Feeder Plays Integral Role in Automated Pre-Roll Cannabis Equipment

Just as it is affecting many other verticals, a tight labor market is also impacting the emerging cannabis industry, especially in typically manual processes like pre-roll production. Lately, automation is becoming more sophisticated to fill the gap.

The legal cannabis market is forecasted to reach $41.6 billion by 2025, as more than 36 states have already made recreational or medical cannabis legal, and additional legalization efforts are underway across the nation.  

Machine builder Accelerant Manufacturing co-founder Grant Schuster and his team looked at the cannabis pre-roll cone joints market and noticed that pre-rolled marijuana products are outperforming overall market growth. The Maryland-based company saw an opportunity to use automation to meet demand, and began work on cannabis pre-roll equipment to meet the niche demand. 

“We observed that pre-rolled product sales grew 47% year-over-year in established markets in 2020,” Schuster says. “The problem is that operators cannot hire, train, and retain labor to keep up with demand. In response, our early research and development efforts proved that automation could produce up to 2,000 pre-rolls per hour and repurpose the 15 to 20 people needed to produce the same output.” The Accelerant PRO Modular System incorporates an Eriez 6C electromagnetic vibratory feeder that handles 500 to 2,000 cannabis pre-rolls per hour and is accurate to 0.01g – and it’s never underweight the company says.The Accelerant PRO Modular System incorporates an Eriez 6C electromagnetic vibratory feeder that handles 500 to 2,000 cannabis pre-rolls per hour and is accurate to 0.01g – and it’s never underweight the company says.

Accelerant contacted integrator Cutting Edge Automation to help move the effort forward. Together, they developed what would become Accelerant’s Pro Modular System. Inclusion of an Eriez® 6C electromagnetic vibratory feeder was critical to the success of pre-rolling and reducing waste.

The Eriez feeder handles 500 to 2,000 pre-rolls per hour. The weigh filling system is accurate to .01 g, and is never underweight according to the company., 

This light capacity feeder enhances compacting and serves as an ideal component within this demanding operation where small quantities of cannabis is required, and consistent shape and uniform density is crucial.

The 6C electromagnetic feeder--ideally suited for precise material metering applications--features a stainless-steel tray. The enclosed vibratory feeder drive is designed to operate in dusty and wet environments.  When paired with the Unicon solid-state feeder control, superior feed rate control is achievable. The Eriez 6C electromagnetic vibratory feeder meets United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requirements.

“If you do a deep dive on our PRO Modular System, you will see many other features that provide our customers state-of-the-art technology at a price-point that is attractive,” Schuster says. “We have a cloud-based platform that is meeting and exceeding customer expectations.”

The Accelerant modular system allows for capacity expansion as the producer’s market grows. It’s robotic cone loader adapts to sizes ranging from 70 mm to 140 mm offered by brands such as RAW, Elements, JWare, Hara, Futurola and more, according to Schuster.

With the machine’s recipe approach, operators easily adjust specs to different flower strains through compacting (vibration and rod) and twisting (turn and depth) to produce consistent shape with uniform density. The durable design includes a stainless-steel frame and contact parts, a sophisticated scale, quality motors and a modular method that allows swap-outs.

Remote monitoring enables ready data to be sent to Accelerant’s cloud platform for every 10 units. Recipes, weights, configurations, quantities and cycle times are adjusted by station. Real-time remote visuals are integrated using in-line cameras.

Key data insights allow Accelerant’s engineers to assist operators in improving productivity and quality. Maintaining an ideal environment is possible through monitoring humidity and temperature. Production count monitoring ensures compliance. Exception-based weight conformity and key issue alarms act in real-time to address root causes and reduce downtime.

The stigma attached to cannabis-related businesses makes funding difficult for many start-ups, according to Accelerant. These fledgling companies seek partnerships and financial considerations in new and creative forms. Accelerant offers a perfect solution: high-performance equipment under a lease that is based on cost per unit and includes maintenance. Accelerant partnered with Cutting Edge Automation to provide customers with state-of-the-art technology at an attractive price point. The cloud-based platform is exceeding expectations.Accelerant partnered with Cutting Edge Automation to provide customers with state-of-the-art technology at an attractive price point. The cloud-based platform is exceeding expectations.

“Ours is the first ‘production as a service’ (PaaS) pre-roll machine,” Schuster says. “Because most cannabis operations are start-ups, we provide the machine, maintenance and scale for no upfront costs. We charge on a per unit produced basis at a price that declines based on production levels. We call it a ‘plug, play and prosper’ solution.”

He adds, “We are proud that we are helping United States companies satisfy the market for safe medical and recreational cannabis while contributing financially to their local economies.”

According to Eric Confer, Eriez Light Industry Market Manager, “Pre-rolls are hard to manufacture. The value of a pre-roll is 80 times as valuable as the cannabis itself. Every gram is costly. Labor is difficult and weight inaccuracy is common. Our 6C feeder fits this application and eliminates waste. He noted, “Cycle times that were 30-40 seconds prior to installation are now five seconds.”

Schuster wrapps up the Eriez story, “We needed a reliable vibratory feeder. Eriez provided us a partnership—the kind we want with our clients. Eriez responded right from the start with a prototype product and support to help us produce 10 units immediately. We reduced cycle times and solved other issues with Eriez. We are impressed with the willingness of Eriez to work in the industry and partner with Accelerant.”

According to a recent study by MJBizDaily, the pre-roll market grew 46% in 2020, especially in mature markets such as California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. The innovators at new OEMs like Accelerant Manufacturing really are blazing a path to the future, but using established partners to get there. -PW

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