moves back to transfer belt. Here the tape surface of the feeding belt is slowed down so that the products fall into the packaging. Buffer capacity of this system can be increased by using more transfer belts.
Product weight can be determined and controlled as previously described.
Cutting and Packing Line Improvements
Not shown here is a possible alternative where cutting is done on an combi-module, which carries out the format set, weighs the packs to control the cutting process and then inserts the products into the packaging. This combi-module also provides the possibility to compensate for the lateral offset.
Another alternative not visually shown here is integrating the components of cutting, portioning, weighing scales, rocker, grouping, and buffer-insertion unit into the machine frame of the packaging machine. A packing machine transversely mounting in direction of product movement provides a positive side effect: Using the advantage of lowered forming station and a transversed mounting the packs can moved horizontal over the conveyor into the packaging machine. This will decrease length and height of the machine. The same advantage applies for the configurations described before.
This configuration, although based on proven technology, has the advantage of reducing costs as well as space requirement. Therefore it overcomes the problem of needing several machines from different manufactures, as outlined in the introduction and allows for greater capacity in cutting and packing lines.