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Article | September 30, 2004
Slick pouching for oily wipes
For Grate Chef president Keith Aldredge, one good thing has led to another. Not only did Grate Chef reintroduce its Grill Wipes in revamped pouches, the Dacula, GA, company found a great way to automate the product’s packaging operations: via contract packager Packaging Division Inc. See video
Aldredge says PDI helped source machinery from MFG that automates pouching which had been done manually. “It’s turned out to be fantastic” he says. The integrated wipe production and packaging line occupies a modest space in the sprawling 540 sq’ Northlake IL operations of PDI located southeast of Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The line for the wipes is headed by a custom operation that takes up most of the space on the compact line.This portion of the operation involves automatic unwinding of rolls of the nonwoven material which is then oiled layered and cut. The process is both simple and ingenious and unfortunately proprietary. The wipes are then ready for bottom filling into the premade pouches. Operated by a programmable logic controller the four-station MFG Model 10-2 poucher occupies a small square footprint of about 4’ per side. The stacks of oiled wipes are pouched at a 2-up rate totalling 30 pouches/min.“For a one-of-a-kind machine it’s pretty nice” sums Bill Morris PDI’s general manager.A twin-assembly rotary vacuum system presents the pouches two-up to the poucher’s first station where they are grabbed and held by pneumatic grippers until after sealing. The pouches are indexed 90º to the filling station which represents the “tricky” part of the pouching operations according to Morris. He says that the challenge of getting oil-slicked pads into the pouch without having oil get all over was solved through a “diving duck bill.”Absolutely ‘ducky’“This part was very tricky because if oil gets on one bag it ‘infects’ others and there’s a mess” says Aldredge. MFG engineered the duck-bill filling which keeps this crucial part of the process clean and reliable. On the production machine for the pads the two stacks are inserted into side-by-side duck-bill holders which swivel downward 90º and are partially inserted into the pouches. The pouches have been opened wide by small vacuum cups. Once the duck-bill holder is in place with its narrowed end extending slightly into the pouches overhead pneumatic plastic bars drop straight down to push the pads out of the holder and into the pouches.
The pouches then index to an unused third station—Morris says a pressure-sensitive label could be applied here—before they are presented to the sealing bars. After sealing the bags are checked by a technician for seal integrity and then automatically checkweighed online. The day of Packaging World’s visit a crew of workers placed the pouches onto clip-strip holders prior to manual casing. PDI also packages Grill Wipes in four other stockkeeping units.
The poucher’s operations are handled by a PLC from AutomationDirect. MFG president George Roders says “Its PLC is by far the easiest to use and the most cost-effective and the tech support is unparalleled.”
Containing six disposable pads a pouch of Grate Wipes sells for $2.99 at stores such as Albertson’s Wegman’s Ace Hardware and CVS Pharmacy and also available on the Internet.
Although it’s too “oily” to tell Aldredge is as confident of the product’s acceptance as he is of the packaging.
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