High-velocity packaging keeps pace with growing demand

Many convenience foods are short-term fads, but there are some that have stood the test of time – for decades indeed – including the humble instant noodle. They are just so easy to make! The latest pandemic has also proven how important tasty, easy-to-make comfort food has been for populations everywhere, with some figures pointing to a doubling of consumption.

“There is a massive array of noodle market maturities,” explains Alessandro Rocca, Sales Engineering Director at Cama Group. “Some markets are well established; some are seeing rising demand & major growth is anticipated others. But all of these markets have something in common – the need to introduce further economies by exploiting packaging automation.

In a recent project, Cama was tasked with developing a new secondary packaging solution for one of the worlds largest food and confectionary suppliers, at a brand-new greenfield site in India. The customer, seeing a 30% increase in noodle demand even before the pandemic, was eager to start exploiting the capabilities and flexibilities that automation would deliver.

Cama’s solution comprised two of its Breakthrough Generation (BTG) IN Series case packers, each of which is fed by three high speed in-feed lines. In operation, each infeed supplies products at the rate of 330 per feed.

The product packages are turned on their edge and enter a racetrack, which creates the first batch configuration. These then feed into a stacking device, which assembles the product stacks. Once the packaging configuration completed all products are transferred into mono-axis conveyor, which takes production from each in feed (with a slot for each) and, once full, advances them to the case packer, where a pusher pushes the noodle collations into the pre-assembled American case. These are then sealed using glue, tape or both before being checked for integrity and passed to the outfeed.

The key to truly flexible noodle packaging is the ability to package both single and multipacks (up to six) in the same case, with very little intervention. Cama’s IN Series solution can actually handle anything from 40 to 100 packs in same case style. We have also developed a way to very quickly adjust the loaders, keeping a complete changeover down to just 32 minutes!

Cama’s Breakthrough Generation (BTG) concept is setting the standard in secondary packaging. Machines deliver modular, scalable frameworks that offer easy entry and access, coupled to a hygienic machine design. Within this framework, contemporary automation solutions, including advanced rotary and linear servo technology, is tightly coupled to in-house-developed robotics, to deliver the all-important flexibility and adaptability required by modern packaging operations.

“Industry 4.0 capabilities were another important facet to this project,” explains Massimo Monguzzi, R&D Manager at Cama. “Our customer is a front runner in the deployment of connected manufacturing solutions and, it could be argued, its size and global reach means it also dictates the direction that many other companies follow.

“Augmented Reality very quickly made it onto the customer’s wish list,” he explains. “The COVID-19 situation led to a halt in location-based training and as this was a brand new system for the customer, it asked us to look at how we could help them get to know how to use the machine quickly. AR is also being exploited for day-to-day operations, to guide operators through changeovers and maintenance.

“Our deployment of contemporary automation solutions means that these Industry 4.0 capabilities are in easier reach for all customers,” Monguzzi and Rocca conclude, “even those with older machines, as the AR capabilities feed off the original 3D CAD data. And we have seen incredibly positive real-life results recently, where they have proved vital for FATs, training, maintenance and operation, all delivered and performed virtually!”

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