Today’s demands on petfood are constantly growing. Consumers are very selective about what they feed their families and the manufacturers of this food are equally selective about the resources they choose. This refers to both raw materials and ingredients sourced and also especially the packaging. For over 40 years the Italian CAMA Group has been an international leader in the design, engineering and production of high technology secondary packaging systems. The company offers completely integrated packaging lines – from primary packages up to final packaging ready for palletizing – and serves the food, non-food and petfood industries. CAMA’s machines deliver better, faster, more focussed packaging solutions, with easy-to-undertake format changes, that enable customers to increase throughput, adapt quickly, shorten time to market and slash downtime.
Ian Healey visited CAMA’s new plant in Molteno, Northern Italy, to look more closely at the specific packaging equipment for petfood. He met with Cristian Sala, Executive Sales Manager, and Paola Fraschini, Marketing Manager, and found that CAMA has been meeting these packaging demands with their client-specific, tailormade, modular packaging systems for wet and dry petfood, such as cans, cups, bags, pouches and trays. CAMA has grown considerably in the past few years and has invested strongly to develop state-of-the-art packaging solutions which will help realize the needs of the industry in the present and immediate future.
Every product is important
Pets are part of the family, so it is as important to take care of their food as we do with our own. CAMA’s state-of-the-art packaging systems have been designed to protect, preserve and present their contents in the best way possibe, ensuring that consumers receive products exactly as the manufacturer intended. The company’s experience from multiple vertical industries and countless demanding applications has helped them build a comprehensive portfolio comprising all packaging machine formats. There is no need to compromise, just to choose a concept, style, speed, throughput, size and flavor mix that matches your packaging vision and client’s needs.
Modern high-speed electronic and electromechanical control solutions are married to full integrated in-house developed robotics to deliver tailor-made performance from modular machine platforms that can easily grow as needs grow. Premium technology, cabinet-free frameworks and hygienic design principals are coupled to an easy-to-follow visual machine management systems, backed by extensive immersive technology and remote-access capabilities. CAMA is ready for any packaging challenge.
Flexibility & adaptability: Essential features in modern machines
Pet food is one example of a market that has witnessed an explosion in consumer choice; a choice which is compounded by demands from many of the vendors too. This wide array of variability places a lot of pressure on manufacturing and packaging operations, hence the need for wide-ranging flexibility and easy, low downtime adaptability.
With these needs in mind, CAMA Group was approached by the pet food division of a large multinational lifestyle brand. One of its pet food plants in the USA had recognized the advantages that an automated approach would deliver in relation to the secondary packaging of dental sticks for dogs.
The customer already had a couple of CAMA lines, but nothing in relation to automated cartoning or secondary packaging. Manual packaging operations were widespread. CAMA solutions were chosen so the company could reduce its reliance on an unstable transient manual workforce and instead employ workers in areas where they could add more value.
The initial two-line solution comprises a CL Series cartoner equipped with a delta robot loading system to collect the products in different variations, which in every case is highly tailored to a customer’s unique requirements, while also delivering flexibility for future format variations. In parallel is an AV series RSC case erector and both lines feed into an IT series case loader. The CL series continuous motion cartoning machines have been developed for the packing of flowwraps, pouches, bags, thermoformed trays, bars, blisters jars cups and more. These machines can be equipped with an air-blast opening device to ensure the most efficient carton opening at high speed.
They can also be combined with different loading apparatuses according to different product characteristics and production requirements. Carton closing is achieved by hot-melt or tuck-in. The AV Series offers medium- and high-speed RSC cases forming with a positive case drive and bottom case closing with self-adhesive tape or glue. Finally, the IT Series Delta robot loading units are equipped with single or double vertical racetracks to group and load products into boxes and small cases. CAMA‘s dynamic box phasing device ensures gentle package handling combined with fast product loading.
In operation the cartoning machines receive the pouches containing the dental sticks bottom side leading from a downstream third-party bagging machine. The products are then nested in two layers with one pouch being oriented at 180° to the other (to optimize packaging volume). These two-layer arrays are then sideloaded into opened cartons, before the carton is hot-melt sealed and rotated by 90° and fed into the case loading system, where they are grouped and finally packed into cases erected by the case former. Once sealed, the completed cases are then passed to a palletizer.
In operation, the filled pouches can be sent down a separate conveyor, within the framework of the cartoner – a so-called by-pass solution – and then loaded individually into the cases.
CAMA’s wide range of packaging machines use different robot technologies, for example in carton packaging, wrap-around packs for secondary packaging, sleeves, bottles, jars, cans and small packs. One element of demanding packaging lines around the world can be seen in the shape of CAMA‘s best-selling FW Case Packer. Capable of packaging corrugated cases at the rate of 25 per minute, the FW series has proved to be a real workhorse across multiple industries.
Wet petfood in mixed pack pouches
A typical request from the pet food industry would be to help increase demand for shelf-ready packs with different flavors. In this case CAMA is technically at the forefront in supply such solutions due to its extensive know-how in integrating packaging machines with 2-axis robots and Delta vision robots. Tailor-made systems go beyond copy and paste solutions, since CAMA’s motto is find the customer’s needs and to meet them.
In an example with up to four different flavors, CAMA designed a system which could handle up to 680 pouches of wet pet food (per minute?). Handling pouches is not easy because product tends to move to the bottom if they stand too long, which deforms the pouch and necessitates a larger secondary pack, wasting material and space. To avoid this, CAMA’s technology always handles pouches laying flat, from de-nesting from crates or trays to loading in the carton box. The pouches arrive in plastic trays and are sorted by CAMA’s Triaflex Delta vision robots, picked and placed according to flavor into three flap boxes, closed and delivered to a wraparound machine to be grouped and loaded into corrugated wraparound cases. This highly efficient project proves CAMA’s capability to exceed the expectations of petfood manufacturers.
Top loading high-speed line
CAMA also has a huge expertise and a proven track record packing larger pillow or doy-pack bags of pet food. In the last 20 years, CAMA has successfully supplied multiple lines to major petfood companies all over the world. The most recent improvement concerned increasing the capability on these lines with added speed in order to reduce the cost of a single product on the market. Lines are now able to pack bags of 200g up to 1500g with speeds of up to 150 bags/min. Maximum uptime is achieved through quick changeovers from one size to another, performed directly by the line operators. Bags are loaded into cases or display boxes starting from flat blanks and closed by adhesive tape, hot-melt or cold glue. This efficent packaging solution is flexible and customized according to each customer’s needs. Bags can be loaded flt into plain cases for optimized logistics or loaded standing into cases with shelf-ready features for subsequent supermarket shelf display.
Fully robotized monoblock loading system
One of CAMA’s latest lines belongs to their new Break-Through Generation (BTG) and delivers maximum flexibility with the highest equipment performance. This solution has been specifically engineered for one of the largest private label petfood producers in Europe and packs 600 aluminum trays per minute of 300g each. The products arrive in four lanes and are packed into cardboard trays (with or without a lid) to satisfy the high demands of the private label customers. The ALU-trays are counted in each of the two loading units in two lanes by a starwheel. The trays are then collated into a multiple pocket conveyor and loaded into boxes by a special gripper-type pick up head, which guarantees a zero defect marking of the packs. The robotic pick-up head includes a special detector system that enables the automatic ejection of boxes with missing products from the loading unit. The line is capable of packing different box sizes and up to 10 formats, as well as being able to handle multi-flavor products. Depending on production needs, another important benefit offered by this line is the possibility to glue together 2 or 3 carton trays with different flavors, applying one single common lid. The lidding is carried out by a 2-axis robotic lifting head. Depending upon customer specifications, the boxes can be then delivered to a FW model wrap-around case packer, to pack products in a wrap-around case or a two-piece display case for a perfect shelf-ready package.
Highlights at interpack 2023
CAMA is doing everything bigger at this year’s interpack event from May 4th to 10th in Düsseldorf, Germany. Central to the company’s 500m2 stand is a turnkey robotized naked chocolate packaging line, developed for a leading North American confectionery brand.
Even with just a quarter of the full 1,500 ppm line on the stand, visitors will get a real appreciation of the perfect partnership between advanced mechanical design and a modern high-tech digital automation infrastructure: the resulting solution being capable of handling 14 different packaging formats, with rapid changeover between them.
Specialists will also be on hand to highlight the things you can’t see, such as: the machine’s full Industry 4.0 architecture; extremely quick RFID-managed part changeovers; comprehensive augmented reality (AR) capabilities, for training, operation, maintenance & spares; and a line-supervision and data-collection system for machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics.
Alongside CAMA‘s digital capabilities, it will also showcase its real-world specialties, with a huge array of packaging styles, types and materials from industries across the entire food, beverage, home & health and petfood sectors. All shapes, all sizes, all counts, all flavors and all volumes. CAMA can be found in Hall 13, Stand A33 in Düsseldorf.
Sustainability is the driving force for the future
No portrait of a packaging company is complete without a look into the paradigm shift which balances commercial and consumer practices. Packaging technology and sustainable materials are playing an ever-growing role in reducing emissions and waste. CAMA Group is a world leader in this and understands through its own experience, engineering and expertise how to help manufacturing companies transition from manual to automatic processing and the way to more sustainable packaging. CAMA passes on its ability to adapt to constantly changing market needs, using new concepts and new materials in machines built with the efficiency, sustainability and flexibility of its end-user in mind.