Drives & Controls April 2024

36 n CONVEYORS AND MATERIALS HANDLING April 2024 Levitating food transport saves space and eases handling The Swiss machine-builder Provisur Technologies develops innovative machinery and production systems for processing food products. It has developed a new space-saving handling system for use with its Hoegger presses and Formax slicers, which uses magnetically levitated “movers” to transport food products such as cheese, salami and bacon exibly and hygienically. This “free movement system” (FMS) has been designed to be more compact, exible and hygienic than traditional technologies, revolutionising the movement of products between slicers and packaging lines. At the heart of the system is a handling and bu‚ering system using tiles and electromagnetically levitatied movers from Beckho‚’s XPlanar system. The modular system supports the FMS concept using adaptable standard machine designs. Controls below the stainless-steel worktop save space and enhance reliability, resulting in a particularly compact design – especially because conventional modules such as turning stations, bu‚ers, in-liners and overlappers are no longer needed. The core task of the FMS is to bu‚er products for downstream packaging machines to ensure a continuous supply during pauses in slicer loading. In conventional lines, this is achieved using belt systems, which need more space and cleaning. The FMS can also perform tasks such as turning portions, or merging or distributing product streams. “Thanks to the fast, free-oating movers, the portions can be processed with a high output,” explains Gerd Stratenwerth, Provisur’s slicing sales manager. “Even multitype portions can be put together exibly and in the smallest possible space. “Because the XPlanar movers can move to any point on the work surface and rotate freely, the whole process of picking up cut products for transport is more straightforward than ever,” he adds. “This also means that the transported food always arrives at the packaging station in the optimal orientation. “The entire process is characterised by an enormous amount of exibility, because handling a new article or a di‚erent packaging variant does not require a changed system design – just an adjustment in the software program.” The stainless-steel surface of the XPlanar tiles, combined with stainless-steel movers, results in hygienic operation. The sliced products are transferred directly from the slicer to a mover, in singles, stacks, folded slices or overlapping portions, depending on the application. Once these products have been transferred to a packaging line, the movers can be cleaned and sterilised at an optional cleaning station – usually during the return trip to the slicer. The non-contact, oating transport system avoids abrasion. “Not only does this protect the food against contamination, but it also noticeably simpli‘es the level of cleaning compared to the often more convoluted assembly work associated with conventional systems,” points out Provisur automation engineer, Fatih Yaman. “This is becoming an increasingly important consideration, not least in light of the sta“ng issues currently a‚ecting food processing companies.” Stratenwerth adds that the system “eliminates the need to touch the product and thus the human factor as a source of contamination. This also has a positive e‚ect on product shelf life.” Fewer components Another important result is increased plant availability. Because of there are fewer mechanical components – as a result, for example, of a reduction of around 90% in the need for conveyor belts – the time required for cleaning the machine is cut to around 10 minutes, and less maintenance is needed. A further advantage of the levitating transport system is that it allows a choice of packaging types. Thermoforming machines, for example, usually operate on multiple lanes, while form-‘ll-seal machines tend to operate on single lanes. This can be achieved exibly using di‚erent software pro‘les. Traditionally, the complex handling area between the slicer and the packaging machine would need to be replaced and A Swiss food machinery specialist has turned to a levitating technology to transport sliced foods and is reporting many advantages, including small machine footprints, improved performance, greater exibility, reduced maintenance and easier cleaning. Provisur’s food transport system uses Beckho’s XPlanar planar motor technology with stainless-steel housings to move sliced products hygienically and exibly between processing stations