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Article | June 30, 1997
Auger filler takes on challenging cornmeal
DISA's 60ꯠ-sq' facility in Cali, Colombia, was almost four years old before one of its packaging lines became fully operational. The division of food giant CPC Intl., discovered that Maizena, a family of corn-flour-based mixes for puddings, cakes, and beverages, was very difficult to fill accurately.
Corn flour is a mainstay of traditional Latin cooking. When combined with other substances-such as brown sugar and melted lard-it becomes a sticky powder with uneven flow characteristics. Under heat the brown sugar tends to compact and separate causing the mixture to lose consistency. Thus controlling the fill weights without stalling the filler was a big challenge. "The dosifying [filling] heads initially ordered did not work because they had insufficient force to feed our products" says Dr. Ivan Hoyos Munera DISA's Consumer Div. engineering manager. The location of the filling machine at the front end of the line has a significant impact on the way things operate further downstream points out Dr. Hoyos. "If things don't go right there nothing else on the line is right." Looking for a workable alternative DISA turned to GEI Mateer Burt (Wayne PA). Test runs of DISA's products conducted at Mateer Burt's plant showed the need for a filler with a slow-speed agitator drive system and a heavy-duty electric clutch brake. That combination would meter the non-free-flowing powders precisely without product bridging in the hopper and avoid machine stalling and residual product drippage when filling.DISA soon installed two Mateer Burt all-electric Model 1990 Neotron Systems with MicroSet Control. The heavy-duty auger filler has a clutch-brake rated at 95'/lb of torque and driven by a 3-hp motor. The control system prevents "coasting" which can occur when the auger continues to move slightly after receiving the shut-off signal. The computer processor compensates for this in its calculations to attain the specified fill weight. It's also important to keep the filler supplied with product. A Neomate Product Feed System also from Mateer Burt assures that product levels are sufficient for smooth filling. As the powder moves into the 16-gallon hopper a horizontal screw breaks it up to reduce product density variations. The consistency of each of the four Maizena products Natilla Maizena Ninos Natilla Arequipe and Torta varies. They are sold in different package sizes and are handled by three auger sizes. Special tools or expertise are not required for auger changeover which takes no more than 15 minutes.
The fillers are each mounted above Key Pak vertical form/fill/seal machines from Research & Development Packaging (Lebanon NJ). Like the fillers set up and maintenance on the Key Paks can be performed by assigned operating line personnel and film and product changeover are accomplished in minutes. Operating speeds range from 22 to 50 bags/min depending on fill weight.
Having recorded the fill weights for almost a year Hoyos has found they operate with weight variations that range from ±1.6% for the 300-gram Natilla Arequipe down to a scant ±1.3% for the 740-gram Natilla.
"In just five months Mateer Burt fabricated the auger fillers we needed and we were able to get back up and running quickly. We are very satisfied with the equipment" Hoyos concludes.
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