PCE has recently delivered in conjunction with Heraeus Nobleight, a purpose-built, fast response, medium wave infra-red (IR) system. This has allowed the customer Westmill Foods to reduce the time needed to cure a sealing compound applied to filled food containers, from two days to just one hour.

The Scope

The system forms part of an automated production line, fully designed and engineered by PCE Automation Ltd of the PCE GROUP, from our Beccles factory.  As well as considerable time savings, the deployment of infra-red curing has provided the customer with the ability to  free up valuable storage space and realise a cleaner working environment.

The Customer

Westmill Foods are part of the ABF Group and are one of Europe’s largest specialist food manufacturers, manufacturing and supplying authentic ethnic foods to Asian and Caribbean restaurants and take-aways.  A pivotal part of their operation is the filling, sealing and delivery of containers filled with liquids, such as sauces and edible oils.

The Method

The sealing process involves depositing a rubber latex compound to the container lid rims and then achieving a green cure, using the IR system installed. This allows the lids to be loaded into containers without damaging the partially cured latex seal which will then fully cure in around 60 minutes. The lids can then be fitted to the container and clinched to achieve a water and airtight seal.

Prior Methods

Previously, the sealing compound was air-cured, however, this could take up to 48 hours and meant leaving large numbers of lids in storage bins. As Westmill is always seeking continuous improvement, it was decided to contact specialist automation designers and engineers PCE.

In an effort to speed up and automate container filling and especially the curing process, PCE commissioned Heraeus Noblelight to carry out tests at Westmill. These tests proved successful and, as a result, a 75 kW fast response infra-red heating system was incorporated within the new automated production line.

The Process

The latex compound is applied to lids as they pass on a conveyor belt. They are then transported to the infra-red heating station where they are arranged in batches of three and are passed beneath infra-red emitters at a rate of 36 lids per minute. The IR power is precisely controlled by a Siemens PLC, as it is important the sealing compound is not overheated, in order that adhesion is still maintained after the green cure.

Greatly enhanced throughputs

The new automated system has allowed sealant cure times to be reduced to just one hour. This has greatly enhanced the speed of the total filling operation and saved valuable space in the factory.

Your partner in automation….

PCE are a vastly experienced, collaborative automation partner, with a dedicated Technical Team;  who can help bring your automation ambitions to life. If you would like to discuss a concept, look no further than the automation specialists. We look forward to discussing how we can become your partner in automation….