All in Good Taste

Posted by  Mark Stone 21-Dec-2016 06:02:00

Mark is our Fluid Power Technical Manager, based at our Core Competence Centre in Coventry.

Festo-Peppers.pngFilled antipasti specialities are becoming increasingly popular, and an ever-expanding range of these products can be found on our supermarket shelves.

The job of filling these tiny delicacies used to be done by hand, and was therefore time-consuming and costly. A new machine from Karb Maschinenbau GmbH has made this process easier. Equipped with cylinders, valves and valve terminals from Festo, it fully automatically fills peppers and other choice foods with cream cheese.

Peppers, chillies and olives are classic Mediterranean antipasti. Many consumers are familiar with
Mediterranean cuisine and therefore expect high standards from these delicacies – they must be fresh,
tasty and a feast for the eyes.

To meet the demands of their customers, food producers must work quickly and hygienically. Thanks to a new antipasti multi-filling machine from Karb Maschinenbau GmbH, which according to the manufacturer, is the only one of its kind. Production is now more than 3.5 times faster. Festo components are used to ensure smooth movements at process and production level.

14,500 items per hour

Despite so many work steps in industrial food production being automated, the filling of vegetables is still done by hand. Trained employees can produce up to 1,000 items per hour, but it is a tedious process, and the manual aspect means it requires high standards of hygiene.

Each item must be picked up by hand and then filled with cream cheese. Thanks to the new automatic antipasti multi-filling machine from Karb, this job is now much easier and, above all, faster. Employees simply need to place the vegetables on the filling nozzles.

The machine does the rest – producing up to 14,500 items per hour. Although the system is currently being used to fill pointed peppers, it can be used to process all kinds of vegetables. The only requirement is that the vegetables have a cavity for the filling.

Automatic filling and cleaning

Sophisticated, highly sensitive sensor technology – details of which Karb Maschinenbau is keeping under wraps for product protection reasons – ensures that the correct amount of filling is dispensed. The sensors automatically detect when the pepper is full and report it to the machine controller within a fraction of a second.

The machine controller then sends the stop signal to the Festo cylinder EPCO, which is responsible for the filling process. Because hygiene is as important as speed in the food industry, the system has an automatic cleaning program. A solution of water and cleaning agent instead of cream cheese is flushed through the pipes to clean them.

20 peppers in one go

Two hygienic valves, 20 EPCO cylinders, five valve terminals CPX/MPA, 20 cartridge cylinders EGZ and an MS series service unit keep the process running smoothly.

The hygienic valves, which are tailored precisely to the requirements of the food industry, control the infeed of the cheese at process level, while the EPCO electric cylinders take care of the actual filling process. They draw cream cheese into a type of syringe and inject it into the vegetable.

The combination of system controller and sensors ensures the perfect fill quantity. 20 vegetables can be filled at a time in this way. Because the cavities of peppers, chillies, etc., vary in size, the system uses its sophisticated sensor technology to detect the level of each individual vegetable and waits until the last is filled to the top with cream cheese before placing all the vegetables onto a conveyor at the same time.

The valve terminal CPX/MPA, which controls the proportional valves for the grippers, ensures highly sensitive gripping without pressure marks. The grippers developed by Karb Maschinenbau use Festo cartridge cylinders EGZ.

Expertise and worldwide availability

The machine took around five years to develop from the initial idea to final fine tuning. Behind the smooth running system that makes the filling process look so easy lies a lot of complex and time-consuming work that had to be accomplished on the journey from the initial concept to commissioning, including design, manufacture and control. Throughout this period, Karb Maschinenbau was supported by Festo employees. Along with their expertise, they provided sample parts for extensive testing and carried out trials in the Festo test laboratory.

The many years of cooperation with Festo together with the high quality of the products and their availability worldwide were pivotal to the project. The machine building experts are already working on the next step of automating the feeding and packaging process.

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