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Perfecting pasta packaging

A line at Barilla's greenfield plant in Avon, NY, features a cartoner and two case packers. 
FILED IN:  Machinery  > Inspection  > Metal detectors

You’d expect that a company that’s been preparing pasta for 130 years would have things down pretty well by now. And you’d be correct, judging by Barilla America’s greenfield operations in Avon, NY, which opened in summer 2007. Packaging World’s recent visit a little over a year later focused on the long goods (spaghetti) operations. The 24/7 pasta-processing systems, dominated by mixers, extruders, and 200-ft-long dryers, supply dedicated packaging equipment, including a cartoning line—the focus of our visit—that features a Tishma Innovations, LLC® ( cartoner.

Equipment for the plant, which was carved out of a cornfield, was ordered in fall 2006. Assembly of the lines began in January 2007, and production followed six months later; the inaugural production was on June 12, 2007, according to plant manager Carmine Simone. Barilla packages seven different pasta thicknesses from angel hair to fettucini on the long goods line. The day of our visit, the line was packaging #7 (thick) spaghetti at a rate of four tons/hr into a standard, windowed 1-lb carton. The cartoner can also accepts a 2-lb carton. The line layout is as straight as the spaghetti, running from the cartoner infeed to a case packer about 100 ft downstream.

Cartoner criteria

Simone says that Barilla took a team approach to equipment selection, with input from key personnel. According to company managers, the choice of a Tishma Innovations cartoner was a natural, and not only because the company desired to source the machinery stateside as much as possible.

“Tishma Innovations is the only American company that manufactures this type of equipment,” offers plant engineer John Davlin. “Tishma Innovations was also willing to do a lot of work with us to develop a machine that would fit our needs and had the right personnel with the right attitude to assist us in that.”

Lead time and the availability of spare parts were also in favor of Tishma Innovations, Davlin says. And, adds Barilla America director of operations Mike Biegger, the position of the U.S. dollar versus the Euro factored into the decision. Biegger also oversees Barilla’s Ames, IA, plant.

“We considered the machinery’s performance in terms of efficiency of the quality of the product,” explains Simone, “and we looked at how safe and how operator-friendly it is to operate.” Barilla had prior experience with Tishma machinery at its Ames plant, though that was a used machine for a completely different application: frozen-dinner tray packaging.

“Product and carton handling on the machine are straightforward, uncomplicated, and easily handled,” observes Simone. “It’s also easy to time from a maintenance standpoint, and the machine can accept small defects in the cartons. It’s a good machine that compares favorably with the efficiency of our other machinery in addition to its cost advantages.”

Down the zigzag ‘chimneys’

Fresh from the dryer, the pasta is delivered via bucket conveyor to a series of four Ricciarelli ( weigh scales that supply pasta to the cartoner’s infeed. The line is capable of speeds to 240 cartons/min, but due to production restrictions operates at 220 cartons/min. Davlin says that’s because of having four scales. “If we had five scales, it would run that much faster,” he points out.

The pasta makes its way down what he calls “chimneys,” or 20-ft-tall, zigzagged chutes, to a vibratory feeder. The zigzag pathway reduces product breakage. The pasta is delivered to a reciprocating feeder—resembling a wheeled cart—that delivers the pasta into the cartoner’s flights. It moves in tandem with the conveyor, and then reloads from the vibratory feeder in cyclical fashion. That was a custom improvement done with Ricciarelli, says Davlin. “It permits the pasta to settle before it drops into the cartoner flight,” he explains.

The cartoner’s U-shaped flights are also a Barilla design. A hinged lid closes down to contain the product as it’s pushed into a carton.

“The critical part of this machine, or almost any cartoner, is when the product is introduced into the carton,” says Davlin. “That whole area is extremely critical as far as design, gaps, and spacing.” The cartons’ end flaps are engraved with product and production coding using a Videojet ( laser unit that’s mounted about midway on the machine. “We’ve been very successful with our laser coders,” adds Davlin.

The carton flaps are sealed using hot-melt adhesive applied by a Nordson ( hot-melt glue applicator. “Nordson may or may not be a standard for Tishma, but it is definitely a standard for us,” says Davlin.

A Rockwell Automation ( controls package on the cartoner represents a new direction for Barilla. “For the first time in the history of Barilla, every machine is controlled by Rockwell ControlLogix,” Davlin points out. “Not only the Tishma cartoner, but every machine in the plant is on this same control platform.”

Adds Simone, “Rockwell’s network is user-friendly for connecting drives. It also has a strong presence in the U.S. and good after-sale assistance.”

After exiting the cartoner, the cartons pass through a Safeline ( metal detector and then through a Mettler-Toledo Hi Speed ( checkweigher (see sidebar).

Two case packers

From the cartoner, the cartons are directed to one of two case packers: A Zucchini (