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Title:
A PARTICLE REMOVAL DEVICE FOR A FILLING MACHINE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/063991
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A particle removal device (18) for a filling machine (10) configured to form, fill, and seal individual packages (4) is provided. The particle removal device (18) comprises an air supply pipe (181), and a controller (186) being programmed to activate the particle removal device (18) such that a jet of air is directed into a ready-to-fill package (2) passing the particle removal device (18).

Inventors:
LINDBLAD, Jenny (Bjärred, SE)
VALLIER, Aurelia (Sjöbo, SE)
Application Number:
EP2020/077311
Publication Date:
April 08, 2021
Filing Date:
September 30, 2020
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
TETRA LAVAL HOLDINGS & FINANCE S.A. (PULLY, PULLY, CH)
International Classes:
B65B3/02; B65B55/24; B08B9/28; B65B57/02
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TETRA PAK - PATENT ATTORNEYS SE (Patent Department RubenRausings gata, LUND, SE)
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Claims:
CLAIMS

1 . A particle removal device (18) for a filling machine (10) configured to form, fill, and seal individual packages (4), wherein the particle removal device (18) comprises an air supply pipe (181), characterized by a controller (186) being programmed to control the particle removal device (18) such that a jet of air is directed into a ready-to-fill package (2) passing the particle removal device (18).

2. The particle removal device according to claim 1 , wherein the controller (186) is programmed to control activation of the particle removal device (18) based on the motion of ready-to-fill packages (2) passing the particle removal device (18).

3. The particle removal device according to claim 1 or 2, wherein the controller (186) is programmed to control activation of the particle removal device (18) for an entire indexing cycle, during which two consecutive ready-to-fill packages are passing the particle removal device (18).

4. The particle removal device according to claim 3, wherein the jet of air is constant during activation.

5. The particle removal device according to any of the preceding claims, wherein activation of the particle removal device (18) is started when a leading sidewall of a ready-to-fill package is positioned in the same vertical plane as an orifice (182) of the air supply pipe (181).

6. The particle removal device according to any of the preceding claims, further comprising a hood (183), and wherein the air supply pipe (181 ) is arranged inside said hood (183).

7. The particle removal device according to claim 6, wherein the hood (183) is provided with an air evacuation unit (184).

8. The particle removal device according to claim 6 or 7, wherein an orifice (182) of the air supply pipe (181 ) is arranged vertically below the bottom end of the hood (183). 9. The particle removal device according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the hood (183) is dimensioned to cover at least one ready-to-fill package.

10. A filling machine (10), comprising a particle removal device according to any of the preceding claims.

11. The filling machine according to claim 10, further comprising a cap applicator station (16), and wherein the particle removal device (19) is arranged downstream the cap applicator station (16). 12. The filling machine according to claim 10 or 11 , further comprising a disinfection station (20), and wherein the particle removal device (18) is arranged upstream the disinfection station (20).

13. A method for a filling machine configured to form, fill, and seal individual packages (4), the method comprising: providing a particle removal device (18) in accordance with any of claims 1- 9, and activation said particle removal device (18) such that a jet of air is directed into a ready-to-fill package (2) passing the particle removal device (18).

Description:
A PARTICLE REMOVAL DEVICE FOR A FILLING MACHINE

Technical Field

The invention relates to a filling machine, in particular to a particle removal device of a filling machine being configured to form, fill, and seal individual packages. The present invention also relates to a method for removal of particles of packages during production, i.e. during package forming and filling.

Background Art

Within the food industry, beverages and other products are often packed in paper or paperboard based packages. Packages intended for liquid food are often produced from a packaging laminate comprising a core layer of paper or paperboard and an outer, liquid-tight layer of thermoplastic material on at least that side of the core layer which will form the inside of the packages.

One group of frequently occurring packages are so-called ready-to-fill packages. Such a ready-to-fill package is provided as a sleeve of packaging laminate like the one described above, being sealed at its bottom end prior to filling. The upper end may either be formed by sealing and forming the upper end of the sleeve, or by adding an upper part in the form of e.g. a plastic top; the upper end/part may be provided with an opening/closing means, such as a screw cap.

The open-ended packaging material sleeve is received at an infeed station of the filling machine, whereafter the bottom end is formed and sealed; the semi-finished package is at this point ready to fill. At a downstream station, the ready-to-fill packages are sterilized or disinfected at least on the inside in order to extend the shelf-life of the product to be stored in the packages. Depending on the desired shelf-life length and depending on whether the packages are to be distributed and stored in a refrigerated environment or at room temperature, different levels of sterilization/disinfection may be obtained.

After sterilization the packages are further transported to a filling zone for product filling, a sealing zone for sealing of the open end, and typically also to a final forming zone for final forming of the package. Especially for liquid food packaging it is important to produce packages with a minimum of unwanted particles. These particles are disadvantageous for a number of reasons. For example, large particles may affect the quality of the enclosed product in a negative manner. Large particles may also affect filling machine performance negatively, such as sealing operations. Furthermore, particles of any size may carry living organisms which are unwanted due to hygienic issues. In addition to the above- mentioned drawbacks, the presence of particles may also cause combustion if hydrogen peroxide is used as disinfection medium. Hence there is a need for a filling machine providing for improved removal of particles from ready-to-fill packages.

Summary

It is an object of the invention to at least partly overcome one or more of the above-identified limitations of the prior art. In particular, it is an object to provide a particle removal device for a filling machine which is capable of removing particles from ready-to-fill packages. As particles may be produced during the operation of producing the ready-to-fill package, it is advantageous to arrange a particle removal device in the filling machine close to where the particles are generated.

To solve these objects a particle removal device is provided. The particle removal device is to be used with a filling machine configured to form, fill, and seal individual packages. The particle removal device comprises an air supply pipe, and a controller being programmed to activate the particle removal device such that a jet of air is directed into a ready-to-fill package passing the particle removal device.

The controller may be programmed to control activation of the particle removal device based on the motion of ready-to-fill packages passing the particle removal device.

The controller may be programmed to control activation of the particle removal device for an entire indexing cycle, during which two consecutive ready-to-fill packages are passing the particle removal device.

In an embodiment, the jet of air is constant during activation of the particle removal device.

Activation of the particle removal device may be started when a leading sidewall of a ready-to-fill package is positioned in the same vertical plane as an orifice of the air supply pipe.

The particle removal device may further comprise a hood, and the air supply pipe may be arranged inside said hood. The hood may be provided with an air evacuation unit. An orifice of the air supply pipe may be arranged vertically below the bottom end of the hood.

The hood may be dimensioned to cover at least one ready-to-fill package.

According to a second aspect, a filling machine is provided comprising a particle removal device according to the first aspect. The filling machine may further comprise a cap applicator station, wherein the particle removal device is arranged downstream the cap applicator station.

The filling machine may further comprise a disinfection station, wherein the particle removal device is arranged upstream the disinfection station.

According to a third aspect, a method for a filling machine configured to form, fill, and seal individual packages is provided. The method comprises a first step of providing a particle removal device in accordance with the first aspect, and a step of activating said particle removal device such that a jet of air is directed into a ready-to-fill package passing the particle removal device.

Still other objectives, features, aspects and advantages of the invention will appear from the following detailed description as well as from the drawings.

Brief Description of the Drawings

Embodiments of the invention will now be described, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying schematic drawings, in which

Fig. 1 is a schematic view of a filling machine according to an embodiment;

Fig. 2 is an isometric view of a package being produced by the filling machine shown in Fig. 1 ;

Fig. 3 is a schematic view of parts of a filling machine, comprising a particle removal device according to an embodiment;

Fig. 4 is an isometric view of a particle removal device according to an embodiment;

Fig. 5 is a graph showing operation of a particle removal device schematically; and

Fig. 6 is a schematic view of a method according to an embodiment.

Detailed description

With reference to Fig. 1 a filling machine 10 is shown schematically. The filling machine 10, being configured to form, fill, and seal packages 4, has an infeed station 12 in which blanks 2 of packaging material are received. The blanks 2 are typically produced as sleeves of a carton-based packaging material, as is well known in the art and already described briefly in the background section. The infeed station 12 is arranged upstream a bottom sealing station 14, in which the blanks 2 are erected to a sleeve-shape, and in which station the bottom end of each blank is sealed to form a semi-finished package having one bottom end being closed, while the upper end is still open.

Upstream or downstream the bottom sealing station 14, a cap applicator station 16 may be provided. The purpose of the cap applicator station 16 is to attach an opening device to the sleeve-shaped blanks 2, such as a screw cap with an associated neck. Typically, the neck and cap is provided as a pre-manufactured assembly, and attachment to the sleeve-shaped blank is done by ultrasonic sealing.

Immediately downstream the cap applicator station 16, a particle removal device 18 is arranged. The particle removal device 18 is configured to remove unwanted particles from the sleeve-shaped blanks prior to disinfection.

After passing the particle removal device 18, the semi-finished packages are transported to a disinfection station 20, in which the amount of living micro-organisms is reduced. The level of disinfection may vary depending on user objectives. Disinfection of the packaging material may e.g. be accomplished by means of treatment with hydrogen peroxide, UV light, electron beam radiation, etc.

Downstream the disinfection station 20 a filling station 22 is arranged. Here, the ready-to-fill packages are filled with their desired content. After filling, the packages may be transported to a pre-folding station 24 in which the upper part of the open- ended package is formed to a desired shape. After pre-forming the packages are transported to a heating station 26 in which heat-sealable material of the packaging material is heated to an elevated temperature. The elevated temperature of the upper end of the packages facilitates sealing of the upper end when the packages enter the sealing station 28 arranged immediately after the heating station 26.

Once sealed, the packages 4 are discharged by means of an outfeed station 30.

It should be mentioned that the filling machine 10 may not be constructed exactly as described with reference to Fig. 1 , but the filling machine 10 may also be configured to produce other type of packages, such as plastic top packages, etc.

In Fig. 2 an example of a package 4 being produced by a filling machine 10 is shown. The package 4 is of a so called gable-top package, having a screw cap 6 attached to it. The screw cap 6 may be attached to the package 4 using a screw cap applicator station 16 as further described below.

Specific parts of the filling machine 10 are further shown in Fig. 3. The sleeve shaped blanks 2 are being transported through the cap applicator station 16 in the direction A, as indicated by the block arrow. The cap applicator station 16 may comprise an index carousel 161 carrying an even number of cap application units 162 extending radially outwards as spokes. In the shown example, eight cap application units 162 are present although other numbers are possible.

The index carousel 161 is not rotating continuously, but it has four distinct activation positions; for each activation position, two adjacent cap application units 162 are positioned close to respective blanks 2, whereby these two blanks 2 will be provided with their respective cap 6 at the same time. One of the four activation positions is shown in Fig. 3.

The motion sequence of the index carousel 161 also requires the flow of blanks 2 to be controlled in a similar manner; the blanks 2 will be stationary positioned in relation to the active cap application units 162, whereafter the blanks 2 will move forward until the next two blanks 2 are positioned correctly relatively the next active cap application units 162.

In Fig. 3, it can be seen that caps 6a and 6b have been attached using cap application units 162a and 162b, respectively.

Immediately downstream the cap applicator station 16 the particle removal device 18 is arranged. The particle removal device 18 is configured to remove unwanted particles from the ready-to-fill packages leaving the cap applicator station 16.

Now turning to Fig. 4, the particle removal device 18 is shown in further details. The particle removal device 18 is operating by providing a flow of air, preferably clean air, into the ready-to-fill packages or sleeve-shaped blanks 2. For this, the particle removal device 18 comprises an air supply pipe 181 extending essentially in a vertical direction, and having an orifice 182 at its end in order to allow air to flow into the packages. The orifice 182 may be a single orifice, or a series of orifices. Each orifice may have a circular shape, rectangular shape, or any other suitable shape.

The air supply pipe 181 , as well as its orifice 182, is arranged in a hood 183 which is dimensioned to cover at least one of the ready-to-fill packages when the particle removal device 18 is activated. The hood 183 is further in fluid communication with an air evacuation unit 184, for allowing air to be drawn out through the hood 183. The evacuation unit 184 may be activated all the time, or it may be controlled such that evacuation of air is only performed when the particle removal device 18 is activated. The hood 183 may be directed substantially vertical upwards, but it may also be bent e.g. by forming an L-shape, in order to avoid evacuated particles to fall down into the packages immediately below the hood 183. The air supply pipe 181 is connected to a valve 185, which in turn is controlled by means of a controller 186. The controller 186 is programmed to provide control signals to the valve 185 such that the supply of air through the air supply pipe 181 is controlled accordingly. The air supply pipe 181 can be extending vertically upwards, or it may be bent e.g. by forming an L-shape; preferably, a bent air supply pipe 181 can be used with a straight evacuation pipe from the hood 183, while a straight air supply pipe 181 can be used with a bent evacuation pipe from the hood 183.

Now turning to Fig. 5 operation of the particle removal device 18 is schematically shown. The different stages i)-ix) represent different positions of the stream of ready-to-fill packages or sleeve-shaped blanks 2 passing by the stationary particle removal device 18, here only shown as the air supply pipe 181.

At i), the packages are stationary due to an ongoing capping process upstream (not shown). At this point, the particle removal device 18 is in a non-active state, meaning that there is no air flowing out from the air supply pipe 181. The evacuation unit 184 may however still be active.

At ii) the packages are moving in the direction of the arrow A, away from the cap applicator station 16 and towards the disinfection station 20. When a package is aligned with the orifice 182 of the air supply pipe 181 , such that the leading sidewall of the package is arranged in the same vertical plane as the orifice 182, the particle removal device 18 is activated by means of the controller 186, such that the valve 185 is opened allowing pressurized air to flow out from the orifice 182. As the orifice 182 is arranged only at a very small distance from the upper end of the packages, such as in the range of 1-35 mm, an efficient jet will be formed, propagating far down into the package without being negatively impacted by the evacuation flow. The jet will ‘attach’ to the inner side of the sidewall of the package, whereby the jet follows the inner side of the package to the other sides of the packages, thereby efficiently removing the particles from the walls as well as from the bulk of the package.

As the packages keep moving forward, as indicated at iii), the air supply will be directed essentially straight into the package until the trailing sidewall of the leading package is aligned with the orifice 182, as indicated at iv). At this point the jet will attach to the trailing sidewall, causing an efficient spread of the supplied air across the entire inner sides of the package. At v) the leading package is cleaned, whereby the orifice 182 is aligned in the small space between two adjacent packages. Although the particle removal device 18 is still active, i.e. air is still being supplied out from the orifice, no particle removal is actually taking place until the subsequent package is aligned with the orifice 182, indicated at vi). Steps vi)-ix) are identical to steps ii)-v) in terms of the particle removal operation, however at ix) the packages are stopped and kept stationary for the capping operation to take place upstream the particle removal device. At this point, the operation o fteh particle removal device 18 is changed to a non-active state by shutting off the supply of air. During steps ii)-ix), the motion of the packages is continuous in the direction A.

As has been described above, the technical concept is based on utilizing the movement of the package/blank 2 in relation to a pulsing air-jet to remove the particles from the ready-to-fill packages or blanks 2 and to capture them by a controlled evacuation flow from the evacuation unit 184 of the hood.

The air supply pipe 181 is preferably a single inlet pipe, extended down to a short distance from the upper package edge to have an efficient jet propagating far down into the package or blank 2 without being negatively impacted by the evacuation flow.

A single pulse of pressurized air covers both packages or blanks 2 in an indexing pair as they pass by the orifice 182. In this way the movement of the package or blank 2 will secure wall attachment of the jet first to one side of the package wall and then to the other side of the package wall, and thereby efficiently removing the particles from the walls as well as from the bulk of the package. The placement, timing and length of the pulse is controlled to secure wall attachment on both package sides and on both packages still considering the air consumption. Preferably, the air pulse is started just as the leading package edge enters below the inlet pipe and the air pulse is ended once process is completed on the second/trailing package of the indexing pair, at ix) in Fig. 5. Alternatively, the particle removal device 18 may be constantly activated such that air is constantly emitted out from the air supply pipe 181 , even when the packages are stationary.

The particles exiting the package opening will be efficiently captured by the evacuation hood placed above, preferably with a central evacuation pipe operating at a controlled steady-state flow. As the air supply pipe 181 is extended down and thus being vertically below and separated from the evacuation point, the air jet will not be negatively affected by the evacuation flow, which still is able to capture the particles removed from the package. In this way the dust build-up in the machine is minimized. The control of the process may be based on the design of the hood with the integrated air supply pipe 181 , the positioning of the air supply pipe 181 in relation to the package, the indexing motion profile, the timing of the pulse controlled by the valve 185, the flow of pressurized air (preferably controlled by pressure) and the evacuation flow. A controlled flow of air during the entire pulse can preferably be secured by pressure control provided that there is a sufficient accumulation volume before the valve 185.

The solution presented herein provides for an efficient particle removal from ready-to-fill packages or blanks 2 at a comparatively low consumption of pressurized air. In particular, the presented solution is considerably very efficient in removing, not only the larger particles but also smaller particles (down to 0.1 mm diameter). As the particle removal device 18 is separated from the package disinfection station 20 it allows for creating optimal conditions for particle removal without the limitations of the requirements for the package disinfection process and the requirements of maintaining hygienic conditions in the hygienic zone.

The particle removal device 18 is a space-efficient solution as only one package position is required, still processing both packages in an indexing pair. This space efficienct solution enables implementation downstream the ultrasonic sealing of cap, thus allowing for targeting also the micron-sized particles generated during the ultrasonic cap sealing process. Those small particles still being present in the bulk of the package are preferably captured before they are stuck to the packaging material, due to e.g. the strength of the electrostatic forces and van der Waals bonds between the particles and the walls of the package. The solution presented herein allows for early processing the package flushing out a significant part of the small particles before they are stuck onto the walls. .

Another benefit of implementation of the particle removal device 18 before the package disinfection station 20 is that the particle removal function will be independent of the processes of package disinfection and maintenance of hygienic chamber conditions respectively, whereby efficient particle removal can be obtained without jeopardizing these critical functions. The particle removal device 18 can thereby be operated without increasing the risk of re-contamination of the package after or at the end of the disinfection process thereby reducing the risk of re-contamination of the package after disinfection. It also enables optimization of the package disinfection process without risking the particle removal function.

Now turning to Fig. 6, a method 100 is schematically shown. The method 100 is performed at a filling machine configured to form, fill, and seal individual packages. The method 100 comprises a step 102 of providing a particle removal device 18 in accordance with the description above, and a step 104 of activating said particle removal device such that a jet of air is directed into a ready-to-fill package passing the particle removal device.

From the description above follows that, although various embodiments of the invention have been described and shown, the invention is not restricted thereto, but may also be embodied in other ways within the scope of the subject-matter defined in the following claims.




 
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