Dust and airborne particulates can pose a problem for even the most advanced packaging process. Products like ground coffee, protein powders, flour, and even some dry snacks and pet foods can create a fair amount of dust in your packaging environment.
Dust emissions are most likely to occur when dry, powdered, or dusty product passes through transfer points in the packaging system. Basically, any time the product is in motion, or starts/stops motion suddenly, airborne particulates may occur.
Here are eight features of modern packaging machinery that can help reduce or eliminate the negative affects of dust in your automated packaging line:
1. Enclosed Jaw Drives
If you operate within a dusty environment or have a dusty product, it is vitally important for the moving parts that drive the sealing jaws on your packaging machine to be protected from airborne particulates.
Packaging machines designed for dusty or wet environments like the VFFS M250 have a completely enclosed jaw drive. This enclosure protects the jaw drive from particulates that can impede its operation.
2. Dust Proof Enclosures
Machine enclosures that house electrical or pneumatic components must be adequately protected against ingress of dust in order to maintain their proper function. When purchasing packaging equipment for a dusty environment, make sure the machinery has an IP (Ingress Protection) Rating suitable to your application. Basically, an IP Rating consists of 2 numbers that indicate how dust- and water-tight an enclosure is. For an in-depth explanation of Ingress Protection Ratings, see our article here.
For dust protection (limited ingress of dust), select packaging machinery with an IP rating of 50 or above. If you require dust-tight enclosures (no ingress of dust), select equipment with an IP rating of 60 or above.
3. Dust Suction Equipment
Dust ingress into the machine isn't the only thing you have to worry about. If dust finds its way into package seams, the sealant layers in the film will not properly and uniformly adhere during the heat seal process, causing rework and scrap. To combat this, dust suction equipment can be utilized at different points in the packaging process to remove or recirculate dust, lessening the likelihood of particulates ending up in package seals.
4. Static Elimination Bars
When plastic packaging film is being unwound and fed through the packaging machine, it can create static electricity, which causes powder or dusty products to stick to the inside of the film. This can cause product to end up in the package seals, and like mentioned above, this should be avoided to maintain the integrity of the package. To combat this, a static elimination bar can be added to the packaging process.
5. Dust Hoods
Automatic pouch filling machines have an option to place a dust hood above the product dispensing station. This component helps to collect and remove particulates as the product is dropped into the bag from the filler.
A dust hood for packaging ground coffee on a simplex premade pouch machine.
6. Vacuum Pull Belts
Standard on vertical form fill seal machines are friction pull belts. These components are responsible for pulling the packaging film through the system, and they do so by friction. However, when a packaging environment is dusty, airborne particulates can get between the film and the friction pull belts, reducing their performance and wearing them down prematurely.
An alternative option in these cases are vacuum pull belts. They perform the same function as friction pull belts, but do so with vacuum suction instead of friction, thus negating the effects of dust on the pull belt system. Vacuum pull belts do cost more, but need replacing much less often than friction pull belts, especially in dusty environments.
7. Continuous Motion Packaging
Packaging equipment can operate in either continuous or intermittent motion. Put simply, the film is always moving on a continuous motion machine. On an intermittent motion machine, the film stops once per cycle to be sealed.
The constant motion of the packaging film on continuous motion machines creates a constant downward flow of air. This means dust from the product is encouraged by the air flow to end up inside the package where it belongs.
8. Proper Preventive Maintenance
While adding dust controlling measures to your packaging process will go a long way to combating the ills of particulates wreaking havoc on your system, following a proper preventive maintenance plan is the other important piece of the puzzle.
Many preventive maintenance tasks include cleaning and inspecting of components for residue or dust. For a comprehensive 2-page document that details these tasks and their recommended intervals, download our new Packaging Equipment Preventive Maintenance Worksheet.
Are you having issues with dust impeding your package seals or negatively affecting the performance of your packaging machinery? Contact the experts at Viking Masek today for a free consultation, during which we will recommend the dust control equipment and components that best fit your application.