How two companies came together to make life easier for a packaging facility.
Putting wet product into secondary packaging can cause any number of issues. Damp cardboard deteriorates, rewetted labels go askew, water spots compromise consumer confidence. What happens though, when the secondary packaging itself is wet? This was the question Scholle IPN, a leader in bag-in-box and spouted pouch packaging, turned to JetAir Technologies and Valley Packline Solutions to answer.
Scholle provides boxed wine bladders. In order to conveniently ship these bladders to their customer, they designed reusable, collapsible bins. The customer could empty out the bin, then return it to Scholle to be refilled with a fresh batch of wine bladders.
Once the bins returned to Scholle, they were cleaned before refilling. Three Scholle employees re-erected and pressure washed these bins at a pace of 60 bins per hour.
Although the collapsible bins were convenient for the customer, Scholle was dedicating 120 hours each week to prepare them for reuse. In order to streamline their process, they got in touch with the line engineers at Valley Packline Solutions. Valley Packline is the expert in designing, engineering, and manufacturing produce handling and processing equipment. They quickly found a way to optimize the bin cleaning by introducing a system pulling bins directly off the truck. This system then fed the bins straight into an erector/washer, eliminating the pressure washer.
After going through the erector/washer, the bins were then fed into the facility to be refilled with wine bladders. In short, Valley Packline had automated a system taking bins from the truck, and delivering them clean to Scholle.
The re-erecting and cleaning process could now connect directly with the refilling process. While great for optimizing facility flow, this did present a problem. Any time between the cleaning and refilling, previously allowing the bins to dry, was gone.
The bins couldn’t be refilled while wet, and common air knives couldn’t reach the bins’ deep corners to thoroughly dry them by the time they were fed into the facility.
To the Testing Facility
As experts in drying, JetAir Technologies was there to help. JetAir knew this was a unique application, especially because of the large size of the bins, so they headed to their testing facility to try an array of solutions to find the ideal setup for Scholle. Using a sample bin at their testing facility, JetAir modeled a number of configurations of blowers and air knives to ensure the best results.
JetAir has a wide range of blower-based solutions. They routinely test centrifugal and regenerative blowers to find the best balance of flow and pressure for the specific application. Leveraging their in-house testing facility, they are able to replicate plant conditions.
Thorough testing of this unique bin-drying application allowed JetAir to arrive at its blower and custom air knife recommendation. “It was quite an extensive project to put in a drying system,” said Adam Fehr, Valley Packline’s sales manager. “Testing was very helpful in making a decision.”
An Energy Saving Blower
By testing multiple air pressures and flows, JetAir arrived at a way to contribute to ongoing energy savings. Many air knife systems rely on compressed air as their air source. This creates a handful of challenges. First, compressors do not deliver a clean air stream (i.e. there is oil from the compressor in the air stream). Food-grade oil can be purchased to use with the compressor, but it is more expensive than standard compressor oil. This means an ongoing additional expenditure, leading to an additional issue with using compressed air, the cost of the air itself.
Compressors produce more pressure than needed for most applications, including the drying of these collapsible bins. Using compressed air would have led to large amounts of air simply being blown to the atmosphere. Not only does this mean wasted resources, it means wasted money. In short, compressed air is expensive.
Instead of relying on compressed air, Valley Packline and JetAir turned to a solution resulting in significantly less energy expenditure. They drove the drying system with a centrifugal blower connected to a variable frequency drive.
The centrifugal blower gives greater control of flow and pressure than an air compressor. The increased control results in a staggering 70% reduction in energy consumption over a compressed air system. By choosing a blower over compressed air, Valley Packline and JetAir Technologies built energy efficiency into the bin dryer.
Belt-Free Blower Benefits
What’s more, JetAir’s centrifugal blowers differ from most others on the market because they are belt-free. While most centrifugal blowers rely on belts and tensioners, JetAir’s blowers couple the impeller directly to the motor shaft. This means an 8% improvement in efficiency over belted blowers, plus the elimination of the hassle of changing and re-tensioning belts. A belt-free blower has no belt to break, so Scholle gained minimized maintenance concerns and no belt pinch safety hazards. Additionally, because the impeller and motor shaft are directly connected, this blower’s footprint was less than half of a belted blower’s.
To get even more efficiency from the blower, JetAir leveraged a variable frequency drive (VFD). With the VFD, facilities can connect directly to their PLC. This allows them to get non-spiking soft-starts, more precision in their airflow settings, and built-in motor protection.
Custom Air Knives
After testing, JetAir also discovered standard air knives would not be sufficient for the application. Instead, they designed, engineered, and manufactured custom square rings of JetBlasts (nozzled air knives) capable of moving up and down the bin interior and exterior for rapid and thorough drying.
JetAir chose nozzled air knives over traditional air knives for greater efficiency. By forcing air through engineered nozzles, these JetBlasts deliver superior air reach. The aerodynamic design of the JetBlast balances pressure evenly across all nozzles, projecting a clean, high-velocity air stream.
Valley Packline actuated the air knives to bathe the bins in high-flow, high-efficiency, blower-powered air. While one square ring of JetBlast air knives ran up and down the bin’s exterior, another simultaneously ran up and down the interior.
After drying the interior and exterior walls, the bin moved to a secondary drying station. At this dryer, additional sets of JetBlast air knives removed water along the bin’s base, drying both the interior and exterior bottom.
Saving Time, Saving Energy
At Scholle IPN, Valley Packline’s engineering experience and JetAir’s drying expertise came together to deliver an automated, energy efficient solution. Ultimately, the new system eliminated 120 man-hours each week dedicated entirely to erecting and washing. The new system can be manned by just one employee as it pulls bins directly off delivery trucks, re-erects, washes, and dries them, and feeds them into the facility for refilling. Throughput at Scholle was improved by the system, while energy costs were kept to a minimum.
On working with JetAir, Fehr said, “You guys did great. The timely testing helped us show that it worked. The equipment came out very nice.”
To see a video of the installed bin washer and dryer including the actuated air knives, see the Youtube video Valley Packline Solutions Bin Washing and Drying.
JetAir is dedicated to delivering the most energy-efficient drying solution. Replacing compressed air can help slash energy consumption, but determining the right blower can pose a challenge for line engineers and plant managers. For unique applications, testing can be leveraged to determine optimal pressure and flow.
Finding the right blower-based solution is key for facilities wanting to save time, energy, and ultimately money. Once identified, the right air source will deliver the right flow and pressure along with savings in perpetuity.