From President Clinton to The New York Times from Glamour magazine to television talk shows Boca Burger's meatless burgers are garnering rave reviews for their meat-like texture and appealing flavor. So where's the beef? In the packaging machinery of course. "In the approximately two years we've had product out on the commercial market we've gone from sales in the thousands of dollars to millions" boasts Max Shondor one of the owners of the privately held Boca Raton FL-based company. "The growth has been phenomenal and we've had to increase our packaging output to get sufficient product out into the market" he says. Speeding production are two Econoseal Spartan cartoners from Econocorp (Randolph MA) and two used Super Mustang wrappers from Doboy Packaging (New Richmond WI). One of each makes up Boca's two nearly identical packaging lines. After individual burgers are formed baked cooled and frozen they are brought to the Doboy where each 2.5-oz burger is wrapped in 80-ga clear polypropylene film from various suppliers. "It's like a peanut bag in that it's easy to pop open" notes Shondor. Machine speeds range between 100 and 160/min. The output is considerably faster than the 30/min rate of prior wrapping equipment. One of the faster Doboys was added last February the second last September. Efficient cartoning Shortly after adding the wrappers Boca upgraded its cartoners on the two lines. The first Spartan was added in March the second in October. Individually wrapped burgers are manually brought to the horizontal cartoners. An operator stands on both sides of the conveyor with each person loading two wrapped burgers into every infeed bucket on the Spartan. Vacuum cups remove a carton blank from a magazine and open its two ends. Again Boca relies on various suppliers for the 20-pt paperboard carton material that is printed offset in four colors. The Spartan aligns each open carton with an infeed bucket. A photoeye system detects the correct fill. When the count is different the machine stops for operator attendance. If four wrapped burgers are detected a pneumatic ram arm sweeps them into the carton. Next the carton indexes to a gluing section where hot melt is applied to flaps at both carton ends. Ends are compressed to create a good seal prior to carton discharge. The Spartans function at about 32 cartons/min according to Boca's vp of production David Rathbun. The units replaced two semi-automatic machines that required operators to load burgers into the cartons. That process produced approximately eight cartons/min. Besides the four-fold speed increase Boca eliminated the need for one operator on each line. Automating its cartoning and wrapping functions is just the beginning of Boca's packaging upgrade plan. "We're also planning to put in additional lines" Shondor notes. As of late December Boca added a mechanical device that automatically collates individually wrapped burgers in-line and inserts them into the infeed buckets of the Spartan cartoners. "We had a local engineer devise a small piece of equipment to do this so that we no longer need two people on each line to perform this task" says Rathbun. "We're also reducing our labor costs by putting in another machine that will automatical- ly feed frozen patties to our wrappers" he notes. In the near future Shondor expects to automate case-packing functions as well. Further down the road automated palletization and stretch wrapping could also become reality Shondor says.