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Gently does it

14 January 2018

Find out how one company is limiting breakage of brittle products during transit around the plant. 

To move brittle pasta from pallet box containers to packaging lines at high rates without product breakage or dust, US-based Quality Pasta Company installed two Open-Chute Box Tippers and three Flexi-Disc Tubular Cable Conveyor (TCC) circuits from Flexicon. This solution consists of low friction polymer discs attached to a stainless steel cable which gently slide the pasta through smooth stainless steel tubing. Because the TCC is an enclosed system, it also prevents the release of dust and other particulates into the sanitary packaging area.

“The TCCs transport pasta with a breakage rate of less than 1%,” said Todd Kish, operations manager at Quality Pasta Company. “Many of our competitors load pasta into hoppers with plastic shovels for discharge to conveying lines, which is labour intensive and increases breakage."

Pasta arrives in double or triple-wall corrugated bulk boxes that weigh 363 to 590kg. After quality assurance inspection and weighing of the containers, the material is stored until ready for packaging. The company schedules as much packaging of individual pasta types as possible each day to reduce product changeover and downtime.

The two box tippers automatically raise and tilt the containers, which discharge pasta into 227l hoppers. Pasta discharges from the hoppers onto vibratory tray feeders that control the rate at which material flows into the inlet adapter of each Flexi-Disc conveyor.

A proximity level switch connected to an indicator light in the PLC control panel alerts operators to low material levels in the large hopper.

One box tipper additionally serves the cup pasta line. “The cup pasta is fragile and we only package 907kg of the product each day,” said Kish. “Using two tippers for three lines also saves space. The system supplies ample product to our cartoning lines without much maintenance or difficulty.”

Each 102mm diameter TCC circuit runs in an ‘S’ shape starting horizontally, rising 2.4m vertically, and continuing 0.6m horizontally, ending at a drive wheel discharge housing from which material flows through a metal detector and into a packaging machine hopper. The vertical leg includes two 0.9m transparent sections for operators to visually monitor performance of the system.

The direction of travel of the cable-disc assembly is reversed at the discharge end of the circuit by the drive wheel, and at the intake end of the circuit by a tensioning wheel that keeps the cable taut throughout the system.

Because the tubular cable conveyors evacuate material, cleaning and product changeover can be accomplished in 15 to 20 minutes. During changeovers, workers clean the TCC lines with antibacterial swabs and flexible sponges.


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