Article | January 23, 2014

Comparison Of Thermoformers For Food Packaging Applications

Source: GEA Food Solutions GmbH

The output of thermoformers plays a crucial role when fresh food is being packed. The rate of production must keep pace with constantly escalating requirements if food producers are to remain competitive.

Outlined below is a comparison of two concepts, each of which promises to deliver greater efficiency during the packaging operation. The option ultimately selected by the company in question depends on several factors, including the production environment.

There are two fundamental approaches to increasing output or performance: first, processing more packs per cycle, and second, running more cycles per minute. "There is no silver bullet," says Stefan Krakow, head of thermoformer product management at GEA Food Solutions GmbH, who recently gave a presentation on the subject of efficiency enhancement with thermoforming machines at the company's headquarters in Biedenkopf. "Each option has specific pros and cons. First of all, a decision has to be taken on the most suitable packaging concept for the relevant production environment.“ GEA Food Solutions offers appropriate machine configurations for both approaches.

Urging caution, Krakow continues, "One thing is certain, however: if the upstream and downstream processes are unable to match the increased packaging output, the outcome is fruitless. If the individual influencing factors are not examined in unison, the decision in favour of a new machine concept will be made ineffective by the peripheral conditions." When seeking to pack sausage, cheese, meat or other fresh produce with an elevated cycle speed, consideration must be given to an abundance of criteria in order to achieve a sound outcome. Only then can process reliability and overall quality, as well as high product yield and portion quality be guaranteed in the long run.

Factors influencing the packaging process

In food packaging, a lot of attention must be paid to external factors. These include packaging material behaviour, which has a direct impact on the heating, forming and sealing processes. In this connection, close collaboration with the film producer is crucial. Among the other vital aspects are the product properties and the upstream and downstream operations in the packaging process, namely slicing, conveying, loading, converging, inspection, labelling, aggregating and group packaging, each of which must be able to handle the increased output. Another external factor is the supply of compressed air, low pressure for a vacuum, electricity and water. "Especially as regards the vacuum," explains Krakow, "the prevailing conditions often oppose the goal of increased performance."

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