BERKEL-ENSCHOT, NETHERLANDS — To address the issue of residual water in wet pet food applications, namely retort processing applications, Lan Handling Technologies has unveiled its latest automated in-line pouch and semi-rigid product drying solution.

The company announced in March 2021 the installation of this system at Kormotech's new pet food processing facility in Lithuania. Lan Handling installed three robot loaders, which formed product layers coming from the filling machine in four lanes.

Kormotech sought a reliable solution to support a total capacity of 480 pouches per minute and limit water residue to "extremely low" levels. Lan Handling was able to successfully install this new automated system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Due to the COVID-19 situation, Lan Handling had to support the installation process largely remotely," said Igor Paranyak, chief operating officer at Kormotech. "The project was challenging but successful. A good example of harmonious cooperation between companies when they face unexpected challenges.”

The in-line dryer picks up product that has exited the retort and been sanitized and carries the products through air chambers, effectively blowing residual moisture off the packages. The solution does not emit any moisture, offers user-friendly changeover for operators, takes up 50% less space in a plant than conventional solutions, and offers more energy efficiency through product-focused airflow, according to Lan Handling.

“There are various ways in which this residual water can be disposed of,” said Rogier Nabbe, product manager. “For example, by transporting products through a drying tunnel or by blowing off the water from products. Until recently, we did the latter ourselves.

“Thanks to our close collaboration with customers, we have made the next step in the development of our in-line dryer,” Nabbe said. “By blowing off retort water from wet products, on the one hand, a relatively large amount of energy was consumed and, on the other hand, a potential risk is created that the moisture can eventually cause damage or wear in the production environment. By developing a new extraction technique, we kill two birds with one stone: by using a product-based air flow, considerably less air consumption is required, and the dryer's footprint is reduced by as much as 50%.”

The solution is applicable for pillow pouches, stand-up pouches, spouted pouches, aluminum trays and plastic cups.

To contain moisture to wet production areas, Lan Handling suggests integrating its in-line drying systems directly into the unloading area, where residual water can be removed from the final product.

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