Ice cream packaging challenges surpassed with ease and speed thanks to highly adaptable,
multi-environment-capable secondary packaging technology
The ice cream and frozen treat industry presents a unique set of challenges to secondary packaging companies. It’s inherently cyclical and seasonal output is further complicated by constant product evolution, dietary trends, hard-fought marketing campaigns. It’s a market that is heavily dependent on brand and packaging appeal. As a result, manufacturers of these treats require gentle yet fast, flexible, and agile packaging technology that is able to keep pace with ever changing demands and styles; and protect and present the products to consumers in the most effective and appealing way possible.
Huge packaging variety
These machines must be capable of handling a huge array of packaging formats (flow wraps, cups, cones, sticks, etc.), mixes and packaging made from traditional & sustainable materials, and must do so in cartons that not only protect the product but do so with less materials. Add into this the temperatures in which these machines need to work, and it is clear to see that this is no ordinary challenge. Cama Group is a regular secondary-packaging-machine supplier to the frozen treat/ice cream industry and has solving its customer’s market challenges at the forefront of the solutions it delivers. Mixed packs, mixed materials, varying product counts, bespoke cartons (backed by packaging design support), gentle handling, high throughput, and shelf-ready presentation. You name it and Cama delivers. And these solutions are not from a limited range of machines and technologies. Cama’s broad spread of machine and packaging formats, across a huge array of equally demanding markets, backed by advanced smart, digital automation and in-house designed robotic solutions – developed specifically for secondary packaging operations – means that the global Italian company has a solution that will precisely match any end-user needs. Cama’s capabilities were recently called into action by a Polish frozen treat manufacturer, which specialises in private-brand products for retailers. The primary rationale behind the need for automated secondary packaging was to boost and maintain speed and throughput, by removing the company’s reliance on seasonal low-skilled labour. With eight operators working in a three-shift pattern, potential efficiency and speed improvements we tangible.
The company also wanted to save materials, as the cartons had originally been designed for manual loading. Not only were they more complicated, but they also required specialist handling. By automating the process, Cama’s machines removed the need for this specialist packaging design.
“This type of application is not new to use,” explains Alessandro Rocca, Sales Engineering Director, at Cama Group. “This is not the first time we have delivered a machine to a chilled washdown application; indeed, our machines are designed for multi-environment applications, and feature open easily cleanable frames and no trap points. We have a range of machines that can fulfil the packaging needs but being able to mix and match our solutions to best fit the customer’s needs is definitely a very powerful and highly desirable capability.”
For this application, the core of the solution is the primary controllers – in this case Allen-Bradley GuardLogix and CompactLogix PLCs – and the way they interfaces not just with the customer’s management software, but with also the machine’s own onboard packaging-recipe-control and the tightly integrated robot controller.
“The customer needed maximum flexibility from our machines,” Rocca explains, “in order to address a wide array of packaging formats. We had to cater for 13 different packaging arrays, which encompassed multi flavours, in multi layers, comprising 4, 5, 6 ,8 ,9, 12 or 20 product counts. Each format is sideloaded into a pre-glued carton which is then closed with hotmelt.”
The solution supplied by Cama, comprising an IT280 robotic loading machine and a CL169 continuous-motion cartoning machine, is fed by four lanes, after which the products are spaced using accelerating conveyors. Each product is then placed into an intermittently moving pocket conveyor and when collated are picked up by a delta robot and loaded into a bucket conveyor. The electronic cartoning machine then sideloads the products into the cartons, which are then transferred to a flap-folding station, closed by hot-melt and then conveyed to machine’s outfeed.
Both machines are part of Cama’s Breakthrough Generation (BTG), which means they have design and operational features that are setting the standard in secondary packaging. Their modular, scalable and hygienically designed frameworks house contemporary automation solutions – including advanced rotary and linear servo technology – which can be tightly coupled to in-house-developed robotics, to deliver the all-important flexibility and adaptability required by modern packaging operations. The machine range is also based on a digital platform that supports full Industry 4.0 capabilities, including AR, VR and virtual testing, training and operation.
“We have a very close understanding as to how manufacturers are affected by consumer choices, and how they need to adapt – often very quickly – in order to satisfy quickly changing market trends,” Rocca concludes. “Our BTG range, with its multi-application, multi-environment capabilities was designed specifically to address these needs. Thanks to its electronic backbone, it is also fully Industry 4.0 compatible, a capability that has been exploited extensively during the pandemic, where we have been able to undertake a huge array of remote operations and interactions, including full FATs. These capabilities are set to stay commonplace as many end users begin to realise the outstanding capabilities that data-capable machines can deliver.”