At the 2010 IFFA exhibition, which is held every three years, more than 900 exhibitors from 40-plus countries took the opportunity to demonstrate the latest innovations in meat processing machines and equipment, packaging technology and ingredients. Reflecting the prevailing industry demand, automation, throughput, safety and hygiene had clearly influenced many of this year’s developments.
Automation" an increasingly important driver of activity in Europe " was demonstrated by a fully operating, automated production line, which had been set-up within Hall 4 for the first time at this year’s event. The Robotik-Pack-Line was the result of collaboration between leading companies in their fields, such as CSB-System AG; Fanuc Robotics Deutschland GmbH; Habasit; Mettler-Toledo Product Inspection; Peter Suhling Automation GmbH; TM Robotics; Sealpack GmbH; and Weiss, in cooperation with the German Institute of Food Technologies (Deutsch Institut für Lebensmitteltechnik e.V. or DIL). Built on a modular basis that could be tailored for different applications, the Robotik-Pack-Line illustrated how sorting, portioning, verification, packaging, sealing and labeling systems can be effectively operated using a wide range of industrial robots.
On its stand, Treif was highlighting its in-house strength in the area of automation with its new Falcon conti robotic portion cutting machine, which handles boneless and bone-in products that are fed in continuously. Designed to replace manual picking or traditional sorting/loading technology, the cutting-edge robot system ensures that portions are reliably sorted and uses a camera with both color- and shape-recognition technology to separate out cutlets with and without fillet, for example.
“The robotics behind the automated weight control line represent a very important development,” said Guenter Becker, president, Treif USA, who explained that the robot uses Treif’s patented vacuum technology to pick up to 150 pieces of meat per minute from the conveying line and place them into trays or boxes. “There is a lot of complex engineering and technology behind this and a high level of investment. The machines are suitable for high throughput lines operating at rates of 2,000 to 3,000 pounds per hour, and each machine has to be tailored to customers’ requirements.”
An increase in output and a smaller footprint compared with traditional methods and savings on personnel costs are coupled with the improvements to be had in quality as a result of the minimal handling of the product and faster packing, according to Treif, which is in initial discussions with a few companies in Europe and Asia, but has no plans yet for installation of the new robotic lines in the United States.
Automatic loading was a feature of Treif’s new Divider 880 high-performance slicer prototype, which uses a patented cutting and transport system to ensure the optimum coordination between the slicer and the tray feeder, while stacking at high speeds without any blank cuts. It was attracting attention alongside the company’s Dragon portion cutting machine for cutting deep-frozen bone-in products, such as T-bone steaks; and Treif’s new patented vacuum gripper, which is especially designed for holding soft products, such as boiled or cooked sausage or ham, that are hard to grip or can easily pull away. The vacuum gripper has a two-chamber vacuum system, which is said to provide a firm grip and the minimum of residual-held pieces after slicing.
Automation was also order of the day for the numerous developments premiered by Handtmann. For sausage production, Handtmann unveiled its fully automated ConProLink 200 and ConProLink 400 with linking function together with the new ConProTherm sausage production line with an automated cooking system and loading robot, which provide continuous production for linked, fine sausage products from processing through to packaging; and a new AST 340 robotic system for automatically transferring smoke sticks loaded with strings of sausages, directly into the smoking trolley.
The AST 340 can handle star-shaped and round smoke sticks and, thanks to Handtmann’s new robot technology, it accurately and gently positions the smoke sticks into the smoking trolley without the need for operators. It achieves a more concentrated smoke stick hanging, which improves the throughput of the cooking/smoking system at a faster rate than is possible for manual operators, according to Handtmann.
Marel, Stork and Townsend’s combined booth featured 20 new machines, as well as live music every day at 4 p.m. and live demonstrations of its new StreamLine intelligent deboning and trimming system for beef products. It has been developed to monitor and control the yield, throughput and quality of production from carcass intake to product dispatch. Any trim from the StreamLine can be run through Marel’s new SensorX fat analyzer, which measures the fat content of the trim using X-rays prior to automatic sorting in the trim grader.
Among the other new machines highlighted on the stand were Marel’s new PolySlicer 1000, which has an involute blade capable of high-speed slicing at a rate of 1,500 revolutions per minute for slices of 0.6 to 30mm. Its large slicing aperture is designed to handle up to three logs of product at one time and produce stacks, shingles or â€” using a pulsed product feed â€” thick (steak) slices. It can be programmed with up to 100 product specifications to ensure fast changeover times.
New slicing technology also is featured among Weber’s latest developments and included its first dedicated bacon slicer, the CCS 702, and the versatile Weber Slicer 804 for sausages, salami, ham or other soft products.
The new CCS 702 Bacon Slicer has been specially developed for high throughput bacon production and can handle up to 2,000 slices per minute of 0.1 to 50mm in thickness. The slicing throat height has been kept down to 100mm, by 300 to 380mm wide, in order to keep the footprint of the machine to a minimum, and it uses Weber’s beveled product carrier rather than a gripper in order to reduce processing time between product, as no residue has to be removed from the gripper. Precision slicing is achieved using Weber’s technology for constantly measuring and adjusting the distance between the blade and shear bar, which, in combination with an optical weigher, ensures both high output and high yield.
A compact slicer that is said to offer the top performance within a small footprint, the Weber Slicer 804, uses idle cut technology and has a maximum slicing speed of up to 1,500 slices per minute and, with a slicing throat 380mm wide and 180mm high, can process three products/logs â€” with dimensions of 100 x 100mm â€” simultaneously. The Weber Slicer 804, which effectively replaces Weber’s 902, now features the company’s automatic central loading technology that loads products into the correct position automatically. For further automation, the 804 can be combined with the Weber Food Robot, which automatically inserts the sliced portions into its packaging to give high throughput and highly efficient and flexible production.
Yield, productivity and cost effectiveness were the aim of the introductions from CFS, which included a new MegaSlicer generation for on-weight slicing; fully automated robot loading; grinding, multi-zone cooking and defrosting technologies; an entry level model of its Powerpak thermoformer; a bowl cutter with enhanced control; and a brine injection and cooling combination.
“When you consider that purchasing of raw materials leaves little room for negotiation, and end customers dictate the sales price, about the only opportunity left to improve profitability is to increase productivity and yield in the plant,” said Brain McCluskie, CEO of CFS. The company demonstrated its new MegaSlicer generation together with its CFS OptiScan system, which determines the density distribution over the length of the product using X-ray technology and helps to increase yield when slicing products like hams or bacon that have an irregular shape and varying product density. The MegaSlicer can be used with a circular blade for up to 750 revolutions per minute or an involute blade that operates at up to 2,000 revolutions per minute, and slice up to 440mm in width and up to 180mm high.
Hygienic slicing was the particular focus for Cozzini, which has just completed the overhaul of the slicing equipment it acquired when it took over Dover Products Inc./Anco Slicing Technology in 2008.
“We have completely redesigned the Anco slicers to meet and exceed the new sanitation and safety standards,” said Ed King, director of product development at Cozzini. “We are probably one of the first companies to have taken a look at the equipment from the ground upward and address all of the safety and hygiene features. These slicers are bulk slicers, and we may also have increased the yield but that is yet to be determined.”
Among other features, Cozzini’s redesigned (Anco) PrimeSlice 827C backclamp/gripper-style slicer has a variable-speed blade that turns up to 1,500 revolutions per minute and is now fully guarded for operator safety. It has a cantilevered design and jump conveyor with a sanitary seamless belt to feed product to the slicer blade. All belts and feed rollers are removable for ease of cleaning. The stainless-steel servo motor has a IP69K washdown rating.
“The polyurethane timing belt drive system allows for complete washdown of all drive components. Before there were gear boxes and chains, which made such hygienic cleaning impossible,” said King, who explained that disassembly for sanitation and washdown is easy as all the components that come in contact with the product can be removed without tools. Additional options include wash-in-place spray systems for both the knife housing and drive housing, which allow the operator to wash the blade from both sides while it runs, without the need to open the blade housing. “We are now working on the development of a continuous pepperoni slicer in the PrimeSlice range, which we hope to launch at the end of 2010,” King said.
Production improvements were also key to the developments discussed by Baader Food Processing Machinery, which highlighted a new device that allows large meat products to be processed without the need for mechanical pre-cutting; and its improved Baader 600 range for the gentle separation of sinews, gristle and cartilage from meat reduced in size. The Baader 605 and 607 are now equipped with a touch panel for system monitoring” including temperature control.
Baader also recently introduced its Baader 54 skinner for Sockeye fish at the Seafood Processing Europe exhibition in Brussels in April. The Baader 54, which was originally developed for Alaska pollack, provides a deep skin cut after the shallow skinning process and produces a separate fat layer which can be used, for example, for obtaining Omega 3 fatty acids. Skinned fillets leave the machine stretched out and separated from each other for further processing.
A taste of its future technology was given by Risco, which previewed its new top-of-the-range vacuum fillers. The RS 600 series will be available in two models, the RS 605 and RS 615, and is intended for larger-volume manufacturers. The RS 600s feature high-efficiency filling systems with large chambers and a newly designed air extraction vacuum system. According to Risco, an advanced “stuffing” system minimizes the compacting stress on the ground product, which will help to improve the quality of the finished product.
Risco also unveiled its RS 2006 continuous vacuum filler for ham. This new- generation model features Risco’s “long life” filling system, and large chambers that are designed to minimize the cuts of the muscle and preserve the original structure of the product as far as possible. The RS 2006 will feature the next generation servo-assisted motors and the ability to monitor the fillers operations on a continuous basis.
Dicing and portioning
Optimizing the dicing and portioning operations was the focus for Holac and Vemag this year, both of which introduced new developments in this area.
In its new booth concept taking up 300m2, Holac discussed both its new multipurpose dicer – the Cubixx 120 and the Holac portion cutting machine – the Sect 230. Designed for a wide range of meat processing applications, both machines have been built with stringent hygiene in mind.
The Cubixx 120 features an integrated pre-loading chamber as well as a large (120 x 120 x 570mm) loading chamber, which is opened and closed using a manually operated lateral pre-press-block that gives an improved filling angle. An integrated discharge conveyor offers improved ergonomics and operability, according to Holac. Its discharge conveyor base frame remains in the machine while the conveyor belt itself can be easily removed for daily cleaning.
The Sect 230 has a new 30-degree loading chamber, which has been designed to ensure the accurate guidance of any product during transport and cutting. To help with ease of handling, the blade does not require separate bushing, and as standard, the entire machine is equipped with automatic lubrication systems to minimize maintenance. It operates with continuous or intermittent product feeding, which can be selected according to product type, cutting thickness or blade requirements. And, all “smart-slice” functions such as dividing, sectioning or grouping, are also included as standard.
On its almost 1,000m2 stand, Vemag demonstrated 21 machines and product lines, eight of which were new developments. The new LPG 209 length portioning machine with casing magazine was designed for flexibility, speed, innovation and productivity. The machine links sausages with high accuracy in length and weight, and it also processes cooked and raw sausages in natural, collagen and cellulose casings within the caliber range of 13 to more than 40 mm. Collagen and cellulose casings are automatically loaded, which reduces casing change times and increases productivity, along with eliminating kinking.
As the casings are filled, the vacuum filler operates as a pump within the continuous production output. Special dividers in the dividing belts gently grip the casing and divide each individual sausage. The length portioning machine also eliminates the risk of split casings when using synthetic or collagen casings, which is often spotted too late by the operator when using conventional machines. Each of these split casings is immediately registered and produces a signal on the filler so that it immediately comes to a stop.
For the industrial packaging of large products and high packaging volumes, VC999 Packaging Systems unveiled its new VC999 K9 vacuum chamber belt machine, which has a chamber with a useable sealing bar length of 1,500 and operates at a capacity of up to four cycles per minute” all within a footprint of five square meters.
“Customers are increasingly asking us for volume, and we have responded. The K9 is the biggest vacuum conveying machine on the market in terms of seal bar length and the space within the sealing bars,” said Martin Wüst, head of VC999 engineering and development. Bags are fed onto the conveyor and positioned with their seal edge outwards. As the K9 features sealing bars on each outer edge of the vacuum chamber, two rows of bags can be sealed simultaneously. “There is a capacity width of 894mm between the sealing bars, so if you have bags that are 350 mm wide you can position four bags alongside each other and, depending on the bag length, you can place four further filled bags on the other side of the conveyor belt.”
Adaptable filler plates, which can be changed over in around five minutes, can be fitted to the lid of the chamber to accommodate lower products, such as ham or bacon, in order to reduce the vacuum times required for sealing.
“The K9 can handle products with a maximum height of 285mm, but not everyone has such large products so the filler plates allow flexibility,” said Wüst. “Sealing times clearly depend on the volume of product and the size of vacuum pumps, which the customer selects and positions according to their applications. Some companies need to handle large cuts of meat, but not necessarily at a fast throughput.”
Seal integrity has been built into the K9 with its bi-active sealing mechanism. Bags are sealed at top and bottom through creases or meat residues, and each sealing bar features two electrodes next to each other to give a double seal. All programs are automatically controlled using VC999’s vacuum processor controller.
Among other packaging technologies, Multivac also premiered its new high-performance vacuum chamber belt machine, the B610, at the show. With a sealing length of 2 x 1,500, the B610 has a distance between the sealing bars of 800mm and a maximum chamber height of 280mm. It has been designed for high output with minimal operator intervention, as well as improved convenience and hygiene” the entire machine can be soaped or washed down, inside and out. The lid of the chamber can tilt and opens in a couple of easy steps to give access to the insides for cleaning and maintenance. It also features an optional automatic sealing height adjustment system that offers four different levels.
Multivac’s new IPC 06 control system with a touch screen and HMI 2.0 user interface means that “never before has it been so easy to operate a packaging machine and the associated line modules,” according to Multivac. A strainer and special new valve prevent the vacuum pump from drawing in any product residues or cleaning fluids. And a short hose to the vacuum pump increases the output significantly. The new B610 can operate at a rate of 2.5 cycles per minute.
Other Multivac innovations included a prototype of a thermoform packaging machine with all pneumatic components replaced with electric drive technology, which avoids the need for compressed air and water connections. The e-concept is said to give energy savings of up to 20 percent, which mitigates the high acquisition costs as it has a payback period of just one year, according to Multivac.
Rapid payback, high throughputs, reliability, safety, security, consistency and quality output within a small footprint underpinned all the developments at the show and reflect the dynamics driving the industry. These give a taste of the many other innovations being discussed in the aisles and being tested in plants throughout not only Europe, but throughout the world.
This European Tech Report is a compilation of information gathered at IFFA and contributed to The National Provisioner.
SIDEBAR: Ingredients to help boost efficiency, quality and clean labeling
Gewürzmüller presented a modular system for natural, clean-label products as well as its natural antioxidant from oregano. The company’s Pure Taste system combines seasonings, meat cultures and process technology tailored to individual products. It draws particularly on natural options, such as spices, fruit and vegetable extracts and other ingredients, such as yeast, in order to keep additives to a minimum. The systems have been developed for traditional meat products such as cooked ham, scalded sausages and raw fermented sausages. Origanox, Gewürzmüller’s oregano extract, has a high phenol content and strong antioxidative properties, which can be used to help delay fat oxidation and increase the antimicrobial activity in fish and meat products.
Hydrosol’s innovations included its new PLUSstabil Ultrabind injection additive that can be used when 100 percent of the product is to be injected. According to Hydrosol, for products such as cooked ham, it is possible to achieve high yields of 180 percent or more. Yet, the new additive gives a homogeneous appearance in the finished slices without the “streaks” often associated with injection systems. It gives a firm consistency and dry cutting as a result of minimum syneresis. Hydrosol’s new PLUSstabil 80 BAC has been developed for belly of pork and can be used to fix the brine as a firm gel in soft connective tissues.
New cultures, efficient stabilizers and natural antioxidants were featured on the Danisco stand. Texel XT is a starter culture that gives rapid texture development in salami while also delivering good flavor and color. According to Danisco, the rapid textural firmness achieved using Texel XT provides an opportunity for the development of novel casing-free snacks and also ensures good slicing properties earlier in production. Danisco was also showing its Grindsted MeatBinder Stabiliser Systems” natural solutions for transforming odd-shaped meat trimmings into medallions and nuggets with defined shapes and sizes, as well as excellent cooking and freeze-thaw stability. Further natural developments included Danisco’s Guardian Green Tea Extract for natural protection against oxidation.
Solae introduced its Cenergy FMS soy fiber solution for kebab and ground meat products. Designed to increase the cooking yield, reduce cooking time and provide cost savings, Cenergy FMS is derived from the cell wall of the soybean cotyledon and contains a matrix of insoluble fiber, soluble fiber and protein. The combination of these ingredients in formulation is said to help control purge, increase water retention and improve cooking yields.