So much of the sustainability discussion typically surrounds packaging materials. But it is often the packaging equipment that makes possible the use of some of these new materials. A prime example is the S7000 Switch conveyor system from Intralox, which was recently employed by a large beverage producer to handle film-only multipacks of its bottled products. The use of Intralox’s Activated Roller Belt (ARB) technology in this application scored the equipment supplier the Innovator of the Year award in the Packaging Machinery category, new this year.
Explains Intralox business development analyst Nicholas Gross, Intralox’s customer was looking for a switch that would combine two lanes of 12-oz eight-packs and 2-L four-packs into one lane, and divert 28- and 32-packs onto a separate conveyor leading directly to a palletizer at 216 packs/min. “Because the new multipacks do not use corrugated trays or pads, they are often less sturdy and cannot be reliably handled with traditional technology,” the Intralox Greener Package Awards entry explains. “Conventional diverting equipment, such as a slat switch, has difficulty running these new packages at high throughputs without tipping them over and causing jams. Pusher arms and other diverters that harshly handle products can damage delicate packaging like shrink wrap.”
On the ARB-equipped S7000 Switch system, product rests on free-spinning belt rollers rather than on the belt surface. These rollers extend above and below the belt surface and can be positioned in a number of angles in relation to the direction of belt travel. When the belt moves forward and the rollers come into contact with the carryway surface, the rollers become activated, moving the product across the surface of the belt in the direction of roller orientation.
Implementation of this technology at the beverage packager’s plant has allowed the company to gently handle its new packages at high-throughput rates without jams or product damage. According to Intralox, the S7000 switch is the only technology that enables variable trajectories that can softly divert products without sharp, sudden changes in product trajectory. No product contact occurs, except with the belt roller, so product damage is eliminated.
When the S7000 Switch technology was installed at the beverage packager’s plant in March 2011, Intralox customized the operation/direction of the rollers for each application. Now, when an operator selects the SKU to be run on the multipacker’s HMI, the switch automatically knows how to configure itself, explains Gross.
Says Greener Package Awards judge Barry Sanel of Diageo North America, “I like this technology and the associated reduction in packaging. Based on the beverage packager’s volume and how many of these devices are deployed, this should have a big environmental impact.”