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Ishida Europe has designed and installed three complete packing lines for Spanish meat producer Embutidos F Martinez, eliminating all human handling from the packing of minced meat.

From the insertion of the meat into trays to placing the sealed trays into pallet-ready cases, the lines are achieving a total capacity of more than 72,000kg of packed product per shift, supplying national retailer Mercadona.

Ishida and Martinez worked closely in the development and implementation of the project.

Ishida was able to maximise synergy among the various packing line elements, which included de-nesting, tray sealing, labelling, metal detection, seal testing, label reading and pick-and-place packing into Eurocrates.

Most of the equipment supplied was made by Ishida.

Extruded minced meat is automatically cut and checkweighed and correct portions are fed to the tray loading point.

An Ishida tray de-nester, which can run more than 120 trays per minute, separates trays and places them on the belt in a single lane.

The de-nester tray reservoir allows the stacking of nested trays to extend right up to the floor above, where topping up is automatically cued by a sensor.

The trays travel to the loading point, where the minced-meat portions (usually either 400g or 1kg) are accurately dispensed into them.

The coordination of tray and portion is achieved by several sensors positioned before the loading point.

The Ishida QX-1100 tray sealer is capable of speeds of up to 200 packs per minute.

Sensors at the machine’s infeed check the length of any object passing by.

If it is of incorrect length (as in the case of a skewed tray or a foreign object), the belt stops, allowing the operator to straighten the tray or remove the foreign object and restart the belt without delay.

The precise control of temperature at the sealing units causes the film to shrink just the right amount to produce a tight and secure seal.

On leaving the QX-1100, the packs are labelled.

All of them pass through an automatic quality testing station that comprises a metal detector, a seal tester and a vision system.

The Ishida seal tester is able to detect a 1mm-diameter hole at speeds of up to 140 packs per minute.

The vision system checks both label positioning and orientation.

It interacts with the company’s MIS system to verify the information, such as dates and traceability, in barcodes and text.

At the end of each line, the packs reach an Ishida IPS twin pick-and-place system, which is capable of up to 150 packs per minute.

The IPS offers flexibility in terms of crate layout; each layer can be arranged in a different collation pattern, providing greater stability for the usually multi-layer crates.

The machine is able to include incomplete layers, which is useful when packing to a specified number of trays.

Filled crates are removed via a crate elevator for any necessary labelling and are forwarded to palletising and dispatch.

The customer set project objectives of 100 packs per minute for its 400g pack and 80 packs per minute for its 1kg pack.

These speeds were achieved and are routinely exceeded by each of the three lines.

To get the entire batch into crates of labelled and quality controlled 1kg packs takes 15 minutes.

The product is kept at a temperature of -1C up to the point where it is protected by a modified atmosphere (oxygen and carbon dioxide in a 70:30 ratio).

From then on, its temperature is maintained below 4C.

The product reaches Mercadona with a nine-day shelf life.

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