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Yogurt producer fills craving for higher throughput

Yofarm reduces waste dramatically with a new auger filler that achieves consistent volume control of yogurt toppings.

New filling equipment has helped Yofarm improve accuracy and consistency in filling toppings for its YoCrunch line of yogurt.
New filling equipment has helped Yofarm improve accuracy and consistency in filling toppings for its YoCrunch line of yogurt.

Faced with inconsistent dosing of the toppings that go with its YoCrunch line of yogurt, management at the Yofarm Co. decided it was time for a new filler. The Naugatuck, CT, firm traded in an older volumetric filler for an automatic auger filler: the Neotron System Series 1900 from Mateer Burt (Exton, PA). Yofarm vice president of manufacturing Alfred Lechner tells Packaging World that waste went from 5.5% to 0.9% since the installation last March.

YoCrunch toppings are packaged in clear, polypropylene tubs that go atop 6-oz cups of yogurt. Filling these tubs is done over an intermittent-motion rotary turntable from SIG Hamba (Maryland Heights, MO). This machine has 14 pockets in a two-across arrangement. A pick-and-place device pulls PP tubs from a magazine feed and loads them into pockets on the turntable. The turntable then rotates to position empty pairs of tubs beneath the filling station, where toppings are deposited into two tubs at a time.

These toppings from Yofarm include crushed cookies and chocolate bits. Before the new filler arrived, Yofarm had excessive waste with filling accuracy because the toppings, crushed Oreos for example, might be fine particles one hour and larger chunks the next. The old volumetric filler had no way to distinguish one from the other. It was designed to capture product in a chamber having a known volume and drop it. If that product consisted of relatively large chunks, then naturally the chamber would also include considerable air. So, the true net weight of the product would be different from the weight of the product when the chamber held a finer, denser batch. What Yofarm needed was a filler that could adjust to differing densities.

The new filler does precisely that. Its MicroSet control system includes a density compensation program that adjusts fill settings automatically. An operator randomly selects a pair of tubs every ten minutes and places them on an off-line scale that is integrated into the Mateer Burt microprocessor. Based on what the scale reads, the number of auger revolutions is automatically adjusted so that the fill weight is on target.

In addition, Yofarm can adjust weights on the keypad interface when switching to a different topping. “It automatically adjusts the turntable in about 30 seconds while the machine is producing,” says Yofarm maintenance manager Vincent Friel. “Before, it would take up to 5 minutes, and the machine would have to run empty.”

Even flow

With the new equipment in place, product runs around the clock five days a week at 30 cycles/min. Friel explains the process: “Reciprocating rods come up and grab an empty tub into a cassette in the turntable. At that point, the turntable indexes toward the diving nozzle, which enters the tub and fills it.”

The auger filler is a dual-head diving unit that allows two tubs to be filled at once. At each cycle, the single auger screw propels the toppings and a dividing head splits the toppings into two fills. The diving unit lowers down into the tubs so that as product is released it doesn’t bounce right out of the plastic tub. The filler sits beneath a 16-gal hopper from Mateer Burt that is next to a new stand-alone vacuum product feeder from Piab (Hingham, MA).

“Once the dose of toppings has been administered, the diving nozzle comes up and the turntable indexes again,” says Friel. “At the same time, two new tubs are pulled from the magazine feed and then the machine repeats the filling cycle.”

Tubs filled with toppings are indexed to the lid application station. Picked from magazines by vacuum cups, foil lids are placed on tubs and are heat sealed to the tubs. All that remains is an ejection station where an inspector looks at the actual product.

“The new auger filler gives us a more consistent dosing that improves our throughput. We have a higher yield because we are not throwing product away,” says Friel. “It is a very simple machine and we are looking to buy more.”

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