As reclosable bags for vegetables have grown increasingly popular over the past few years radish grower Ed Fields and Sons responded by installing a semiautomatic bagger with premade zipper bags.
In short order demand increased. That was the good news. The bad news was that the price of premade bags went up too. So to increase production efficiency and lower costs the firm installed an Ilapak (New Town PA) Vegatronic® 2000/400 P vf/f/s machine with transdirectional zipper applicator system. The change resulted in reduced labor increased production and a reduced packaging material cost of more than 30%.
“Labor savings is the absolute biggest benefit” says Chuck Fields of Ed Fields and Sons. “It should pay for itself in three to four years. It would be faster but we’re seasonal.”
Installed just more than a year ago the Vegatronic has an integrated system that takes roll-fed zipper material and heat seals it across the 1.5-mil low-density polyethylene rollstock. The end result is a pillow bag with a zipper across the top.
Due to ceiling limitations Ilapak manufactured the machine with a reduced height for Ed Fields and Sons. The overall system height reaches 52”. Even with this reduced size the machine is still capable of producing a maximum bag dimension of 15”x30”. For Ed Fields and Sons the machine produces bags measuring 67/8”x12” to hold 16 oz of radishes.
It’s in the bag
Mounted above the Ilapak system is a vibrating hopper that receives a steady supply of radishes from a bucket elevator. Radishes fall out of the hopper and into a scale that weighs them and drops them down the feed tube of the Ilapak machine.
The transdirectional zipper applicator from Zip-Pak AMI Equipment Div. (Manteno IL) is located between the film unwind and the forming tube of the Ilapak machine. The male and female halves of the zipper material are mated and the material is wound on a roll. This material is fed in from the side and tack sealed to the film web with a heat bar.
The film then goes over the forming tube. Sealing jaws make horizontal cross seals to form the top of an exiting pack and the bottom of the next pack. Radishes drop in and the cycle is repeated.
The sealing jaws are specially designed to heat seal the zipper profile to the film and to perforate the top of the bag just above the zipper feature.
“This machine is totally unique compared with what we were doing before” Fields concludes. “It just makes so much more sense for us to incorporate all that work into one machine.”