Weighing and packaging equipment has been transformed by the innovations of smart technologies. As use of these systems become more and more widespread, production lines have called for the integration of new line components to allow for a single, coherent packaging operation. At least that’s what Anurag Mitra, product marketing manager of packaging, TNA Solutions, believes.

“Today’s advanced software suits help snack producers improve weighing accuracy, as well as maintain maximum processing speeds and minimize product waste,” Mr. Mitra said.

The intelli-weigh omega series by TNA is one example of such a system, featuring smart auto-tuning and Auto Feed Control functions that can automatically adjust product volume, vibration and speed. This ensures the system always operates at maximum precision and performance. Recently, the system has been upgraded to allow for the integration of hypersensitive product-in-seal-detection systems to capture data and monitor pack seal integrity of weighers and baggers, instantly alerting operators to any errors.

“The result is more accurately sealed packs, fewer rejections and reduced product loss,” Mr. Mitra said.

Heat and Control’s Ishida RV series weigher is another technology designed for efficient hopper control, more responsive electronics, faster filtering and more efficient feeder vibration, delivering higher speeds, better accuracy and reduced giveaway, according to Chris Farver, global director of controls and information, controls group, Heat and Control.

“Ishida equipment is being incorporated into our packaging department advisory system,” he said. “Beyond just including alarms, we have been bringing packaging departments an awareness of concerns to address before those concerns become alarms, for example, weigher setup for the bag size and speed to allow for good continuous flow.”

Critical feedback to the seasoning process control is provided by use of the weigher in the Total Automated Seasoning Control. Heat and Control is also testing to reduce foot traffic in the packaging department.

Mettler-Toledo has introduced a new generation of high-performance load cells that are designed to improve accuracy, speed and weighing ranges, said Adam Griffen, checkweigher and vision product manager, Mettler-Toledo. The load cells offer a throughput of up to 800 ppm and are approved for washdown applications.

Improved weighing systems become even more important when considering snacks that combine a variety of items in a single package, such as trail mixes. While the components within the package can have different weights, the tolerance and accuracy of the technology must be able to maintain specific weight limits.

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“Intelligent feedback control — a common feature in the latest weighing systems — harnesses data gathered from encoders placed throughout the line to determine optimal feedline speed, hopper open‐close patterns and even the performance of up and down-stream components to deliver repeatable, precisely weighed bags every time,” Mr. Mitra said.

However, it remains common practice to allow changeovers to guide the weighing process of packages that include various-sized snacks.

“In our experience, we’ve found that snack producers don’t typically use the same weighing equipment to package products with such widely varying weights, such as nuts or popcorn,” he said. “Instead, most brands use a dedicated weigher for each product type, running these lines for a long period of time before making the switch to a new category.”

Using several weighers for different product types that are headed into the same package means that changeover times become imperative to maintaining the speed of a production line. This can be done in two ways, Mr. Mitra said: via hygienically designed hardware and through digitally enabled system integration.

“With the option to select from a list of pre-set weighing parameters, smart software eliminates the need to shut down production while operators manually adjust equipment settings,” he said, providing the example of the integration between the TNA intelli-weigh and TNA robag packaging solution as a digitally enabled changeover process. “Using seamless data pairing, changes to the weighing settings are automatically shared with the bagger, and vice versa, ensuring both systems are optimized for the new product type at the touch of a button.”

At Mettler-Toledo, product changeover reduces time by ensuring minimal changes to the checkweigher.

“The checkweigher can automatically learn how to inspect a package by means of a set-up mode,” Mr. Griffen said, noting that the equipment can have barcode scanners, cameras and network connectivity to automate product changeovers. “For machines that require mechanical adjustments on product changeovers, those adjustments can be digitized as part of the product’s ‘recipe’ and the HMI will guide the operator to make adjustments quickly.”

Heat and Control’s weighers come equipped with quick disconnect feeder pans and hoppers to make cleaning and changeover faster and simpler. The transition chutes have an easy removal design.

“Our HMI is very intuitive and individual product presets are used for automatic changeover from one product to the next,” said Jeff Almond, industry manager of snack food packaging, Heat and Control. “We also provide automatic film splicing to reduce changeover time and for ergonomic film roll and former change. Our entire packaging cell from scale to automatic case packer can be changed over very quickly for improved line efficiency.”

This article is an excerpt from the July 2021 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Weighing & Scaling, click here.