With food automation making up such a large slice of Pacepacker Service’s pick, place and packing business, the equipment manufacturer recently specified a UPM Conveyors food safe IP69K certified conveyor system as part of a Cartesian pick and place robot solution for handling packs of fresh food.
Referred to by UPM as ‘SYSCON’ conveyors, the simplistic ‘groove’ design with side channels made from High Molecular, Weight Polyethene (HMWPE), appealed to Pacepacker, because it can be deployed in hygienic food processing areas. Ideal for transporting unpackaged primary products, this HMWPE conveyor caters to every type of product handling requirement, from raw fish, meat and poultry to sliced vegetables, biscuits and confectionery and fresh and frozen produce.
“Client requirements in the food sector can be both challenging and unique,” explains Pacepacker’s Business Development Manager Paul Wilkinson. “Like us, UPM Conveyors specialise in creating bespoke automation solutions. Their HMWPE conveyor system is just one of the design types we’re increasingly starting to integrate into our robotic pick and place systems, as it meets food manufacturers stringent hygiene requirements.”
Providing the full array of conveyors, manufactured in all types of materials, Pacepacker can supply everything from gravity rollers to belt conveyors and heavy duty palletisers. “Our clients may need delayed stops, accelerated sections or turning devices,” says Paul. “In every instance, the conveyor element is about optimising the production flow.”
When assessing conveyor options for food manufacturers, Paul cites flexibility, robustness and food safety as key criteria. “This food-grade conveyor from UPM Conveyors is one of the few systems on the market that meets all of these specific needs and allows us to continue giving customers trouble-free and application-appropriate choices. As a company, they have more than 40 years expertise in the conveyor market and their HMWPE conveyor has been operating successfully the world over for over two decades.”
Since Pacepacker showcased the HMWPE ‘SYSCON’ conveyor at its recent open day event, the likeminded innovators have already collaborated on several client projects. So, what makes this conveyor different to conventional belts? “In traditional conveyors, the belt is stretched over two rollers and this requires regular tracking and tensioning,” explains Roy Fowler, UPM Conveyor’s Sales Director. “With our HMWPE design, the belt runs in the side channels – top and bottom. As a result, friction is significantly cut. And because there are no pinch or trap points, manufacturers can maintain the highest level of hygiene and reduce the risk of cross contamination.”
The sides of the conveyor are made of HMWPE with stainless steel support frames. This makes it fully compliant with FDA regulations and being IP69K rated can withstand high pressure and close proximity washdowns.
Having fewer parts also means there’s less to go wrong, which also reduces maintenance time. As a result, UPM confidently offers customers a zero maintenance guarantee. UPM can also customise the conveyor for any automation format, including horizontal (flat), bucket, vertical, swan neck and carousels.
Modular by design, Paul admits that he was impressed by the conveyors flexibility, which can be adapted to production flow changes. “Inevitably, production layouts change, especially if your conveyor has a 25 year life span! Built using joining rods, this UPM conveyor can easily be reconfigured. For example, if you have a horizontal conveyor but want to introduce a vertical element, modules can be inserted.”
“In terms of RTI, this increases the life of a conveyor indefinitely,” exclaims Roy. “Because the conveyor is not welded together, you can break in at any point. Which means it is never obsolete.”
Another key benefit of the channel design is holds down rollers are eliminated, explains Roy. “If we look at a swan neck conveyor, any incline or decline in a traditional belt requires hold down rollers, which drastically increases the friction and wear and tear on a belt. With the channel design, you can create a food safe swan neck layout without them.”
UPM’s unique HMWPE design, which was awarded the Queens Award for Innovation, can be interfaced with any type of Cartesian, delta or robotic automation system. What’s more, the belt is so robust it can be installed in environments where temperatures reach or drop to +/- 200 °C. It can also be found in injection moulding and dye casting environments. “We’ve even created customised installations for blow moulding settings where operators can physically stand on a UPM conveyor,” claims Roy. “They are that durable and sturdy.”
As with any Pacepacker automation installation, production flow efficiency remains paramount. Collaborating with UPM is enabling the award-winning company to continue meeting customer’s exact specifications for food handling whilst also boosting the lifespan of their conveyor.