Heat sealing specialist Proseal has designed and installed a bespoke packing system for blueberry punnets for supplier Berry Gardens that has increased speeds and accuracy, reduced product waste and provided a more ergonomic and user-friendly working environment for operators.

The new smart drive technology punnet delivery system works in conjunction with a Proseal GT3 tray sealer to deliver a throughput of 210 packs per minute.

Blueberries are difficult to handle due to their small round shape which means they can easily jump out of packs during the packing process, particularly if there is frequent stopping and starting during conveying and sealing. The Proseal-designed twin lane conveyor uses a continuous motion chain and peg system to enable the packs to be seamlessly streamed into the GT3 tray sealer, which increases the accuracy of tray placement prior to sealing.

Trays are grouped into rows of seven for transfer into the GT3, where a reduced distance between the packs and the sealing head helps to ensure that no product is lost during the sealing of the punnets.

The feed conveyor is part of a three tier packing system which has been designed to improve working conditions for the packers. Boxes containing unsealed punnets of blueberries are delivered to the packing stations along the top conveyor. These are removed by the operators to a rack next to the middle twin lane conveyor, where the punnets are placed to be sent for sealing. Empty boxes are then moved onto the bottom conveyor for easy removal.

The system avoids the need for operators to twist and turn during the packing operation, and keeps the area clean and tidy. 

The GT3 offers a rugged construction manufactured to food industry approved hygiene standards with full wash-down protection. Tool handling is simple, safe and fast thanks to a ‘Free-Lift’ tool loading system, which delivers rapid transfer of pre-heated tool sets to Proseal’s proven Auto Tool Connection. This enables tool changes to be carried out in around three minutes.

An Internet based secure gateway connection system provides real time data and error condition support, allowing Proseal engineers to remotely access the machine for diagnostic support and software modifications. The system can also compile machine condition running data such as packs per minute, temperature settings, seal time and air pressure, all of which can be exported directly into production monitoring screens. 

“Blueberries are notoriously difficult to handle in any type of automated system,” explained David Perry of Berry Gardens. “The Proseal system is fast and efficient and minimises product waste, and this makes an important contribution to our ability to deliver a high quality finished product to our customers.”