Well satisfied with the performance, reliability and ease of use of its first Matrix collator/shrink wrapper from Linkx Systems, Birds Eye Limited decided to install a second machine. This time, however, there was a minor complication – instead of the cartons entering the machine at high level, which means that their progress into the machine is assisted by gravity, they would enter at low level.

With a little inspiration and a small software modification, however, Linkx Systems came up with a solution that involved no extra cost.

The performance of the Matrix machines, which are capable of handling up to 300 cartons per minute – as much as 50% more than typical machines with similar functionality – was an ideal match for this demanding application. The machine is also easy and convenient to work with, thanks to an electronic operator interface that is intuitive in normal operation and also provides access to the powerful and comprehensive diagnostic functions.

Servo drives, which are used for all major functions, are the key to the exceptional versatility of the Matrix collator/shrink wrapper. A ten-axis precision servo system means that all motions are reliably and accurately controlled, giving total repeatability, even when the machine is operating at full throughput.

The most usual infeed arrangement for Linkx Matrix collator/shrink wrappers, however, is for the products to be presented at high level, from where they are carried by a slat band conveyor at a slight downward angle into the collator. For the new Birds Eye machine, however, which would be handling frozen chicken nuggets, this arrangement wasn’t possible.

As the new machine had to be fitted in place of an existing piece of equipment, infeed could only be arranged at low level, with the cartons conveyed upwards to the collator. While the design of the Matrix machine is sufficiently flexible to accommodate this revised arrangement, a small but significant difficulty remained – when the infeed conveyor started and stopped, the icy cartons had a tendency to slip.

While it would certainly have been possible to modify the mechanical design of the infeed to eliminate this problem, the Matrix machine is built around precision servo drives and incorporates a fully programmable control system, and this meant that a much simpler and more cost-effective solution was possible.

The control software was modified so that the infeed conveyor, instead of just starting and stopping, smoothly ramped up to speed and down to a stop. Incorporating the software change took just a few minutes and provided a complete solution. The machine is now in service and is fully meeting all of Birds Eye’s demanding operational requirements.

The inherent flexibility of the Matrix machine, which results from its incorporation of the latest control technologies, meant that Linkx Systems was able to provide Birds Eye with exactly the functionality it needed without the need for potentially costly modifications.